IFR filed operated under VFR


Since flightaware will not show flights not on an IFR flight plan, is it legal to file an IFR flight plan and fly it under VFR conditions for a VFR pilot as long as IMC is not entered? You can file for insturment procdure practice approaches and fly under the hood as long as a saftey pilot is on board without being insturment rated, so why not?


While you can file IFR, you cannot accept an IFR clearance unless you or the safety pilot are IA rated. So… if you are indeed doing practice approaches with a pilot not IA rated, neither of you can accept an IFR clearance.

Practice approaches are done under VFR conditions most of the time In actual conditions or anything less then VFR conditions, you or the safety pilot MUST be IA rated to LEGALLY accept an IFR clearance for practice approaches…

Now… with that caveat in mind, I just learned a trick myself this past week on how to get VFR flights tracked on FA. What the legalities are “fudging the system”, I don’t know, but it does work with another pilot that uses the below procedures.

You file a VFR flight plan. You put IFR in the upper left corner for type of flight plan. This routes it to the centers and approach controllers (VFR routes it to FSS).

You file a VFR altitude I.E 6500 and put in the remarks VFR flight. This makes it a VFR flight plan.

You pick up your flight plan by contacting approach controller. I was told that ground controllers may not “activate” your flight plan at airports with ground control or clearance delivery. My friend has to open the plan in the air even though there is a ground controller. He does not get a full CRAFT clearance, just a transponder code and radar contact. He just climbs to his filed altitude. This eliminates the need to leave the frequency and open the flight plan with FSS.

I am at an uncontrolled airport myself, so I don’t have any first hand experience on the above. If I am taking the time to file a plan, I just file IFR since I am IA rated.


That is a great idea! You can also file an IFR flight plan, depart VFR, then when you call the approach controller for your clearance, tell him you just want VFR flight following rather than IFR. Either way will save a savvy controller some time putting in a new FP for flight following.

I’ll elaborate on the processing of VFR and IFR flight plans. Although you use the same form, and just check a box to indicate VFR or IFR, the flight plan is processed completely different. IFR flight plans generate a FP message in the NAS system, which sends flight strips with squawk codes to the Towers, Approach Controls, and Centers.

If you check the VFR box, it is sent solely to FSS for search and rescue purposes. It is not in the NAS system, and ATC has no way of accessing it, which is why ground control doesn’t “activate” it; there’s nothing in the system.

Here’s what happens when you ask for VFR Flight Following . . . a controller has to put in all of your information (callsign, a/c type, speed, altitude, route, etc… we guess on some of the info sometimes, like true airspeed) into the NAS system, and we’ll get a strip with a squawk code (and you’ll show up on FA). It’s processed like an IFR flight plan, except we put “VFR” for the altitude instead of an actual altitude. (If a controller asks for your requested altitude, we can use VFR/065, which is useful information for the next controller down the line). You can see why I like the idea of filing IFR, but not accepting the clearance; less work for ATC.

So the VFR flight plan you file online or with FSS is not interconnected with getting flight following, which is why, even if you get flight following, you still have to call FSS and close your VFR flight plan. Getting a code for FF from ATC does not activate your VFR flight plan with FSS, you still have to open it and close it like you normally would. You can argue that if you’re getting flight following from ATC, you don’t need to file and open a VFR flight plan, and I would agree, but some FBOs require you file and activate a VFR flight plan for insurance purposes, and you are probably NOT meeting this requirement solely by getting flight following from ATC.

A ground controller should be able to set you up with flight following on the ground, but sometimes local procedures or agreements require you to get it in the air.

Now, if you call approach for traffic advisories or a local IFR clearance, you will probably be put into the local computer, and not the NAS system, so you won’t show up on FA (your transponder code will usually start with a 0). If you’re not leaving my airspace, it’s easier to generate a local squawk code because all I need is your callsign.

And to the original poster . . . if you’re on an IFR flight plan, even if you’re only in VMC, ATC is going to treat you differently than if you’re VFR as far as separation minima. Instrument rated pilots have also proven that they’re able to fly headings and altitudes within so many degrees/feet. ATC can’t see clouds on the radar scope, either, and a controller will not be amused when a pilot on an IFR flight plan can’t accept a vector or descent because of a cloud.


