Difference between VFR/IFR, VMC/IMC and Actual/Simulated/Simulator time

Modified on Fri, 20 Nov 2020 at 07:28 AM

VFR/IFR, VMC/IMC and Actual/Simulated/Simulator time are often mixed-up, even by experience pilots.  Let us try to clear up the confusions:

AbbrevDefinitionAdditional info
ATCAir Traffic ControlService provided by ground based controllers to guide aircraft on the ground and in controlled airspace
ATDAviation Training DeviceGround based training device fixed (e.g. computer)
IMCInstrument Meteorologic ConditionsThe weather is restricting your visibility, you need aircraft flight instruments to fly safe
VMCVisual Meteorologic ConditionsVisibility and clouds are clear and allow you to fly the aircraft by visual reference
IFRInstrument Flight RulesYour flight is planned in controlled airspace according to local regulations for navigation, aircraft separation and weather minimums
VFRVisual Flight RulesYour flight is planned without assistance from ATC for separation or navigation, either in controlled or non-controlled airspace.  Weather minimums are more restrictive.
FFSFull Flight SimulatorGround based training device with full motion
FNPTFlight Navigation and Procedure TrainerGround based training device
FTDFlight Training DeviceGround based training device with limited or without motion
NVGNight Vision GogglesA night optical observation device that allows images to be produced in levels of light approaching total darkness

Here are some more details :

VMC / IMC (Visual / Instrument Meteorologic Conditions)

These are external weather conditions during your flight.  As soon as the visibility drops down (in fog, or when flying through a cloud), your flight conditions are IMC.  

The pilot (you) must hold an IFR rating and the aircraft must be IFR certified in order to fly in IMC weather conditions.  Flying in IMC is not allowed under VFR rules!

VFR / IFR (Visual / Instrument Flight Rules)

These are regulations under which the flight is planned with, and accepted by, ATC.  

Different regulations apply for weather minimums and aircraft radar separation when you plan the flight as VFR or IFR.

Do not confuse IFR with IMC !  IFR is not linked to actual weather conditions ! You can fly IFR in clear sky weather.  

Simulated Instrument time

Simulated instrument is also known as Hood time (here is a picture).  Simulated Instrument time is usually logged in combination with DUAL time.  

In PILOTLOG, we have shortened simulated instrument time into Sim.Instr (not to be confused with simulator instructor... !).  

Simulated instrument time is logged on a real aircraft, usually when you receive training to fly on instruments. Depending on the governing regulations (e.g. FAA) applying to your operations, simulated instrument time can also be logged in a simulator (FFS, FTD, ATD).

Actual Instrument time

Actual Instrument time is logged on a real aircraft, for that portion of the flight that was actually flown in IMC. In summer time, that would be around 5% of your flight, in winter conditions, that might be a lot more.

In PILOTLOG we shortened actual instrument time into Act.Instr in the software.  You can setup an automatic rule on the Settings - Flight Logging page to auto-log x % of total flight time as actual instrument.

NVG (Night Vision Goggles)

NVG is usually logged on real aircraft, but can also be logged in a simulator.  

NVG is used in military operations (here is a picture).  In order to log NVG in PILOTLOG, you need to set-up a USER time field on the Settings - App General page.

Simulator Time

Simulator time is logged on ground training devices (here is a picture).  Do not confuse Simulator time with Simulated Instrument time.

There are various types of simulator, such as FFS, FNPT, ATD, etc.  These are classified in different levels.

Tricky Questions

Here are the common confusions :

Cancelling IFR / Activating IFR flight plan?

In rather exceptional cases, you may contact ATC to cancel your IFR flight plan and continue VFR for the remainder of the flight, i.e. when you leave controlled airspace and land on a non-controlled airfield. Or the other way, departing VFR from a non-controlled airfield to join an IFR flight plan.

In this situation, you would log only a portion of the flight as IFR.

Log IFR during Visual Approach?

When ATC clears you for a Visual Approach on an IFR flight, your flight plan remains under IFR and you log IFR time for that portion of the flight too!

You should also log IFR time during ground taxiing, as ATC takes care of your separation with other ground traffic.

Log IFR or Simulated Instrument in the Simulator?

As far as we know, pilots should not log IFR or Simulator Instrument time for simulator sessions.  

However, should you want to log any of those, you are technically able to do so with PILOTLOG.  By default these hours are not printed and summed in the Logbooks.

Read more about printing simulator time in the logbook here :

Printing Simulator Time


Continue reading here :  Official State Regulations - Recording of Flight Hours

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