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Is it still VFR if you're using VORs to navigate?

Pro Member Trainee
ShockAndYaw Trainee

Hi -- I'm trying plot out my first 'cross-country' VFR flight. The reading/tutorials I've done so far lead me to believe that VORs can be a part of your VFR flight plan, but is it really VFR if I hop on a Victor Airway? I'll probably stick to visual references for the first flight or two since I'm guessing that's what a flight instructor would have you do (yes, no, maybe?). But I am curious as to where VFR truly becomes IFR.

Pro Member Chief Captain
CRJCapt Chief Captain

You will be flying VFR much more than a flight or two. Yes, you use VOR navigation for VFR and IFR flight. VFR mean visual Flight rules. You have to remain a minimum distance from all clouds. You need to see your surroundings. IFR means Instrument Flight Rules. This allow you to fly thru clouds but you need special training. In the real world, you could be flying under IFR but in clear weather. You may do this as a protection for yourself because you don't want to be trapped by changing weather. You would be IFR but flying in VMC Visual Meterlogical Conditions (good weather). If you are IFR in bad weather, you are also IMC Instrument Meterlogical Conditions. In the US, pilots spend aprox. 60 hrs to learn to fly VFR. Then they spend another 40 hrs to learn IFR if they want an additional rating for that type of flying.

It depends on airspace but:

VFR More than 3 miles visibity 500 below,1000 above and 2000 ft from clouds. You don't have to talk to ATC (most of the time)

IFR Less than 3 miles visibity You are in the clouds
You have to maintain contact with ATC at all times.

Pro Member First Officer
JTH First Officer

The original post mentioned airways, could anyone explain what they are?

Pro Member Chief Captain
CRJCapt Chief Captain

A airway is a" highway in the sky" that is designated between two navigation aids like VOR's and often continues to many other VOR's. They have different numbers. It just allows ATC or yourself to see certain routes on a instrument chart. Some show on visual charts also. Like a highway, a victor airway may span many miles. You don't have to on one. It just makes it easy for ATC to assign you a route. They just say " APE V30 DCA" instead of listing all the routes and VOR's between the two navaids that may be 400 miles apart. That' the simple answer. 🙂

Pro Member First Officer
JTH First Officer

Ah right I understand. What's a "victor" airway though, as opposed to another airway? Also, what do the letters in "APE V30" stand for to let a pilot know exactly which airway to fly? Thanks...

Pro Member Chief Captain
CrashGordon Chief Captain

CRJCapt wrote:

VFR More than 3 miles visibity 500 below,1000 above and 2000 ft from clouds. You don't have to talk to ATC (most of the time)

Just to add to this, when transitioning airspace, contact with ATC is required. However, in FS, the only time this actually ever happens is if flight following has been requested.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Jonathan (99jolegg) Chief Captain

JTH wrote:

Ah right I understand. What's a "victor" airway though, as opposed to another airway? Also, what do the letters in "APE V30" stand for to let a pilot know exactly which airway to fly? Thanks...

Jet airways are airways of high altitude, i.e. FL290 and above
Victor aiways are airways of low altitude, i.e. up to FL120

APE V30 is probably an airway to a VOR, the VOR being called 'APE' and the airway being called V30, (low altitude). You write this in your flightplan to show where you will be flying 😉

Pro Member Chief Captain
CRJCapt Chief Captain

Yes. what 99jolegg said is all true. The altitude where airways change from low to high is called the transision altitude. It depends what country your in. In the US, High starts at FL180 and extends to FL450. V or victor is just what they call low altitude airways that start at 1200 ft. to but not including FL180. High altitude airways are J but pronounced Jet. I don't know why it's not Juliet.

Pro Member Trainee
ShockAndYaw Trainee

Thanks everyone. So if you're flying VFR, what's the criteria for using VORs vs. visual waypoint references when creating a flightplan? I'm sure that the placement of the VORs along/near your route has something to do with it, but beyond that is it personal preferences? VORs seem much easier and trustworthy.

In otherwords, remember when you were learning math? You had to learn to do multipication and division by hand, but now that you know how to do it, why bother with the hassle...just use a calculator. Is that how pilots approach it? Why bother with the hassle of trying to find visual waypoints when VORs will take care of it for you. (Ok, so the analogy isn't perfect, but you get the idea ). 😉

Don Wood Guest

As previously stated, Victor Airways are low-level, extending from 1200 feet AGL to 18,000 feet MSL (in the US) and are defined using electronic navigation fixes such as VORs, intersections, etc. Jet airways are high altitude airways, also defined by electronic navigation fixes. Despite their name, you do not have to be flying a jet to use them.

To answer Shockandyaw's (great name, BTW) question, pilotage (navigation by compass, time, and visual reference) is taught to student pilots because they need to be able to navigate, even if their VORs are not operational. That does not happen frequently but anything built by humans has the capability of failure. It would not be cool to be flying and suddenly have no idea where you are or how to get where you want to be when your panel suddenly goes dark.

Pro Member Chief Captain
CRJCapt Chief Captain

VFR flight , you can fly where you want to. You go from one VOR to another until your destination. Then you fly a radial or course from the last VOR that will take you to the destination. A VOR has max useable range depending on altitude and type of VOR. Below 18000 ft. they are good for about 40 nm so no more than 80 miles between two. FL180 and above, they are good for 120 miles. They are called navaid service volumes. The learning center in flight sim can give you more detals. VOR NAV is good but they can fail or be mis-set. You shoud always use two forms of navigation. VOR recievers run on electricity, loose elec. system,no VOR's. 😳 Time-Speed-Distance computations are a great back up. VOR's will also require you to zig zag to your destination. That's why people like GPS. That's a whole different story.



Last edited by CRJCapt on Fri Dec 23, 2005 12:14 am, edited 1 time in total
Pro Member Trainee
ShockAndYaw Trainee

Got it, thanks.

Don Wood Guest

Many VORs are usable at considerably farther distances than the 40 miles stated at low level, at least in the western US. I often pick up usable signals at 100 miles or more and I guarantee my C-172 has never been anywhere in the vicinity of 18,000 feet. At max gross weight, you measure its climb rate in inches per minute once you reach about 9,500 feet.

VOR's are line-of-sight signals so reception depends on what is between you and the VOR transmitter at the altitude you are flying. Of course, signal strength also plays a role, however, signal strength is almost always better than 40 miles as long as there are no natural or man-made obstructions to the signal.

Pro Member Chief Captain
CRJCapt Chief Captain

Thanks for the correction, Don. I did'nt mean to say the max distance for a VOR was 40 nm. The MIN distance that is guaranteed is 40 nm; unless something like a mountain get's in the way of the line of sight signal. Embarassed

I'll have to proof read my posts more closely with you around. 🙂
Continue to keep me on my toes.

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