This “Pilot’s Tip of the Week” was originally published on 4/25/2018. To get free tips like this each week, subscribe at the bottom of the page.

Pilot's tip of the week

Practice Approaches


Subscriber question:

"I was flying practice instrument approaches with a friend on a sunny day (we were VFR) and we executed the published missed approach. While we were flying it, the controller asked our intentions. This caught me by surprise. Isn’t the missed approach part of the instrument approach? Or did we violate a rule because this was just for practice?" - Nicholas G.


“Practice instrument approaches are considered to be instrument approaches made by either a VFR aircraft not on an IFR flight plan, or an aircraft on an IFR flight plan.

If you are on an IFR flight plan, the approach clearance automatically authorizes you to fly the missed approach, unless otherwise instructed by ATC. IFR aircraft are also provided standard separation throughout the approach and missed approach procedure.

VFR aircraft practicing instrument approaches are not automatically authorized to execute the missed approach procedure. The authorization must be specifically requested by the pilot and approved by the controller. Separation will not be provided unless the missed approach has been approved by ATC.

Pilots not on IFR flight plans desiring practice instrument approaches should always state ‘practice’ when making requests to ATC. Controllers will instruct VFR aircraft requesting an instrument approach to maintain VFR. This is to preclude any misunderstanding between the pilot and controller as to the status of the aircraft. If the pilot wishes to proceed in accordance with instrument flight rules, they must specifically request and obtain, an IFR clearance.”

When practicing instrument approaches in visual conditions, do you prefer to stay VFR or file an IFR flight plan?

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