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8 Acronyms Every Instrument Pilot Should Know

There's a lot to remember when you're flying IFR. Here are a few of the most important acronyms that will help you every time you fly...

CIA (Fundamentals Of Instrument Flight)

Instrument flying is based on these three steps:

  • Cross Check
  • Instrument Interpretation
  • Aircraft Control

GRABCARD (IFR Minimum Equipment)

Here's some more equipment to add to your VFR TOMATO FLAMES and FLAPS lists:

  • Generator or Alternator
  • Radio/Navigation Appropriate For Flight
  • Attitude Indicator
  • Ball (Inclinometer)
  • Clock
  • Altimeter (Pressure Sensitive)
  • Rate of Turn Indicator
  • Directional Gyro

N-DRUMS (Mandatory Reports To ATC)

These are a few times you'll need to make mandatory reports to ATC... Check out the full list here.

  • Non-Radar Reporting Points
  • Deviations From Clearance
  • Request For Report
  • Unforecast Weather
  • Malfunctions (Navigational, approach, or communication equipment occurring in flight)
  • Safety Of Flight Risk

AVE-F (Lost Comms: Route Clearance)

Fly your route based on the the following order unless VMC conditions allow for a diversion under VFR:

  • Assigned
  • Vectored
  • Expected
  • Filed

MEA (Lost Comms: Altitude Clearance)

If you lose your radios and can't divert under VFR, SQUAWK 7600 and fly the highest altitude of:

  • Minimum IFR Altitude (Often Charted)
  • Expected Altitude
  • Assigned Altitude

ICE FLAGGS (Illusions In Flight)

Disorientation is a lead killer of instrument pilots. Avoid these illusions by relying on your instruments!

  • Inversion (Climb to straight and level = Tumbling backwards feeling)
  • Coriolis (Head movements in prolonged turns)
  • Elevator (Updraft/Downdraft causes a pilot to pitch up or down)
  • False Horizons (Sloping clouds, terrain, etc)
  • Leans (Banking illusion that occurs by relying on physical sensations rather than instrumentation)
  • Autokinesis (Stationary lights appear to move)
  • Graveyard Spiral (Constant rate turn downwards)
  • Graveyard Spin (Pilot recovers from spin but senses they are in a new spin, so re-enter that spin)
  • Somatogravic (Caused by rapid acceleration or deceleration that results in a pitch up or down)

GAARF (Landing Illusions)

Shooting an approach to minimums aggravates these landing illusions, especially at night.

  • Ground Lighting
  • Atmospheric Illusions
  • Runway Width
  • Runway/Terrain Sloping
  • Featureless Terrain

CRAFT (Clearances)

Use this acronym to help read back IFR clearances:

  • Clearance Limit
  • Route
  • Altitudes
  • Frequencies
  • Transponder Setting

Know another good IFR acronym? Tell us in the comments below!

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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