My experience flying VFR is that all of my VFR flights, whether a flight plan was filed or not, show up on FlightAware if I have contacted Center and requested Flight Following.


I can’t quote the regulation, but I was told years ago that person filing IFR as the PIC had to be instrument rated and current, or with a CFII, to file an IFR flight plan.


Anybody can file the way I see it… Heck the way FA has the flight planner software set up, you don’t even have to be a pilot or an authorized dispatcher.

Can’t act as PIC to accept an IFR clearance.

.Requirement for certificates, ratings, and authorizations (E1 specifically).

Now, googling I found something that pretty much sums up what you say regarding filing of flight plans and listing the CFI as pilot on the flight plan, but I don’t see it being required in the very same reference the below book points me to.

books.google.com/books?id=TpD79S … FAR+61.3(e&source=web&ots=5m1CrGY2K3&sig=Q-Fpb6AmyJIP8n1QM03hEteXn8M

(sorry word wrap won’t let me shorten link for some reason)


Thanks for providing the reading material, I didn’t have time to look it up.

I disagree. By filing an IFR flight plan you are telling the world you are legal to act as PIC on an IFR flight. Doesn’t matter what the weather conditions are. Take the part 61 section you so nicely provided:

(e) Instrument rating. No person may act as pilot in command of a civil aircraft under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight unless that person holds: blah blah…

Note it says you may not act as PIC under IFR OR in weather conditions less than VFR etc. IFR means rules you are operating under not the actual weather conditions.

The GPS article says the same thing, if you don’t have an instrument license the IFR flight plan must be under the CFII’s name since a non-IFR rated pilot cannot act as PIC while flying under IFR RULES.

For the same reason when I was a lowly copilot in the early days there would be times when i would call the FSS and file the flight plan, but I had to use the Captains name since I was not legal to be the PIC on the flight.


Don’t get me wrong. I actually agree with you, but there are no specific FARS to support us saying you must be IA rated to file IFR (I couldn’t find anything anyway).

Now, I did do some research on the flight plan form itself subsequent to my post, and block 14 on the flight plan indicates that the PIC must be listed (not just any pilot such as a student).

Soooo, if we link the instructions from the Flight plan filing form to Part 61, I think we can safely assume that you must be IA rated to file IFR as it clearly indicates that block 14 entry should be PIC and PIC in part 61 must be IA rated to accept IFR clearances (CRAFT) which could be issued under VMC conditions and not under IMC conditions.

As we both know AIMS are for guidance for pilots. Legalities fall on FARS for adminstrative actions.


You’re contradicting yourself John. :wink:

As you point out, the person filing the flightplan need not hold an IFR rating, only the PIC in whose name the flightplan is filed. Semantics, I know, but on such pinheads doth the FAA angels dance.

There are hundreds of dispatchers filing thousands of flightplans weekly for pilots. Are the dispatchers licensed? If they’re involved in Part 121 or 135 operations you bet your ass they are, but they needn’t be if not engaged in Part 121 or 135 nor need they even be pilots. Are they IFR rated? Again, not necessarily and not required.


I think section E says it. IFR means rules, IMC means conditions. As you know, but just for those who might be students or non-pilots reading this.

To follow up on what you said about the flight plans:
If the lawyers had thought it would be OK to file or pick up an IFR clearance when the weather was clear, say for training purposes, they would have said IMC and left it at that. Section E says OR not AND which to me means you must be rated to file OR pick up a clearance needed for weather. Whether you file a flight plan with FSS/online using the form or ask ATC for a clearance it’s the same thing, meaning you are on an IFR flight plan and meet all the requirements.

To be practical, ATC doesn’t know for sure what the weather is out there. They MUST be able to assume you, and your airplane, are legal to fly IFR at all times while on your clearance.

Anyway, good discussion.


Again fully agree with your concept and even backing up what you say with AIMS, but in E, I don’t see any reference to filing IFR, only operating under IFR.

Filing IFR is the first step in operating IFR which makes me think you would be absolutely correct, but there is no “distinction” in FARS when that “operating begins”.

I took it operating would begin on your CRAFT assignment.

Like James said, it’s a matter of semantics and I’d bet if you called 10 different FSDO’s you would get 20 different answers :open_mouth:


umm, isn’t that what I said?

