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Author Topic: cancel IFR  (Read 13551 times)
Scrapper
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« on: August 10, 2006, 02:11:19 PM »

I got a question for anyone who might have the answer to this (preferably someone who's acutally a controller or pilot...)

When you're flying a published IFR approach into an airfield (ie. ndb approach, ils approach, etc.) and you have the field in sight, traffic permitting, the terminal controller will clear the pilot in for a visual approach and then eventually switch control to the tower... my question I guess is this... the flight is still on an IFR flight plan at this point correct? until the pilot closes the flight plan once he arrives? or what... because for the first time today, I heard pilots cancelling IFR while still in the air, once they had the field in sight... specifically this was done in quebec... the TCU controller asked the pilots to cancel ifr once they had the field in sight... what is the advantage of this? and how is this different than clearing the aircraft for a visual clearance?
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Jason
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2006, 03:02:56 PM »

I got a question for anyone who might have the answer to this (preferably someone who's acutally a controller or pilot...)

When you're flying a published IFR approach into an airfield (ie. ndb approach, ils approach, etc.) and you have the field in sight, traffic permitting, the terminal controller will clear the pilot in for a visual approach and then eventually switch control to the tower... my question I guess is this... the flight is still on an IFR flight plan at this point correct? until the pilot closes the flight plan once he arrives? or what... because for the first time today, I heard pilots cancelling IFR while still in the air, once they had the field in sight... specifically this was done in quebec... the TCU controller asked the pilots to cancel ifr once they had the field in sight... what is the advantage of this? and how is this different than clearing the aircraft for a visual clearance?

Well first of all, you have a few questions wrapped up in your post, but I'll try to answer them as best I can from my experience in the United States.

For your first example, if you have the field in sight and you are cleared for a visual approach, you are still on an IFR flight plan until 1) You touch down at a tower-controlled field (tower automatically closes the FP upon landing), or 2) You cancel the IFR on the ground with either ATC or FSS.  So you're correct, the aircraft is still on an IFR flight plan at that point.

However, pilots CAN cancel IFR in the air (although ATC cannot cancel anyone's IFR) which relieves ATC of protecting the airspace around you.  At most uncontrolled fields (in the US), the 1-in, 1-out rule is in effect, which means only one [IFR] aircraft may be on an approach to the field, and one IFR departure from the field (at any one time).

The difference between being cleared for a visual approach on an IFR clearance and cancelling IFR is that if you're cleared for a visual and have not cancelled IFR, you're still on an IFR flightplan.  If you cancel IFR which relieves the controller's responsibility to protect the airspace, you are then operating under VFR and proceed inbound to the field visually.

Hope this helps,
Jason
« Last Edit: August 10, 2006, 03:07:13 PM by Jason » Logged
KSYR-pjr
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2006, 03:46:48 PM »

The difference between being cleared for a visual approach on an IFR clearance and cancelling IFR is that if you're cleared for a visual and have not cancelled IFR, you're still on an IFR flightplan.  If you cancel IFR which relieves the controller's responsibility to protect the airspace, you are then operating under VFR and proceed inbound to the field visually.

In the US, a pilot accepting a visual approach also relieves the controller of protecting the airspace, as the pilot becomes responsible for terrain and traffic separation.  This is same as if the aircraft were VFR.  I also suspect (based on what I have seen with my IFR flightplans on FlightAware.com) that the approach controller will cancel the IFR flight plan upon acceptance of a visual approach, however I cannot confirm this.  Perhaps a controller here will.

Otherwise, as Jason pointed out, at a towered airport the tower will close the IFR flightplan for the inbound IFR aircraft, even if the aircraft calls the airport in sight and is granted a visual approach.  There is no need (at least in the US) for IFR pilots, once landed, to have to call to cancel an IFR flightplan at towered airports.  Also, if a pilot is given the visual approach, there is no need to cancel IFR with the approach controller at a towered airport.

In the case of the what you heard on the frequency, are you sure the aircraft in question was landing at a towered airport?  The controller/pilot exchange reads to me as if the aircraft were landing at an uncontrolled, or non-towered airport.   

Normally, when an aircraft is flying into an non-towered/uncontrolled airport, ATC will encourage the pilot to cancel IFR either in the air (if the pilot can visually acquire the airport ahead of time) or as soon as possible after landing (if the full approach is required due to weather) via a call on a frequency or by phone.  This is because the IFR aircraft owns all of the class E airspace within a certain radius around the uncontrolled destination airport until canceling IFR.  This implies that no other IFR aircraft can land or will be released for IFR departure until the IFR flight plan cancellation of the approaching aircraft is received by ATC.

