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Getting IFR Clearances Airborne

Source:, Featuring John Krug

Subscriber Question:

"Do you recommend departing VFR and picking up an IFR clearance in the air? What steps should I take?" - Jack M.


"As with many issues in flying, it depends upon the situation. Most important is to make sure that you always have a backup plan if for some reason you are not able to obtain the clearance right away.

Departing VFR can be a very efficient way to pick up your clearance. For example, at a small airport where I formerly instructed, the primary Class C airport was located about 4 miles east. In order to obtain an IFR release, all departures at the primary airport had to be stopped. It was far less disruption to the system to depart VFR and climb away from the primary airport while getting your IFR clearance.

But, this procedure only works where you have good VFR weather and can safely navigate to the minimum IFR altitude clear of clouds. I cannot emphasize too strongly that you as PIC are responsible for terrain and obstacle clearance during the climb to the minimum IFR altitude. If you are not able to provide your own separation, do not depart VFR.

It is a good practice to contact the ATC facility and advise them that you are departing VFR and will pick up the clearance airborne. It gives them a good heads up to make sure the routing is good, there are no delays or flow restrictions on the route and the controller will be ready to issue the clearance when you call."

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