I agree Allen, you would probably get more than one opinion from the so called experts.

Oops, phone just rang, have to run up to the ba…pilots lounge.



I’d suspect if John was in a plane that required two pilot operations in his situation he posted, that he had to add the pilots name to the flight plan for type rating, not IA???

Unless of course that jet remains below class A all the time, can’t imagine a VFR only jet jockey.


Can you say Eclipse? I thought you could! :laughing:


You mean that solar one that blinded my vision? :smiley:

DUH, good point! 'specially if it’s being operated single pilot.

Talk about a jump from the cub days. :confused:


Like lieberma said, anyone can file an IFR flight plan. Airline dispatchers aren’t pilots, and they file lots of IFR flight plans.

A pilot can’t accept an IFR clearance, whether in VMC or IMC, unless they are instrument rated. As far as ATC goes for separation requirements from terrain and other airplanes, you are not operating under IFR until you hear the magic words “Cleared to . . .” Until that point, even if you’re on a discreet code and have been radar identified, you’re still VFR.


Without fail in my experiences, I always hear “maintain VFR” when receiving instructions on picking up an IFR clearance in the air when traffic is busy. I.E after contact with KJAN approach, I hear Sundowner 1943L, squawk 4321 maintain VFR.

After approach radar identifies me, and ATC has time to give me the attention to me for my clearance, I then get my clearance instructions.

But like you said above, I won’t touch a cloud until I get “cleared as filed” or other clearance instructions as my last instruction was “maintain VFR”.

On slower days, I will get my clearance (CRAFT). on my initial call up. I.E Sundowner 1943L Cleared to Bessemer Airport as filed, climb and maintain 6000 squawk 4321)

Might be a regional thingy on how the stars align on picking an IFR clearance with a VFR departure, but it really works well especially the reminder part about maintaining VFR.


Yeah, the technique probably varies by facility . . . and by controller. If there’s just no traffic and you’re nowhere near an airspace boundary, some controllers will just give the clearance. I usually give the code, say “Maintain VFR” (which is just like you said, a reminder, but if the controller doesn’t say it, you still have to maintain VFR), and radar ID the guy before giving the clearance. Sometimes pilots call, and they’re too close to another IFR aircraft or an airspace boundary, or too low to the ground for ATC to give a clearance.

I don’t know the reasoning for this, but if you get the clearance on the ground and depart IFR, I can turn you when you enter controlled airspace (class E, 700’ above the ground, for example), but if you pick it up airborne, I have to wait till you’re above the minimum vectoring altitude before issuing the clearance and giving control instructions.


Now, that is very interesting. Wouldn’t MVA be the floor of the airspace for an approach controller? I would be close enough that radar coverage isn’t an issue. Or am I mixing apples and oranges?

I ask this because once I hear my tail number, I enter Charlie with the assumption seperation wil be maintained even though I am still VFR.

I figure because if seperation could not be maintained, I would hear the instructions to “remain clear” of charlie which happens on occasion


The MVA is based on terrain and obstructions, and I don’t believe it’s published anywhere a pilot could see it. If you’re VFR, the MVA doesn’t apply to you unless the controller gives you a hard altitude assignment (Maintain 2500’, for example) and a heading. At that point, the controller assumes responsibility for your terrain and obstruction clearance. Whether you’re in class C or E airspace, nothing changes in this regard (you’re in “controlled” airspace either way - although these radar services are mandatory for pilots in the class C and optional in the E).

Usually we give “remain at or below” or “at or above”, then we can vector you around if we need to and you, the pilot, are still responsible for your own terrain and obstruction clearance.

With that said, for VFR aircraft in the Charlie airspace, ATC is responsible for separating you from other airplanes, but not you from the ground – so the MVA doesn’t apply, even though you’re in controlled airspace.

I think I just figured out the answer to my previous posts question about having to be above the MVA if you pick up your IFR in the air, but only in controlled airspace to vector you if you pick up the IFR on the ground . . .

Looking at my approach plate book, all the airports have takeoff minimums (whether standard or non-standard), which ensure terrain and obstacle clearance off the airport. If you pick up the IFR in the air, below the MVA, there’s no guarantee that you’ll miss the antennas and such hiding in the low clouds (which is why the MVA even exists).

Hopefully this all makes sense!