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VFR on Top

Introduction:

  • Must be requested by the pilot on an IFR flight plan, and if approved, in VFR, allows the pilot the choice to select an altitude or flight level in lieu of an assigned altitude
    • This permits a pilot to select an altitude or flight level of their choice
  • Pilots desiring to climb through a cloud, haze, smoke, or other layer may cancel their IFR flight plan to operate VFR-on-top
  • A pilot operating in VFR conditions may request to climb/descend in VFR conditions
  • Not intended to restrict pilots to operate above a layer, instead permits operation between or where no weather exists
  • Clearance to operate "VFR-on-top/VFR conditions" does not imply cancellation of the IFR flight plan
  • VFR-on-top is not permitted in certain airspace areas, such as Class A, certain restricted areas, etc.
  • Pilot assumes responsibility to be vigilant so as to see and avoid other aircraft
  • Fly at the appropriate VFR altitude as prescribed by 91.159
  • Comply with the VFR visibility and distance from cloud criteria in 91.155
  • Comply with instrument flight rules applicable (minimum altitudes, position reporting, communications, and adherence to ATC clearances)
  • Should advise ATC prior to any altitude change to ensure the exchange of accurate traffic information

Equipment:

  • No person may operate an airplane over-the-top or at night under VFR unless that airplane is equipped with the instruments and equipment required for IFR operations under 91.205(d) and one electric landing light for night operations
  • Each required instrument and item of equipment must be in operable equipment

Restrictions:

  • VFR-on-top is not permitted in certain airspace areas, such as Class A airspace, certain restricted areas, etc. Consequently, IFR flights operating VFR-on-top will avoid such airspace

Reporting:

Pilot:

  • This clearance must be requested by the pilot on an IFR flight plan, and if approved, allows the pilot the choice (subject to any ATC restrictions) to select an altitude or flight level in lieu of an assigned altitude
    • NOTE: VFR−on−top is not permitted in certain airspace areas, such as Class A airspace, certain restricted areas, etc. Consequently, IFR flights operating VFR−on−top will avoid such airspace
    • REFERENCE: AIM, Paragraph 4−4−8 , IFR Clearance VFR−on−top AIM, Paragraph 4−4−11 , IFR Separation Standards AIM, Paragraph 5−3−2 , Position Reporting AIM, Paragraph 5−3−3 , Additional Reports
  • By requesting a VFR-on-top clearance, the pilot assumes the sole responsibility to be vigilant so as to see and avoid other aircraft and to:
    • Fly at the appropriate VFR altitude as prescribed in 14 CFR Section 91.159
    • Comply with the VFR visibility and distance from clouds criteria in 14 CFR Section 91.155, Basic VFR Weather Minimums
    • Comply with instrument flight rules that are applicable to this flight; i.e., minimum IFR altitudes, position reporting, radio communications, course to be flown, adherence to ATC clearance, etc.
  • Should advise ATC prior to any altitude change to ensure the exchange of accurate traffic information

Controller:

  • May clear an aircraft to maintain VFR-on-top if the pilot of an aircraft on an IFR flight plan requests the clearance
  • Informs the pilot of an aircraft cleared to climb to VFR-on-top the reported height of the tops or that no top report is available; and once the aircraft reports reaching VFR-on-top, re-clears the aircraft to maintain VFR-on-top
  • Before issuing clearance, ascertain that the aircraft is not in or will not enter Class A airspace

References: