IFR Acronyms Every Instrument Pilot Should Know

know your IFR acronyms when flying a Cessna 172

In this post we’ll walk through a few IFR acronyms every instrument pilot should memorize.

Pilots are crazy for acronyms. If a non-pilot walks up to a group of pilots at a bar and listens to their conversation, the verbal alphabet soup will probably make them nauseous. “The FAA ATC guy at TRACON said my TAS was a PD, and now I’m gettin’ 709’d.”

All kidding aside, it’s a bit out of hand. But in the spirit of all things aviation, some acronyms are very helpful. Some IFR acronyms serve as mnemonic memory aids that help us remember long lists of items. And nowhere will you find longer lists than when studying IFR regulations!

So slide on down to that bar, sit with those pilots, and impress everyone. “You think that’s cool? My CFI just pulled out the FAR/AIM and showed me how to use GRAB CARD D for the DPE! I’ll be IFR-rated in no time!”

Cessna 172 used to fly IFR

Helping You Remember Those IFR Regulations 

Airworthiness Regulations

Something broken? Remember FAR 91.205: Instrument and Equipment Requirements with these three memory aids. 

For a VFR day, remember A TOMATO FLAMES.

A – Altimeter

T – Tachometer for each engine

O – Oil temperature for each engine

M- Manifold pressure for each altitude engine 

A- Airspeed indicator

T – Temperature gauge for each liquid-cooled engine

O – Oil pressure gauge for each engine

F – Fuel gauge for each tank

L – Landing gear position indicator

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A – Anticollision light

M – Magnetic compass

E – ELT

S –  Safety gear —floatation devices if beyond glide distance from shore, plus seat belts for each occupant

For a VFR-night, you need A TOMATO FLAMES + FLAPS.

F – Fuses (spare set or three of each type, if fuses are used)

L – Landing light (if for hire)

A – Anticollision lights

P – Position lights (AKA navigation lights)

S – Source of electrical power

Finally, for an IFR airplane, you also need GRAB CARD D.

G  Generator or alternator

R – Radio (comms/nav) appropriate to the flight

A – Attitude indicator

B – Ball (inclinometer)

C – Clock

A – Altimeter (pressure-sensitive)

R – Rate of turn indicator

D – Directional gyro

D – DME or RNAV (flights above FL240)

Is the plane legal to fly? Check off those minimum inspections with AV1ATES.

A – Annual inspection

V – VOR check (30 days)

1 – 100 hour inspection (if for hire)

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A – Airworthiness Directives (ADs)

T – Transponder check (24 months)

E – ELT (inspected every 12 months, battery replaced a half its lifespan or after one hour use)

S – Static system check (24 months)

IFR Acronyms

Are all of the required documents on board? Check if they are with ARROW PDC.

A – Airworthiness certificate

R – Registration certificate

R – Radio station license (if operating internationally)

O – Operating Limitations (usually found in POH/AFM)

W – Weight and balance sheet (specific for that aircraft, located in AFM)

P – Placards

D – Data plate

C – Compass deviation card

Aeronautical Decision Making

These IFR acronyms will help you make better decisions on the ground and in the air.

Ready to go flying? Make sure you’re in tip-top physical condition with I’M SAFE.

I – Illness

M – Medication

S – Stress

A – Alcohol

F – Fatigue

E – Emotional health

Choices to make? Don’t jump to conclusions. Think your actions through with the DECIDE model. 

D – Detect a change

E – Estimate the need 

C – Choose an outcome

I – Identify the actions necessary to achieve the outcome

D – Do the action

E – Evaluate the results

Want to become a better pilot?

Be sure to check out some of our other popular posts including how to prepare for your FAA checkride, the best books for new pilots, and study tips for the FAA written.

Risk Management

The PAVE checklist helps you keep track of everything you should be checking. Are these four things all safe to fly with?

P – Pilot

A – Aircraft

V – VenVironment

E – External pressures

Another tool used for evaluating risk is the 5 P checklist. Evaluate each “P” and make sure none presents an unnecessary risk to your flight.