Edit:  One other point:  At least in the US, I don't believe there practically is the option to request a "visual approach" for an IFR aircraft landing at an uncontrolled airport.    Perhaps there is technically, but in reality, the pilot would simply cancel IFR with the approach controller if he desired a visual approach into an uncontrolled airport, then proceed visually just as a VFR aircraft would.




« Last Edit: August 10, 2006, 03:52:37 PM by KSYR-pjr » Logged

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dave
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2006, 08:25:50 PM »

In the US, a pilot accepting a visual approach also relieves the controller of protecting the airspace, as the pilot becomes responsible for terrain and traffic separation.  This is same as if the aircraft were VFR.  I also suspect (based on what I have seen with my IFR flightplans on FlightAware.com) that the approach controller will cancel the IFR flight plan upon acceptance of a visual approach, however I cannot confirm this.  Perhaps a controller here will.

I believe what happens in this situation is that technically the IFR flight plan is still open until the pilot lands (towered airport case).  The responsibility for separation in this case gets transfered to the tower controller.  The pilot, of course, also owns part of the separation responsibility.  Tower provides the landing sequence and pointouts that aid the pilot in maintaining separation from other aircraft.

I could be slightly off here, and you may be correct about the IFR flight plan being cancelled upon the pilot's acceptance of the visual approach.

...

Edit:  One other point:  At least in the US, I don't believe there practically is the option to request a "visual approach" for an IFR aircraft landing at an uncontrolled airport.    Perhaps there is technically, but in reality, the pilot would simply cancel IFR with the approach controller if he desired a visual approach into an uncontrolled airport, then proceed visually just as a VFR aircraft would.

Happens all the time.  I live near KFIT, an uncontrolled field.  Boston TRACON (and Boston Center, which owns most of the approach paths from the northwest) often clear aircraft for visual approaches.  "N12345, cleared visual approach to the Fitchburg Airport...then, after the pilot acknowledges..."radar service terminated, report IFR cancellation in the air or as soon as practical on the ground at Fitchburg."  Of course, in most cases, the pilot does cancel right then and there, but it's optional.

-Dave





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davolijj
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2006, 12:42:09 AM »

I'll try to breifly clarify some things but this is a very complex issue and there are several factors involved.

I believe what happens in this situation is that technically the IFR flight plan is still open until the pilot lands (towered airport case).  The responsibility for separation in this case gets transfered to the tower controller.  The pilot, of course, also owns part of the separation responsibility.  Tower provides the landing sequence and pointouts that aid the pilot in maintaining separation from other aircraft.

Control towers may apply visual separation between two aircraft if they have both aircraft in sight.  However, other approved separation standards must exist before and after the application of visual separation and the procedure must have been coordinated with the approach control facility.


  • 7110.65 7-2-1:
    c.
    Nonapproach control towers may be authorized to provide visual separation between aircraft within surface areas or designated areas provided other separation is assured before and after the application of visual separation. This may be applied by the nonapproach control tower providing the separation or by a pilot visually observing another aircraft and being instructed to maintain visual separation with that aircraft.

I could be slightly off here, and you may be correct about the IFR flight plan being cancelled upon the pilot's acceptance of the visual approach.

That's not correct.  Although radar service is usually terminated, IFR separation will continue to be provided in one form or another until the aircraft has landed or cancels IFR.  During a visual approach MSAW safety alerts will not be provided as terrain and obstruction clearance becomes the pilot's responsibility.  Like Peter said before though, more often than not a pilot will cancel IFR as soon as he's been cleared for a visual approach to an uncontrolled airport.  The only service that can be terminated during this procedure without verbal notification is radar service.

  • 7110.65 5-1-13:
    b.
    Radar service is automatically terminated and the aircraft needs not be advised of termination when:

    2. An aircraft conducting an instrument, visual, or contact approach has landed or has been instructed to change to advisory frequency.

As a tower controller I often found myself burdened with the 1 in/1 out non-radar separation standard.  We would frequently find ourselves with a Learjet awaiting IFR departure while a little Cessna was flying the 8.5 mile long VOR practice approach....at 90 knots; that's about 5:40 from the FAF to the runway and equates to a good amount of the Lear's jet-A down the drain.  I'd usually tell the Cessna to give me his best time inbound for jet traffic awaiting departure and if the weather was nice and the pilot was sharp he'd usually cancel.  He'd gain no advantage staying IFR since we'd have to blend him into the VFR pattern anyway.

Yikes....so much for brevity  shocked
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JD
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2006, 08:53:00 AM »

Although radar service is usually terminated, IFR separation will continue to be provided in one form or another until the aircraft has landed or cancels IFR.

Thanks, JD, for the official explanation.   This explains why I often see the IFR track end in FlightAware.com well before the airport on days where I accept a visual approach.  I mistakenly assumed the end of the track was the end of the IFR flight plan, but in reality it is merely the end of radar services (at the point where I was switched over to the tower frequency).





