The Federal Aviation Administration is having computer problems – again, and it’s causing travel delays across the country.
Contrary to news reports, you do NOT have to file a flight plan to fly. However, the problem greatly affects the airlines, since commercial flights generally operate under so-called “Instrument Flight Rules” (IFR).
IFR flights do require filed flight plans, but flights flying visually (VFR) need not. Consequently more flights (even some commercial flights) are likely to attempt to fly under visual rules, where the pilot is expected to maintain separation from other aircraft without the assistance of air traffic controllers. Because of this, pilots must fly clear of clouds.
Authorities insist the situation does not threaten safety, since airliners will not take off until their paperwork is in order. However, some users may elect to take off under visual rules then request an IFR clearance enroute, or to fly VFR from takeoff to landing. Such flights require a greater level of pilot vigilance.
Bottom line: the capacity of the system is severely restricted, and it does add a measure of chaos, which in my opinion can indeed threaten safety.