How to Fly IFR with
Flying IFR (Instrument
Flying Rules) in Microsoft Flight Simulator is not very difficult, just
tricky. You need to learn certain rules and the language of ATCs (Air Traffic
Controllers). Communication with controllers is limited to certain instructions,
and once you learn these, you can usually predict what they are going to
ask you next. In fact, one of the main pieces of IFR advice is to always
anticipate at least the next two ATC instructions. This way you avoid becoming
flustered with doing several things at the same time while still flying
the airplane. The approach we recommend is to take a single route, practice
it several times without ATC, and then try it with the Controllers. Once
you do this, we strongly recommend repeating the route several times until
you master it. Then you can venture on to other routes.
Controllers are busy people, and they prefer
having short and straight-to-the-point dialogues. Therefore, avoid niceties.
Make your communications sound professional and courteous. Let them now
that you are a new IFR pilot and that you will need some help. Once they
know this, their tone and approach will be much friendlier.
IFR flying is what makes the flying simulation
experience the most enjoyable. Once you master it, you can do all sort
of different approaches and participate in fly-in events. Try this training
Please make sure you
have downloaded and installed SquawkBox (SB). This is the software you
will use to interface with ATCs. To do this, please proceed as follows:
Go to http://squawkbox.ca/downloads/
Download the SquawkBox Manual and study it
This manual will give you precise instructions on how to install and use
SB. The time you spend studying this will be well worth it.
Download SquawkBox via one of the mirror links
provided. [We recommend you save the downloaded file on your computer and
later unzip it.] Install SquawkBox using the instructions provided.
Also download the hostsb.zip file which will
allow you to run SquawkBox from inside FS. Download the file, and follow
the instructions provided in the readme.txt file.
You should also have the FSUIPC module installed.
You can obtain it with the corresponding instructions at: http://www.schiratti.com/dowson.html.
You are now done with
the downloads. As a side note, if you want to get really professional about
flying IFR, we suggest you buy the book: “Instrument Pilot” by Irvin N.
Gleim. Another good book is Rod Machado's “Instrument Pilot’s Survival
Flight Planning and Preparation
As we said before,
flying IFR is a bit tricky but not impossible. The best way to learn to
fly IFR with Microsoft Flight Simulator is with a detailed step-by-step
example. For this lesson, we are going to fly the Newark (EWR/KEWR) to
Boston (BOS/KBOS) route. So, let's assume that we will fly Continental
flight #98 (COA98) from KEWR to KBOS.
The first thing we need to decide is which
IFR route we are going to fly. Air Traffic Controllers strongly prefer
that you fly the "Preferred Routes". For this flight, you can get them
at several places. For example, try http://www.fltplan.com
or at http://www.vatsim.net go to VATUSA,
select Boston, Flight Planning at: http://www.bostonartcc.net/main/index.htm.
Another place you can get them is at http://www.nyartcc.org/pilot/index.htm.
After a brief search, you will find that
the Preferred Route from KEWR to KBOS would be:
This route goes from Newark Airport (KEWR),
to the MERIT intersection, to the Norwich VOR (ORW at 110.0), to the Providence
VOR (PVD at 115.6), to the INNDY intersection, and to the airport at Boston
Logan (KBOS). Controllers will provide you with an approach depending on
which runway is being used given the prevalent winds at the time of your
Let us plan for this example a cruising
flight level at 19,000 ft., which we will refer to as Flight Level 190,
or FL190. In this example, we will be using the Boeing 737-400 aircraft
that came with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (FS2004), ignoring the fact
that Continental does not operate that exact model. However, this flight
can still be credited. So, let’s proceed now with step-by-step instructions
on what to do next.
Before starting Flight Simulator, connect
to the internet.
Start your Flight Simulator, and under the
a Flight window, change the Current Aircraft and load the Boeing
Change the Current Location from
your default location, and move your aircraft to Newark Intl (KEWR), but
clicking OK, set Runway/Starting Position, to Gate C5 – Gate
Medium. Then click OK.
To make the flight more realistic, let’s change
the weather to current conditions. Click Change Current Weather,
click Real-world Weather. After the download from Jeppesen is done,
Continental flight 98 leaves Newark at 16:00
(4:00 PM). Therefore, click Current Date and Time, and change
the Local time to 15:30 (3:30 PM), to allow you enough time to do all the
setups, and be able to depart on time. Good pilots always depart
on time! Click OK to proceed.
It is time now to do the flight planning.