P – Plane

P – Pilot

P – Plan

P – Programming

P – Passengers

Helping You During Your Flight

Preflight Action

Ready to go? Make sure you’ve got what’s required by FAR Part 91.103. That means “all available information concerning that flight”— but especially the things in NW KRAFT.

N – NOTAMS

W – Weather

K – Known traffic delays

R – Runway lengths

A – Alternates 

F – Fuel requirements, including to your alternate

T – Takeoff and landing distances

Clearances

Make sure you copy each essential part of your clearance using the CRAFT checklist.

C – Clearance limit

R – Route

A – Altitude

F – Frequencies

T – Transponder code

Holds

A lot is going on in a hold, so remember the “5 Ts” when you enter and pass the fix.

T – Twist

T – Turn

T – Time

T – Throttle

T – Talk

Compass Errors

Working on compass turns? Remember those pesky compass errors with these IFR aronyms, ANDS and UNOS.

Acceleration Errors

The compass will deflect north or south when speeding up or slowing down. Most felt on east or west headings.

A – Accelerate

N – North

D – Decelerate

S – South

Dip Errors During Turns

When turning to a north or south heading, you must undershoot or overshoot due to magnetic dip.

U – Undershoot 

N – North

O – Overshoot

S – South

IFR flying

Mandatory IFR Reports

Never forget an important IFR report. The list is long, so MARVELOUS VFR C500 is here to help.

M – Missed approach

A – Airspeed changes more than 10 knots or 5 percent

R – Reaching a holding fix

V – VFR-on-top altitude changes

E – ETA change more than 3 minutes (no radar)

L – Leaving a holding fix

O – Outer marker inbound (no radar)

U – Unforecast weather

S – Safety of flight issues

V – Vacating an altitude

F – Final approach fix inbound (no radar)

R – Radio or nav failures

C – Compulsory reporting points (no radar)

500 FPM climb or decent unable

Position Reports

Radar service terminated. Uh oh! Make those position reports as necessary, and don’t miss a thing by using I PATENS

I – ID (tail number)

P – Position (name of fix)

A – Altitude

     T – Time

E – Estimated time to next fix

N – Name of next fix

S – Supplemental remarks

Lost Comms

Oh, no! You’ve lost comms on an IFR flight. If you’re VFR, you maintain VFR and land as soon as possible. But what if you’re in the clouds? You’ve got to figure out what to do with your altitude and route.

For altitude, go to the highest of these three altitudes—MEA.

M – Minimum charted

E – Expected 

A –  Assigned

For your route, you follow these (in order)—AVE F

A – Assigned

V – Vectored

E – Expected

F – Filed

Approach Briefing

You’ve finally made it to your destination and are ready to set up the approach. Most pilots like to have an organized way to set themselves and the cockpit up for success. Use ICEATM for your approach briefing—whether you’re alone or briefing another pilot.

I – Identify

C – Course

E – Entry

A – Altitudes

T – Time

M – Missed

I – Identify – Ensure the approach plate is correct and current. Use morse code or the digital identifier to

verify the NAVAID and that all frequencies previously set match the plate and sequence of use.

C – Course – Verify that the course needles are set and in the correct mode. Consider the approach course from IAF, IF, to FAF, briefing and bugging any bends in the course.

E – Entry – Consider and brief how the procedure turn or course reversal will be entered (if applicable) and,

if circling, how the pattern will be flown. Ensure that the pattern direction is known if a circle is planned. It

must conform to approach notes or VFR pattern entry.

A – Altitudes– The MSA or TAA compared to aircraft altitude, MEA’s along the IAF, IF, FAF, and finally the

MDA or DA/DH.

T – Time– Note the calculated time from the FAF to reaching the missed approach point based on groundspeed, if in accordance with the approach plate information.

M – Missed– Note the missed approach instructions and timing. Plug in missed approach frequency and

course in NAV 2 or highlight it to be soon activated. Read out loud and visually depict the timing of the missed approach.

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