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KSYR-pjr
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2006, 08:58:34 AM »

Happens all the time.  I live near KFIT, an uncontrolled field.  Boston TRACON (and Boston Center, which owns most of the approach paths from the northwest) often clear aircraft for visual approaches.  "N12345, cleared visual approach to the Fitchburg Airport...then, after the pilot acknowledges..."radar service terminated, report IFR cancellation in the air or as soon as practical on the ground at Fitchburg."  Of course, in most cases, the pilot does cancel right then and there, but it's optional.

Interesting.  To me this reads as if the controllers are being very proactive and, more or less, prompting the pilot to cancel immediately.  I wonder if there ever was a situation where the pilot simply accepted the visual approach and did not cancel until landing?   

JD, given your point that an aircraft flying a visual approach to an airport remains on an IFR flight plan, would a pilot flying a visual approach to an uncontrolled airport hold up other arriving or departing aircraft, or can ATC release another awaiting aircraft to make the approach/departure?
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Regards, Peter
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davolijj
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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2006, 11:20:53 AM »

JD, given your point that an aircraft flying a visual approach to an airport remains on an IFR flight plan, would a pilot flying a visual approach to an uncontrolled airport hold up other arriving or departing aircraft, or can ATC release another awaiting aircraft to make the approach/departure?

Well here at the center level I find that if the weather is VFR most pilots at unconrtolled fields will depart VFR and pick up their IFR clearance in the air since we have very few airport RCO remote frequencies, so it's not something we run into all that often.  However at uncontrolled fields that have remotes on the field, aircraft calling to pick up their clearance would be held for release until any IFR traffic inbound cancels or reports his downtime.  I noticed this when I flew into Leesburg (JYO) which is under the Washington DC ADIZ.  The approach controller gave us the same instruction, "report your downtime or cancellation via the remote frequency as soon a practical."

What happens is that as soon as the aircraft is cleared for approach the controller blocks the airspace around the airport until he receives the downtime or cancellation....so in that regard, yes, it can hold up arriving and departing aircraft.  Arrivals can be vectored to an approach course but they cannot receive an approach clearance until the airspace becomes available again.

I've heard stories, and maybe a more experienced controller can supplement, of aircraft who have kept their IFR open during an approach to an airport, visual or SIAP...whatever, and the pilot forgot to cancel.  The airspace then becomes unusable and no one is allowed in or out (IFR) until the downtime is received.  After a certain time period overdue aircraft procedures would be utilized to locate the aircraft. 
« Last Edit: August 12, 2006, 01:15:44 PM by davolijj » Logged

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JD
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2006, 03:52:22 PM »

all this makes a lot of sense, especially the uncontrolled airport stuff... but the feed I was listening to was montreal centre which is part of the sherbrooke airport site (more often than not you can listen to aircraft at 290 and below going in and out of montreal and quebec city in this sector of montreal centre... so you can literally follow a flight from montreal to quebec city... a controlled airport... once the aircraft switches to quebec terminal, the controller would clear him for an approach (after the usual seperation services required when more than one aircraft is present in the terminal control area) and then was suggesting that aircraft cancel their IFR flight plans once they were within visual range of the field and were happy to conduct visual approaches... i'm fairly certain that in canada when a pilot requests or receives a visual approach into an airport, he remains on his IFR flight plan until he lands, so this extra prompting to cancel IFR early cannot be to free up the airspace because it is a controlled airport... my guess at this point after reading all the good posts over the last couple of days, is maybe to relieve the controller from having to protect the aircraft from ground and other aircraft before he arrives in the tower's control zone... not sure why though because it's not exactly like it's that busy of a terminal control zone... can anyone nav canada controllers confirm why there is this slight difference between the normal visual approaches into montreal and toronto (much busier terminal control areas) and cancelling IFR into quebec city?
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2006, 03:56:32 PM »


I've heard stories, and maybe a more experienced controller can supplement, of aircraft who have kept their IFR open during an approach to an airport, visual or SIAP...whatever, and the pilot forgot to cancel.  The airspace then becomes unusable and no one is allowed in or out (IFR) until the downtime is received.  After a certain time period overdue aircraft procedures would be utilized to locate the aircraft. 

Here's the reference on overdue aircraft.

10-3-1. OVERDUE AIRCRAFT

a. Consider an aircraft to be overdue, initiate the procedures stated in this section and issue an ALNOT when neither communications nor radar contact can be established and 30 minutes have passed since:

NOTE-
The procedures in this section also apply to an aircraft referred to as "missing" or "unreported."

