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Flying VFR Over-the-Top means flying with visual reference to a layer of cloud instead of the earth's surface. This type of VFR flying offers challenges that require advanced training in instrument flying and radio navigation skills. It also requires advanced training and skill in interpretation and application of weather reports and forecasts.
The flight training for the VFR OTT rating must include the instrument flying elements of the Commercial Pilot Licence — Aeroplane or Helicopter. These are full panel and partial panel instrument flying, recovery from unusual attitudes and radio aids to navigation.
Before starting the training the instructor shall provide the student with a training program outline that meets the requirements of Canadian Aviation Regulations section 405.13. Giving an outline of both the ground and flight training program for the VFR OTT rating will let the student know what to expect and what you expect of the student.
A VFR OTT rating will be required by some pilots to fly VFR OTT. This rating can be applied to a Private Pilot Licence — Aeroplane and to a Private, Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot Licence — Helicopter. The privilege to fly VFR OTT will be given automatically to anyone who holds a Commercial Pilot Licence — Aeroplane or an Instrument Rating.
Fifteen hours of dual instrument training is required to obtain a VFR OTT rating. Five of the fifteen hours may be done on a certified flight training device. Instrument flight training already accomplished in obtaining a Private Pilot Licence — Aeroplane, a Private, Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot Licence — Helicopter and a night rating may be credited. A person who conducts training towards the issue of a VFR Over-the Top rating shall have a flight instructor rating for the category of aircraft used for the training.
Recommending for the Rating
The process of the training is modeled on the training for the night rating. In addition to certifying that the training requirements have been met, the flight instructor must ensure that the completion standards set out in this guide have also been met. The ground and flight training as outlined in this guide must have been covered and the required performance demonstrated. The instructor then recommends the candidate for the VFR OTT rating using the form "Flight Crew Licence — Application for Endorsement of a Rating". No written examination or flight test is required.
Essential Background Knowledge
This is the minimum knowledge required for a student to benefit fully from the air instruction. One of your obligations as an instructor is to make sure students have been given all the pertinent ground instruction before beginning air instruction.
Preparatory Ground Instruction
Classroom-type instruction, generally on a one-to-one basis but not excluding group instruction, that is based on lesson plans contained in or developed from the applicable flight instructor guide. This is a presentation given by the instructor when introducing a new exercise. Ideally it should be given within 24 hours prior to the related training flight.
There is no flight test or written examination for the VFR OTT rating. Instead, the instructor is expected to certify that the student is competent to hold the rating. To help the instructor make this judgment, completion standards are given for each air exercise. The student must be able to perform all the required exercises to the given performance standard before being recommended for the rating.
Ground training related to the topics listed in this guide may be presented in a general ground training session before flying begins and/or during the Preparatory Ground Instruction. Whichever approach you take, make sure that the student understands the Essential Background Knowledge that is necessary to support the learning of the flight exercises for a given trip before going flying. The following are items that must be included in the ground training for this rating:
1. Explain the meaning and application of the contents of the following Canadian Aviation Regulations and Standards:
- Section 401.44 — VFR OTT Rating
- Section 421.44 — Knowledge, experience and skill requirements
- Section 425.23 — Training aircraft requirements
- Section 602.116 — Visual Flight Rules
- Section 605.15 — Aircraft equipment requirements
2. Review airspace classification and operating procedures within Canadian Domestic Airspace.
3. Explain the correct interpretation of aviation weather reports, forecasts, pireps sigmets and notams and how they apply to VFR OTT flight situations, including determining
- the stability of the air mass(es) affecting the flight.
- weather trends and the suitability of departure, enroute and destination weather for the time of the flight.
- the bases and tops of cloud layers using the area forecast and understanding their significance to VFR OTT flight.
4. Review the following elements of instrument flying as outlined in the Flight Instructor Guide (TP 975), Exercise 24 — Instrument Flying.
- The Control and Performance Instruments
- Scanning Techniques
- Applying the scanning pattern
- Human Factors — Explain how human factors topics such as hypoxia, judgment, decision making, disorientation and cockpit resource management apply to VFR OTT flying. Explain that illusory sensations may occur when flying above or between layers of cloud and how to cope with these sensations.
5. Explain the basic principles of operation, limitations and errors of ADF, VOR or GPS equipment as applicable.
- Demonstrate how to determine that this equipment is functioning accurately.
- Show how to obtain ADF, VOR or GPS information from aeronautical charts
6. Explain the use of ADF, VOR or GPS to:
- locate the aircraft's position
- home to the station or waypoint
- track to eliminate drift
- intercept a pre-determined track or radial and fly to the station or waypoint
- intercept a pre-determined track or radial and fly outbound from the station or waypoint
- identify station passage.
Each pilot to be trained will have a different level of knowledge and skill. It will be helpful to identify their strengths and weaknesses early in training through oral questioning and flight evaluation. This will help you to shape the training to fill in any weak areas identified and will ensure that the required standard of knowledge and skill is achieved.