Click the Flight Planner tab and enter the route we are intending
to follow, with a cruising altitude of 19,000 ft. Save the route so that
you can reuse it in the future without inputting each waypoint. So, select
Intl (KEWR) as your Departure Airport and Logan Intl (KBOS)
as your Destination Airport, Check Flight Plan Type IFR, Choose
Routing to High Altitude Airways, click Find Route,
and in the Edit tab, remove the JFK, NEWES and RAALF waypoints,
and add: MERIT, ORW and INNDY. Set Cruising Altitude to 19,000 ft. Your
Flight Planner screen should look like this.
Click OK to return to the Create a Flight Screen.
We have finished preparing
and planning our IFR flight from Newark to Boston Logan on our Boeing 737-400.
You should now be at gate C5 at KEWR, comfortably sitting in the cockpit
of your 737.
It is now time to connect
to SquawkBox using these instructions:
Once you get your flight set up and on the
ground, you will see in the black Squawkbox screen a list of all the available
ATC frequencies. Note that if you tune the frequency in your COM1 radio
(on the airplane’s panel), it will be selected in Squawkbox. Also, when
ATC assigns a transponder code, put that in your aircraft’s built in transponder
on the panel.
In your FS2004 window, access the Modules
menu on the top of the window (press the alt key if top menu is hidden)
and run Start Squawkbox.
Click Start and Connect and
enter your username and password.
Now it’s time to select your aircraft. This
is the plane that everyone else in the game will see you as. Click Add
new aircraft, and select the make, model, and airline from the list
(note: by default the list is of the most common aircraft, if you don’t
see your plane then change the top selection box to All Aircraft).
You will have to name that airplane (for example,
“COA 737”), but the only purpose of that name is so that you can find it
easily for the next time you do a flight in that particular plane. So,
you can name it whatever you want.
You can right click on any ATC facility
listed, and send a private text message. It is recommended that you contact
one of the facilities listed, and let them know that you are a beginner.
We are almost ready to start flying. Besides,
doing all this is part of the fun.
Your next screen should look something like
The SquawkBox screen will show up. Minimize it for now, and go back to
the SquawkBox screen. Over the black area of the SquawkBox screen again,
right-click and select
ATC Functions and File Flight Plan.
You will get a Flight Plan screen. Enter the information as shown
in this screen.
After clicking OK, your next SB Host
will show Flight Plan Sent.
It is time now to connect to ATC. To do this,
again in the black area of the SB Host screen, right-click your mouse and
select: ATC Directory. If you are doing this in the evening, you
will almost certainly find controllers for Newark, La Guardia or JFK. If
you see EWR_TWR or EWR_GND, select one of them, if not select, JFK_APP,
JFK_CTR or any other in the vicinity of Newark. Once connected your SB
will show a series of messages; read these because they include weather
and other useful information. By the way, if you connect to the wrong ATC,
don’t worry. They will tell you to switch to somebody else and will give
you the right frequency.
In the white window on top of the SB Host
screen send a private message to the controller explaining that you are
a beginner and that you would appreciate help and patience. Type the following
message in the white window of the SB Host screen: ".msg XXX_XXX Hello
Sir. I am new with SquawkBox and IFR. Please help and be patient."
Do not forget the period "." before msg. Whenever you want to send a private
message to ATC or to other aircrafts flying with VATSIM, precede your message
with ".msg". Don’t forget to replace "XXX_XXX" with the code that
appeared for ATC in the SB Host black screen area. For example, enter BOS_V_CTR,
EWR_TWR, NY_V_APP, or JFK_V_CTR. These codes will appear at the ATC Directory
ATC and Flying on Flight Simulator
Remember that you
don’t have to speak to ATC if you do not feel comfortable with it. You
can send written messages instead. Simply enter messages directly at the
white window in your SB Host screen. So if you
prefer, replace the voice messages that I suggest later in this manual
with written messages to ATC using this procedure. However, typing a message
at the middle of a complicated ILS approach can be busy, so using voice
is much, much easier.
You are now ready to start talking with
ATC through SquawkBox. To send voice messages to ATC hold the F12 key on
your computer keyboard and speak through your microphone. In this tutorial,
all the communications from us to ATC will be highlighted in
italics. Responses from the Controllers to us will be highlighted
in magenta italics.
We will start our communications with ATC
by requesting that they give us the clearance for the submitted flight
plan from Newark to Boston Logan. So, while holding the F12 key, repeat
the following text literally:
sir. Continental 98 requests IFR flight plan clearance delivery from Newark
to Boston. (Remember,
if you are concerned about talking, type this message on the white window
area of the SB Host screen). This request asks ATC to “approve” the flight
plan we filed. The advantage of using Preferred Routes is that they will
seldom change our flight plan. If you don’t use preferred routes, you can
be assured that ATC will change your route.
