VFR on top question


Not sure if this is good idea or not but hey better to ask here than wonder if it’s the right thing to do in the plane.

Our seasonal morning stratiform season has begun and I was thinking of instead of asking for a block altitude in the NE practice area of KJAN to pick up an IFR clearance, ask for a VFR on top clearance so I can be “ATC friendly” without compromising safety.

Obviously I need report when VFR and maintain VFR cloud clearances once I am through the stratiform deck, but I am not sure about the altitude changes and the IFR guaranteed protection I am given by ATC.

I know I can advise the altitudes I will be working at with the “see and avoid rules” but is this viable from the ATC side of the coin or would I just be better off asking for a block altitude?

I wouldn’t need that much a chunk of air, just about 2000 feet (2000 MSL to 4000) and this would be outside KJAN airspace (class E).

After I am done doing my airwork and advise ATC that I am returning back to KMBO, would I need to advise that I am no longer VFR and do the usual cancel IFR after descending to VFR below the cloud deck?

Thoughts most appreciated.


I used to use on top and VFR climbs when based at SBP in the days before the tower came into existence. It is very useful when you are flying a slow airplane and others would like to depart or land while you are doing your airwork or just in a slow climb or descent. It beats ATC holding a twin on the ground while you climb at 500 FPM.
VFR on top, or any VFR climb/descent requires you to maintain VFR conditions and relieves ATC from providing separation. On the other hand a visual approach gets you sequenced with other traffic but you are still on the see and bee seen page.
When you are done with your airwork you would have to advise ATC that you are finished and of your IFR approach request, depending on other traffic you may or may not get the VFR restriction lifted right away. As soon as you are assigned an IFR altitude the restriction is gone and you are full IFR again.
The best bet is to ask approach control the next time you go out if they have a preference.

me in you know where.


Thanks me in I think I know where! :stuck_out_tongue:

I wasn’t sure of this part that you stepped out above but had I thought it through like you typed it out, I would have had my own answer as I had to do this with block altitudes.

Or may even oh my gosh use something antiquated like land line rather than tie up the frequency :open_mouth:


Or you could use your cell phone too!
Actually the answer may vary with the controller on duty and traffic load.


OK, did what you suggested and called.

Controller said it really comes down to the controller preferences.

The easier way for the controller is VFR on top for the obvious reason spacing doesn’t require as much real estate especially laterally (3 miles) but some may want to prefer a block so it depends…

If 34 is being used at KJAN, I wouldn’t be a factor so getting block shouldn’t be a problem. With 16 being used, blocks of course would be more of an issue and has been my experience.

And finally, when I am done the airwork just like you said, make my approach request (visual or otherwise)

What I have done in the past to request a visual approach above a cloud deck is

Request a VFR altitude below the cloud deck (500 feet below ceilings)
Once VFR, request a visual approach since legally, I can’t request it above a cloud deck.

In a nutshell, the final answer to my question would be “it depends” :laughing:


All the above!!!

:laughing: :laughing: :laughing:


There you go! :smiley:


See discussions.flightaware.com/view … 937#125937 (may need to scroll down) on how my question on this thread was handled on frequency…