This “Pilot’s Tip of the Week” was originally published on 3/23/2016. To get free tips like this each week, subscribe at the bottom of the page.

Pilot's tip of the week

Requesting VFR On Top Clearance


Subscriber question:

"What is the proper technique and phraseology to obtain an IFR climb to VFR-on-top clearance? Also, when filing the flight plan, should anything different be included?"- Anonymous


“A VFR-on-top clearance allows a pilot to climb through a cloud layer or some other condition of less than basic Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC). Upon reaching VMC, you can either cancel the IFR flight plan or operate VFR-on-top.

VFR on TopYou can request it on the ground, usually from clearance or ground control at a towered airport. Simply ask for an IFR climb to VFR-on-top. The controller will need to know your type aircraft and direction of flight.

The clearance will usually have a clearance limit of a nearby VOR or other navaid. The clearance will also contain either a tops report or a statement that no tops report is available. Additionally, the ATC clearance may contain alternate instructions if VFR-on-top is not reached by a specified altitude.

If you file an IFR flight plan for a climb to VFR-on-top, specify the route desired and for the altitude specify OTP/altitude requested.”

For more information, see AIM Section 4-4-8.

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