After a few seconds, you will hear Standby
or something to that effect. Soon, ATC will get back to you with a message.
Listen to it carefully, and repeat it word-for-word immediately back to
If your flight plan needs to be changed or
it has been cleared for release, you will hear the following message:
please advise when ready to copy. ATC will then proceed
to give a fast blurb with the new flight plan, which is almost always impossible
to understand and repeat accurately. If this happens to you, reply to ATC
the following message:
is coming broken. Please send flight plan by text.
Once you have received the flight plan, read
back exactly the message to ATC either by text or by RW.
If there were no changes to your flight plan,
you will normally receive the following message from ATC:
is cleared to Boston with vectors to MERIT, then as filed. Climb and maintain
5000. Expect Flight Level 190 ten minutes after. Departure frequency is
nnn.n (119.2 for example.
This is the communication frequency that you will have to use after takeoff).
nnnn (3412 for example. This number is the frequency you
will set in your Transponder).
Once you get this message, repeat it back
to ATC exactly as it was given to you.
Once you reply, ATC will respond: Continental
98, read-back is correct (or they will give you corrections
to your read-back). Approved for pushback.
Advise when ready to taxi.
Proceed immediately to set-up the Transponder
(Squawk) code they just gave you into the radios. You do not need to set
up the communications frequency at this time. When you switch communications
frequencies in your aircraft's COM1 radio, it will automatically switch
the frequency in SquawkBox.
Prepare your aircraft
for departure, check that the flight plan is loaded into your GPS in your
Boeing 737, and program the autopilot. Use the Runway heading and the initial
altitude ATC gave you (normally 5,000 ft. but it could be some other initial
altitude). Departure speed should be no more than 250 knots (always maintain
less than 250 knots below 10,000 feet). Do all the checklists you normally
do and get ready to fly.
You are now ready to start taxiing to the
assigned active runway.
You are now done
with your IFR Flight to Boston.
Call ATC holding down F12 and say:
is ready to taxi.
ATC will respond:
taxi to runway 22 left (or runway 4R) and
hold short of active runway.
exactly what ATC said and proceed
to the runway as instructed by the Controller. For this example, let’s
assume ATC said: Taxi to runway 22 left.
Sometimes ATC gives you the taxiway names you have to follow. Try to use
them and repeat the instructions given to you by ATC. For example, from
Gate C5, they could say:
taxi to runway 22 left via Romeo (R), Hotel (H), Bravo (B), Mike (M), Bravo
(B) and Whiskey (W). Hold short of Runway 22 left. Look
at a map of KEWR and you will easily identify the taxiways ATC gave you.
Proceed to runway 22L following (to the best
of your abilities) the instructions given by ATC. (No real problem if you
mess up here.)
Holding short on taxiway W for Runway 22L,
contact the tower and say:
is ready to depart, runway 22 left.
ATC will most likely respond:
Winds are 200
at 10 (for example).
98 is cleared for takeoff. After takeoff fly heading 190 (noise
abatement procedure in Newark). Upon takeoff, be careful not to ascend
beyond the initial approved altitude.
exactly the above phrase and
proceed to take off, find the little black window that has a button on
it labeled Squawk normal and press it. Afterwards, you can hide
this window as it has no use in flight, unless you are instructed to “ident”
(press the Ident button). I hide mine by dragging it to the
edge of the screen so I can barely see it. Finally, proceed to take off.
Shortly thereafter, ATC will say something
is radar contact. Turn right heading 270 (or
some other direction) and contact NY Approach
at 119.2 (the frequency could be different).
exactly the previous phrase.
To change to the new Controller, set the new frequency the controller instructed
you to switch to in your COM1 radio.
You are ready to talk to the new Controller.
You would contact NY Approach as follows:
NY Approach, Continental
98 is with you turning right heading 270, climbing to 5,000.
After a few seconds, NY Approach will reply:
radar contact, turn right heading 060, climb and maintain 17,000. (They
might give you slightly modified instructions, but eventually, they will
vector you to the first waypoint of your flight plan: the MERIT intersection.)
Repeat the last instruction to ATC, and continue
your flight as instructed; that is, turning right to heading 60 degrees,
and climbing to 17,000 ft.
Soon ATC will call you and say:
proceed to MERIT as soonest able, then as filed.
Repeat the last instruction, and proceed flying
your route as you filed it; that is, fly to MERIT then to ORW, PVD and
ATC will then say:
contact NY Center on 130.72. (they
could give you a different frequency number). Good
Repeat the last instruction, change frequencies
to NY Center in the SB Host Window as previously instructed, and contact
ATC, then saying:
NY Center, Continental
98 is with you 9,000 (for
example) climbing to 17,000.
