VFR Flight Plans


Is there ANY way to file a VFR flight plan but have it where Approach can open it for flight following. It’s annoying to have to say destination, route, time, etc. I didn’t know if I could file something so they are already expecting me (sort of like an IFR plan). I recently read about filing an IFR flight plan, but putting VFR/XXX where altitude goes so that they know it’s VFR. Is this commonly used or will the controller not know what the heck is going on? The only reason I’m asking is because I fly out of a military base (flying Club) and I didn’t want to have an IFR plan on file when I’m flying VFR, and the military controller not understand my intentions. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!



To my knowledge no, when u file VFR the controllers dont see your strip for your flight, therefore you have to ask for flight following to your destination, then call and open you FP. I have however on very rare occasions heard of conrtollers closing your VFR FP on arrival, not sure if this is fact or fiction.

I have never heard of filing IFR and putting VFR under the altude block, i dont know how keen they would be on that.


I have done this without any problems just to experiment to see if I would get tracked.

I mark it IFR to get it routed to ATC rather then FSS, filed a VFR altitude and also put in comments VFR flight through DUAT.

I picked my plan with approach saying to approach that i would like to pick up my VFR flight plan, and I was put into the system seamlessly and also tracked on FA. I have heard at controlled airports, ground won’t handle this but they request you pick up the plan with approach I think somewhere on these forums. I don’t have first hand knowledge on controlled airport ops but only hearsay on this.

Of course depending on ATC facility YMMV.


Next time you are ready to taxi, say “Wherever Ground, N123JB is a some-kind-of-airplane, request flight following to XXX at something-or-other 500.”

A few keystrokes and shazam.


VFR plans don’t go to ATC, just FSS. Basically, its a safety net so if you don’t close within 30 min of your intended arrival someone will start looking for you.

If you file IFR, you can request VFR on top, but remember you’re bound by both IFR and VFR rules then.

Also, I’m assuming you are an instrument rated pilot. If you are not instrument rated, you are not legally allowed to to file, or be on an IFR flight plan. If you are on an IFR flight plan, ATC is going to expect a lot more of you than someone with only a private pilot cert knows.

Generally, if you are going VFR, just request flight following. In theory ATC can deny the request based on workload, but I have never had that happen (and I fly in the Houston Bravo quite a bit).

Before I use to think that VFR plans didn’t make much sense because, you can just get flight following. However, I had a center controller explain to me that in some parts of the country (i.e. west Texas), they don’t have that great of radar coverage down low, so once they loose your signature, they can’t “follow” you anymore so you’ll get the “N12345 radar services terminated” At that point, you are out of his control. If something were to happen to you at this point in your flight, no one would know. So if you did have a VFR plan, when you are 30 minutes past due, at least someone would come looking.


I do not understand why anyone continues to see a need for VFR flight plans. As already mentioned, a VFR flight plan has nothing to do with ATC. It’s only function is for FSS to initiate SAR if you don’t close the flight plan. Of course they have no way of knowing where along your filed plan you went down. If you deviated from your filed plan, then they have no idea where you are.

As for trying to trick an IFR filing to look like a VFR filing, why bother? All you are doing is asking for VFR advisories, just ask on the radio, no need to file anything.

You can accomplish everything a VFR flight plan does by just informing anyone of your plans and calling them when you arrive safely. If the goal is to actually get found if you go down, I highly advise getting a 406 MHz PLB w/ GPS. The ultimate plan is to have both a 406 MHz PLB and ELT w/GPS. You will be located very quickly. Anything less results in CAP doing the looking for a needle in a haystack thing.


VFR flight plans serve a fantastic purpose, if used properly. The idea is to not deviate from your route. if you do, call them and tell them what you are doing. If you do go down somewhere they have a pretty good idea of where to look. They also have their S/R methods of cross gridding your route to look for you.

What IF you are out of radar coverage when you go down?
What IF you loose comm. somewhere along you flight?
What IF what IF what IF…

flight plans are another safety net for pilots for the unexpected Xfactor.
As far as i am concerned use every product and service available to keep you and passengers alive.

Just because YOU dont see a purpose to them doesnt mean that they dont serve a purpose to pilots and passengers alike.


VFR flight plans did serve a purpose…in 1970


My favorite phone call to answer at the AFSS I worked was the “family concerned” search and rescue.

They might know where the pilot departed. The city…not which airport. But they don’t know anything else.

What is the aircraft call sign? They don’t know.
What kind of aircraft? They aren’t sure. Maybe a Cessna?
When did they depart? Maybe yesterday. They aren’t sure.

They don’t know bupkis. And now, the AFSS has to ask every ATC facility, and every airport, pretty much anywhere along the “possible” route, to conduct record and field searches. A local tower won’t keep a record of VFR departures or overflights. Unless you talked to every center or approach control (and got flight following that they would have a record of) they don’t have any idea whether the aircraft flew through their airspace or not.

So, it was quite a lot of fun to call to the local Center or Approach Control to ask them to search all their records going back a day or so and look for this needle in a haystack. “You mean you have no data at all? No route, no nothing?”

Nope, none. Good luck! You can bet there were quite a lot of unenthusiastic field and record searches when we told the airports that this was a “family concerned” search, with absolutely no data to use as clues.

So, you can bet, over this long holiday weekend, that there are, at this very moment, several of these “family concerned” notices cluttering the AFSS and ATC system. And someone is saying, “Well, we will find them when the snow melts.”