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ANNEX 2 Rules of the Air

Air travel must be safe and efficient; this requires, among other things, a set of internationally agreed rules of the air.

The rules developed by ICAO - which consist of general rules, visual flight rules and instrument flight rules contained in Annex 2 - apply without exception over the high seas, and over national territories to the extent that they do not conflict with the rules of the State being overflown. The pilot-in-command of an aircraft is responsible for compliance with the rules of the air.

An aircraft must be flown in accordance with the general rules and either the visual flight rules (VFR) or the instrument flight rules (IFR).

Flight in accordance with visual flight rules is permitted if a flight crew is able to remain clear of clouds by a distance of at least 1 500 m horizontally and at least 300 m (1 000 ft) vertically and to maintain a forward visibility of at least 8 km.

For flights in some portions of the airspace and at low altitudes, and for helicopters, the requirements are less stringent.

An aircraft cannot be flown under VFR at night or above 6 100 m (20 000 ft) except by special permission. Balloons are classified as aircraft, but unmanned free balloons can be flown only under specified conditions detailed in the Annex.

Instrument flight rules must be complied with in weather conditions other than those mentioned above.

A State may also require that they be applied in designated airspaces regardless of weather conditions, or a pilot may choose to apply them even if the weather is good.

Most airliners fly under IFR at all times.

Depending upon the type of airspace, these aircraft are provided with air traffic control service, air traffic advisory service or flight information service regardless of weather conditions.

To fly under IFR, an aircraft must be equipped with suitable instruments and navigation equipment appropriate to the route to be flown.

When operating under air traffic control the aircraft must maintain precisely the route and altitude that have been assigned to it and keep air traffic control informed about its position.

A flight plan must be filed with air traffic services units for all flights that will cross international borders, and for most other flights that are engaged in commercial operations.

The flight plan provides information on the aircraft's identity and equipment, the point and time of departure, the route and altitude to be flown, the destination and estimated time of arrival, and the alternate airport to be used should landing at destination be impossible.

The flight plan must also specify whether the flight will be carried out under visual or instrument flight rules.

Regardless of the type of flight plan, the pilots are responsible for avoiding collisions when in visual flight conditions, in accordance with the principle of see-and-avoid.

However, flights operating under IFR are either kept separated by air traffic control units or provided with collision hazard information.

Right-of-way rules in the air are similar to those on the surface, but, as aircraft operate in three dimensions, some additional rules are required.

When two aircraft are converging at approximately the same level, the aircraft on the right has the right of way except that aeroplanes must give way to airships, gliders and balloons, and to aircraft which are towing objects.

An aircraft which is being overtaken has the right of way and the overtaking aircraft must remain clear by altering heading to the right.

When two aircraft are approaching each other head on they must both alter heading to the right.

As interceptions of civil aircraft are, in all cases, potentially hazardous, the Council of ICAO has formulated special recommendations in Annex 2 which States are urged to implement through appropriate regulatory and administrative action.

These special recommendations are contained in Attachment A to the Annex

All these rules, when complied with by all concerned, help make for safe and efficient flight.

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