NY Center will reply with something like:
roger, continue climbing to Flight Level 190 (your target
Repeat to ATC the last instruction and proceed
After a few minutes, NY Center will contact
you and say:
contact Boston Center on 131.725. Good day.
Repeat the last instruction, and switch to
Boston Center through the SB Host Window. Then contact the Boston ATC saying:
Continental 98 is with you, 9,000.
ATC will respond:
roger. Proceed as filed. Cross the PVD (Providence)VOR
at Flight Level 110 and 250 knots. Advise when leaving Flight Level 190.
Repeat the last instruction, and plan your
autopilot so that you cross the PVD VOR at an altitude of 11,000 ft. and
a speed of 250 knots. When you start your descent, contact ATC with:
Continental 98 is leaving Flight Level 190 descending to 11,000.
ATC will acknowledge. After a while, Boston
contact Boston Approach on 118.25 (or
another frequency number).
Repeat the last instruction and proceed to
change frequencies on the SB Host window. Contact ATC saying:
Continental 98 is with you, 15,000 (or
whatever your altitude is) descending to 11,000.
ATC will acknowledge. Sometime after crossing
the PVD VOR, probably before you reach your next waypoint INNDY, ATC will
contact you again and will say something like:
turn left heading 060, descent to 6,000 expect vectors for ILS 4 Right.
(We will assume that we will use the ILS to runway 4R in this example.
They may and most often will give you other approaches. Remember that KBOS
has 8 runways, and about 15 different approaches. You can get the approach
plates at: http://www.fltplan.com)
Repeat the last instruction, and proceed as
instructed. Using your approach plates, set all your frequencies for VOR,
OBS, NDB radios, etc. and get ready to start your process for landing.
After a short while, ATC will contact you again and say:
descend and maintain 4,000; turn left heading 040 to intercept ILS 4 right.
Repeat the instructions to ATC, and descend
to 4,000 ft. turning left to heading 040. Soon ATC will say something like
you are 15 miles from WINNI (the Initial
Approach Fix).Maintain 3,000 until established.
Cleared for the ILS 4 Right approach to Boston Logan.
Repeat the last instruction, descend to 3,000
ft. and get ready to intercept the ILS 4R approach.
Once ATC sees that you are established on
the ILS 4R approach, the Controller will contact you again and say:
contact Boston Tower on 125.62. Good bye.
Repeat the instruction to ATC, switch frequency
on the SB Host Window, and contact ATC saying:
Continental 98 is with you, established on ILS 4 Right to Boston.
ATC will acknowledge and say something like:
Winds 050 at 8. You are cleared to land Runway 4 Right.
Repeat the instruction to ATC and land. Once
on the ground, ATC will contact you and say:
welcome to Boston. Turn first left and contact Boston Ground on 121.9.
Repeat the last instruction, switch frequencies
on SB Host window and contact ATC saying:
Continental 98 is with you. Just landed on Runway 4R. Please provide taxing
instructions to terminal.
ATC will acknowledge you and will issue instructions
welcome to Boston. Taxi to terminal via Yankee, Runway 33, left on November,
right on Kilo, left on Mike to ramp and terminal. Please Squawk standby.
Repeat the instructions and follow the directions
to terminal. To Squawk standby, go to the small transponder window that
you hid earlier, and click on Squawk Standby to switch to standby.
ATC does this to help them identify that you are on the ground and not
Once parked at the gate, contact Ground saying:
Continental 98 is parked at the gate. Request flight plan closing and permission
to shut down engines.
ATC will reply:
flight plan is closed. Proceed to shut down engines. Thank you for flying
to Boston. Have a good day.
Repeat what ATC said, and shut your engines
down. To end your SquawkBox session with VATSIM Controllers, access the
SB Host Window, right-click on the black area of the window, and click
Again, right-click on the black area of the window, and click Exit
to close the SquawkBox connection. You may now disconnect the multiplayer
session and exit FS2004.
We suggest you do this
same route several times. After a while, you will be guessing what comes
next. And that’s one of the secrets of IFR flying: the ability to anticipate
what ATC will say next, and prepare for it.
Flying IFR sounds complicated and busy.
that’s the reason why it is so much fun. Again, it is a bit tricky,
but with practice, you will become very comfortable with every aspect of
it. And the fact that it is busy makes the experience of flight simulation
so much better and fulfilling. No more long periods of flying following
a dull route without anything to do. Here, you will be busy and enjoy the
experience much more. Safe IFR Flying, and see you in the air!
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions
about this tutorial, please ask on our Message
This tutorial was originally written by
David Velez and revised by Brandon Jones.