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8 Answers

Can I file an arbitrary point on an IFR flight plan?

Asked by: 7761 views , ,
Instrument Rating

I have a fairly new IFR rating. 

I'm going to be flying out of Oliver Springs airport (TN08), a grass strip, tomorrow, to Missouri.  I want to fly IFR for the practice. I want to call for clearance on the ground, again for the practice, and so I don't have to tie up the center frequency getting a clearance in the air. 

The airport is in a valley that runs southwest to northeast.  My general route of flight is to the northwest.  There's a mesa that's about 4000 feet just to the northwest. 

There's a victor airway (V384) that passes about 5 miles to the northeast of the airfield.  What I'd like to do is take off, fly northeast while climbing, and join the airway at about the point where I would intercept it, then follow it it to the northwest.  However, how to I file that route?  The airway doesn't pass close enough that I can just say I'm taking the airway from the airport.  There aren't any waypoints convenient.  There is a waypoint about 12 miles to the northwest along the airway (WINNA).  But if I file direct to WINNA, the only way I could fly directly from my departure point would be to circle the airport as I climbed, which is really obnoxious if there's someone else in the pattern.  

Any thoughts?  Can I just file to an arbitrary latitude/longitude where I'm likely to just about intercept the airway? 


Craig Steffen

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8 Answers

  1. Nathan Parker on May 26, 2011

    You can file to a radial/distance, which is recommended by the AIM for lower altitudes, but they’d accept a lat/lon.  You won’t be able to actually join the airway, because the Flight Service computer won’t show that fix actually on the airway, but from that fix, you can go direct to the next fix along the route.

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  2. Pat Flannigan on May 26, 2011

    Nathan is right on. The problem is that clearance is much more likely to give you “cleared radar vectors direct Winna, then as filed,” when you pick up the clearance.
    Now that’s probably not what you want to hear, but the key word here is radar vectors They won’t expect you to blast off straight into a mountain, and on initial contact you can tell them exactly what you want to do.
    Everything’s a lot easier once you’re talking to departure or center. Here’s what you can say on initial contact:
    “Center, Cessna 1234 off TN08, 1,000 ft. climbing 5,000 – request heading 045 to join V384.
    And if they insist on flying you through terrain, just say unable – no problem!

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  3. Koehn on May 26, 2011

    The format for filing is [VOR] [Radial][Distance] e.g., GEP 010012 is GEP VOR, 010 radial, 12NM.

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  4. Craig Steffen on May 26, 2011

    This is all great information, thanks. 
    TN08 is a grass field in a former pasture (literally); it has no lights or instrument anything, and it’s in a valley.  I certainly would only take off if the weather was VFR and the ceilings were high enough that I can safely climb out of the valley. 
    I could file my IFR plan starting at WINNA, I suppose.  But that leaves the chance, however unlikely, that I’d be denied clearance to my destination, so I want to file on the ground.  Plus that ties up an ARTCC giving me a clearance on the radio.
    Basically, what I want is clearance to maintain visual separation from terrain until I can join V384 northwest-bound.  A “visual departure”, if you will, but I don’t know how to file that or how to ask for it.
    This will be further complicated by the fact that there’s no radio contact on the ground there, so it will  through FSS on cell phone, which can also add weirdness and uncertainty to clearances.
    Craig Steffen

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  5. Craig Steffen on May 26, 2011

    And specifying the point as a radial and distance is perfect.  I can just use the radial the victor airway is on. 

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  6. Wes Beard on May 27, 2011

    There is a clearance delivery phone number you can use to talk to a specialist at the FSS.  They will retrieve your clearance for you and give you an EFC time.  N12345 cleared to [KABC]…. clearance void if not off the ground in 10 minutes and clearance void if not in contact with Atlanta ATC in 15 minutes.
    I would file from WINNA V384 on route to your destination.  The AIM recommends that you folllow a (obstacle) departure procedure listed for that airport or if none exists to climb in visual conditions.  It is quite possible that a VFR only airport that you are flying out of has no published procedures.  The VFR climb requires that you stay in VMC conditions until reaching the MEA of the victor airway.  In this case, the clouds must be higher than 5500′ MSL.
    You will most likely be in radio contact with Atlanta ARTCC around 3000′ MSL and which time you will call them up and after they identify you on radar will give you direct WINNA or more likely a “fly heading 310 to intercept V384 and resume own navigation.”  It really is a non-event but good practice so you know how to do it.
    By the way, there are minimum vectoring altitudes (MVA) that are not researchable by pilots in the U.S.  These MVA’s will provide obstacle clearance lower than the standard 1000’/2000′.  They are used in a situation like this when a pilot is being vectored onto or off an airway.  The point being, if you are being vectored, ATC is assuming responsibility for your obstacle clearance.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be watching out for faulty vectors.
    On a side note, you can file IFR back to Oliver Springs (TN08) using the same rule.  You must be able to stay in VMC conditions from the MEA down to the airport.  Just make sure to call FSS or ARTCC when on the ground to close your IFR flight plan.  I have done both in my small airplane flying career

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  7. Craig Steffen on May 28, 2011

    I flew this flight Friday afternoon.  If you’re interested, see my track on flightaware.com.  The tail number is N3198R.
    I just flat-out told the briefer what I wanted, that I wanted to file to a point to the northeast so to pick up V384.  That seemed to confuse him, so I just said file starting at TN08, direct to WINNA, and I’ll sort it out in the air. 
    There is a clearance delivery phone number you can use to talk to a specialist at the FSS.  They will retrieve your clearance for you and give you an EFC time.
    I agree, there is such a number.  I asked for it from the briefer, and they gave it to me.  When I got to the run-up point, I called the number, got the “welcome to Lockheed Martin clearance delivery…” message…and then got put on hold for OVER TEN MINUTES listening to crappy hold music.  I said screw it, took off and called Knoxville approach, since I knew their frequency and I was just within their outer area.  They got me a squawk code and sent me on my way. 
    I guess my intention was to try to put the proper piece of information into the flight plan to basically say that I’m going to take off and maintain VFR clearance myself until I’m in radar and controller contact.  I guess the bottom line is that ATC’s going to assume that anyway, so it’s not a critical issue. 

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  8. Jim Foley on May 31, 2011

    Glad it all worked out!  One thing I learned quickly is that it really doesn’t matter what is on that flight plan, you almost always end up doing something different.  As for actually filing it, my preferred method is to say the radial and distance from a VOR.  I have also had good luck with something along the lines of “10 miles NE of airport to intercept V123.”  You can normally work something out while filing it, and clarify what you want with ATC.  BTW, where in our fine state of Missouri did yo go?

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