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5 Things ATC Can't Help You With When You're IFR

There are some things that ATC can't initiate or help you with. Chapter 5, Section 5 in the AIM outlines even more...

1) Contact approach

A contact approach must be requested by you, ATC can't suggest it for you.

When you request a contact approach, you need to remain clear of the clouds and have at least 1 mile of flight visibility. Learn more about contact approaches in our video here.

2) See and avoid

Even when you're on an IFR flight plan, if you're in VMC conditions, you're responsible for seeing and avoiding other aircraft and terrain.


3) Changes to airspeed

If your true airspeed varies by +/- 5 knots or 10% (whichever is greater) from your filed flight plan, you need to let ATC know.


4) Visual approaches

When you're flying a visual approach, you're responsible for remaining clear of the clouds. You also need to have the airport in sight, or the preceding aircraft in sight.


5) Obstacle departure procedures

ODPs are published procedures that keep IFR aircraft clear of obstructions during takeoff and climb. They're especially helpful in nonradar environments, where you can't get vectors from ATC.

It's your responsibility to determine whether or not your need to fly an obstacle departure procedure. Unlike SIDs, you don't need a clearance from ATC to fly an ODP.

What else did we miss? Tell us in the comments below.

Corey Komarec

Corey is an Embraer 175 First Officer for a large regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota, and he's been flying since he was 16. You can reach him at

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