Ending Your Flight Right - IFR Visual-Reference Approach Refresher
by Tony Pringle. Tony has worked as an aviation safety officer for several Canadian carriers. He is a current airline transport pilot, safety consultant and writer, based in Hong Kong.

Ending an IFR flight with a declared visual reference can often result in a quicker, more efficient flight. Below are some items to keep in mind when ending your next IFR flight in visual conditions. Make sure you get the right type of approach for the airport and current meteorological conditions.

Remember that while ATC is responsible for providing adequate separation from other IFR traffic, it is the pilot who is responsible for ensuring adequate separation from terrain (except, of course, when on radar vectors). [Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual (TC AIM) RAC 1.5.5]

  • Cancelling IFR can safely expedite the arrival at an uncontrolled aerodrome where there is other IFR traffic. For example, if you are arriving at an aerodrome and you do not cancel IFR, you may need to enter a hold while an outbound IFR aircraft departs, or conversely, an aircraft expecting an IFR clearance on the ground may be delayed while an inbound IFR aircraft arrives.
  • When cancelling IFR, the flight plan remains in effect. All that has been cancelled is the provision of IFR control service by ATC. After landing, the pilot must close the flight plan with ATC or a flight service station (FSS) (TC AIM RAC 3.12.2).
  • At some airports, ATC may give a non-specific approach clearance, i.e. "cleared for an approach." This clearance authorizes the pilot to perform an IFR approach, and the controller will provide IFR separation from other traffic based on the assumption that the pilot will proceed to the airport via a published approach. This clearance does not give the pilot authority to conduct a contact or visual approach. Should the pilot wish to conduct a visual or contact approach, this must be specifically requested. (TC AIM RAC 9.3).
Type of Approach Required Visual Reference Weather Required Traffic Separation Missed Approach TC AIM References
Contact -pilot has visual reference to the surface of the earth
-pilot must request contact approach
-pilot operates clear of cloud
-minimum 1 mi. visibility
-aircraft shall be flown at least 1 000 ft above the highest obstacle in a 5-NM radius
-ATC continues provision of separation from other IFR traffic while in controlled airspace -IFR missed approach segment protected by ATC RAC 9.6.1
Visual -pilot reports airport in sight (or traffic to be followed in sight) -ceiling 500 ft above minimum IFR altitude -same as above, except the pilot is expected to maintain visual separation from any traffic to be followed -no IFR missed approach segment
-must remain clear of cloud
-contact ATC as soon as possible
-ATC separation from other IFR traffic will be maintained
RAC 9.6.2
RAC 1.5.5
Cancel IFR -visual meteorological conditions (VMC)
-flight not expected to return to instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)
-operating outside class A or B airspace
-VMC -ATC discontinues provision of separation from IFR traffic -no IFR missed approach segment
-must remain VFR
RAC 3.12.2
RAC 6.2

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