IFR in Class G

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I have another question from my instrument training. One of the study
questions asks "When is an IFR flight plan required?" and one of the
wrong answers (according to Gleim) is "When less than VFR conditions
exist in either Class E or Class G airspace and in Class A airspace."

Gleim explains that flying in IMC in Class G requires an instrument
rating but not an IFR flight plan and refers to FAR 91.173, which
states that IFR "in controlled airspace" requires an IFR flight plan.

My question is: How do you fly in IMC in uncontrolled (Class G)
airspace. Who is separating you from other aircraft? Do people do
this? Is it legal?

Thank you for any clarification.


-- Todd Ramming, February 19, 2010


People do this and it is legal. If you look at a Sectional chart anywhere in the Eastern U.S. you'll find that Class E airspace overspreads the entire chart except 1200' AGL and below or 700' AGL and below. A Sectional of Alaska, though, will show mostly Class G airspace all the way up to 18000', with some corridors of Class E that coincide with airways. So if you wanted to go Point A to Point B in Alaska you might very well choose to GPS Direct through Class G airspace and you would need a flight plan but would not be able to obtain a clearance (there is no way that ATC can clear other traffic out of your way since they don't control the airspace). A Sectional chart of New Mexico will show you a similar picture, but not quite as dramatic.

I have done this only a couple of times in 9 years and two trips to Alaska.

Who separates you from other aircraft? The plastic Jesus on your dashboard, of course!

-- Philip Greenspun, February 19, 2010

I've never done it.

Plastic Jesus? Or if God is your co-pilot... I do have terrain and traffic avoidance avionics for emergencies.

-- Don Shade, February 19, 2010