The first is VFR (or Visual Flight Rules). As you may have guessed, this kind of flying centers around the pilots ability to use visual cues from outside to guide the aircraft in whatever direction they deem necessary. I would say that around 80% of your Private Pilot test standards are based around the pilots ability to look outside the aircraft and simply fly. Trying not to get too deep into regulations, I must mention that there are minimum distances, visibility and altitudes that are prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration that a VFR pilot must adhere to. The second kind of flying is IFR (skipping S-VFR for simplicity's sake). This stands for Instrument Flight Rules and there is a whole new set of regulations at skill sets that a pilot must adhere to and acquire, respectively. The reason for instrument flight is the ability to not have to dodge clouds and to be able to maintain an overall more efficient way of flying (Under IFR you don't have to maintain those prescribed distances that I mentioned earlier). You must keep in mind that those distances are there to keep everyone within visual reference of the other VFR traffic. (FAA doesn't want anyone hitting anyone else mid-air and for good, obvious reasons)
Here's an example that will make sense to you as long as you drive a car:
You're at your house and you want to travel to your friend's house in the next town over. In order to get there you have to call your friend and tell them how you're going to get there, when you're leaving, and how fast you're going to go. The interstate is like your Victor Airway. If you were traveling to Wytheville from Bland we could say your flight plan might look like BND WVL on the V81 Airway. (All of this just for example purposes) The weather happens to be so bad you can't see to get onto the interstate and haven't the slightest clue how you're going to find your friend's house in the inclement weather.
First off, I must mention that if you're on an IFR flight plan you MUST receive radar vectors/be on a departure procedure to find the first fix on your route whether or not you can see outside your aircraft. That means if it's sunny and you're on an IFR flight plan, you can still expect air traffic control to get you to your route. (You won't be doing this visually. I thought I needed to add that for clarification.)
Continuing the example:
You can expect radar vectors or (directions) to your filed route. In some cases you might receive a departure procedure that places you on your route. A fantastic example of this is an on-ramp to the interstate. It simply gets you to you're route, which in this case IS the interstate.
In the IFR flying realm, a SID (or a Standard Departure Procedure. How appropriate!) looks like this:
The most intricate part to instrument flying is most certainly the Arrival. (The part where you exit on the off-ramp and find your friends house.)
There are STARS (or Standard Instrument Arrivals) that may or may not be available depending upon what kind of airport you're flying into. Just for reference, they look like this (The off-ramp):
So what are we left with? Well, we have to find your friend's house in this terrible weather. We would use an IAP or an Instrument Approach Procedure. This is definitely the most intricate part of instrument flying. There are a few kinds of approaches categorized into Precision and Non-Precision Approaches:
-ILS (Instrument Landing System)
-VOR and/or DME
And a few more that I failed to mention...
Out of all of those I'm only going to describe one of them because we'd be here all day. An ILS instrument approach is probably on the most interesting feats of engineering. It not only gives your horizontal guidance, but also guides you down to the runway on a +/- 3.0 degree glide slope. Often described as a Flashlight, this is what the ILS Glide slope would look like if it was visible:
Here is what one of the approach plates looks like. This is the ILS or LOC 23 into Tri-Cities:
On Friday we did a flight to London-Corbin KLOZ. We shot the VOR 6 into LOZ and did the RNAV GPS 23 back in TRI. Here is the flight from Flightaware.com and the respective charts:
As you can see we arced into a few thunderstorms! Here are the plates:
Here's some footage from yesterday!
Thanks for your interest! I'll do my best to keep up with the blog!