1. Its ETA over a specified or compulsory reporting point or at a clearance limit in your area.

2. Its clearance void time.

b. If you have reason to believe that an aircraft is overdue prior to 30 minutes, take the appropriate action immediately.

c. The center in whose area the aircraft is first unreported or overdue will make these determinations and takes any subsequent action required.


This happens from time to time when a pilot forgets to cancel IFR.  We start with a call to the airport operator who will check to see if the aircraft is on the ground.  The local police will get involved if the aircraft is not found or the airport operator is unavailable.  It may just be in a locked hangar.  An interesting note is that one of the first places they will check is the nearest tavern.  We've found more than one pilot there  grin

Just to verify what JD said, a visual approach clearance does not cancel an IFR flight plan.  My way of prompting a cancellation during a visual approach is to give the approach clearance and then observed traffic information.  Many times there is little or no traffic observed.  The sharper pilots will cancel if they hear no traffic observed.  Apparently, some just love to hear the report cancellation transmission.  You know how it goes, "Report cancellation of IFR on this frequency, if no acknowledgement, cancel IFR with XXX flight service as soon as practical on the ground."  It's a very time consuming transmission when you are busy and makes you shake your head when they say immediately after it, "We'll cancel now."  Well, I guess they didn't have to go chase him down at the local tavern.

w0x0f   
 
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Scrapper
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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2006, 06:54:57 PM »

Quote
Just to verify what JD said, a visual approach clearance does not cancel an IFR flight plan.  My way of prompting a cancellation during a visual approach is to give the approach clearance and then observed traffic information.  Many times there is little or no traffic observed.  The sharper pilots will cancel if they hear no traffic observed.  Apparently, some just love to hear the report cancellation transmission.  You know how it goes, "Report cancellation of IFR on this frequency, if no acknowledgement, cancel IFR with XXX flight service as soon as practical on the ground."  It's a very time consuming transmission when you are busy and makes you shake your head when they say immediately after it, "We'll cancel now."  Well, I guess they didn't have to go chase him down at the local tavern.

w0x0f   

Yeah, I agree with you on most of the above... sharp pilots might cancel into uncontrolled airports, but I'm still trying to figure out why you would do it for a controlled airport... besides, like you said, a clearance for a visual approach doesn't cancel a flight plan... what happens if for example the pilot needs to execute a missed approach... the tower would switch him back to terminal who would then sequence him behind other planes for another approach... and this would have to be IFR because he/she might have to climb back into the weather! do you think it might be to clear up the terminal controller so he can concentrate on something else? (although I can't imagine what else he would need to concentrate on in this not that busy airspace... although who am I to say how busy an airspace i've never controlled or flown through is?)
I'm totally stumped... where do you control? i'm listening to indianapolis right now, and I'm hearing guys cancelling IFR in flight... so it obviously happens more often in the USA then it does in Canada... and indy is definately a controlled airport... hehe... this one is going to stump me for a while... hehe...
Oh by the way... that was a nice bit with the finding the pilot in the tavern... sounds like something that would happen in the forces as well! hehe...  cheesy
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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2006, 09:16:26 PM »

I would think the tavern scenario would happen in Canada more often than in the USA, you know those Canadians. wink
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« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2006, 11:54:43 AM »


[/quote]

Yeah, I agree with you on most of the above... sharp pilots might cancel into uncontrolled airports, but I'm still trying to figure out why you would do it for a controlled airport...
[/quote]

Scrapper,

IFR flight plans cancel automatically into controlled airports.  There is no physical action that occurs.  The tower does not call FSS.  The aircraft has been observed landing at the airport by the tower and IFR separation was afforded them.  If an aircraft does a missed approach he hasn't landed, so his IFR flight plan is technically still open.  I think you're putting way too much thought into this.  Also, you may be hearing pilots cancelling IFR with Indy, but they aren't landing at a controlled airport.  Indy approach works several uncontrolled satellite airports.

w0x0f
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sierra yankee
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« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2006, 12:25:14 AM »

Forgetting to cancel does happen more often in Canada than in the USA, because in the USA the pilot who forgets is on the hook for the cost of any search-and-rescue efforts that might be mounted.  Whenever we have American pilots flying into any of our airports (our specialty covers both American and Canadian airspace and there's quite a lot of border-crossing) we never have to worry about them cancelling, and they'll often do so in the air if at all practical, especially if they know we're trying to free up the airspace to get a departure off the ground.  In Canada, the cops/military don't go after the pilots who forget.  As well, unfortunately, at most of the airports I work, we don't have a peripheral frequency or an FSS on the field to try to talk to the aircraft when they're on the ground.  The majority of our cancellations get relayed through a 1-888 number that the pilot has to call after landing, and as you can imagine it's not that uncommon for somebody to forget to grab the cellphone or duck into the FBO after landing and going through all the shutdown stuff.

Under Canadian rules, we have to shut down the airport completely for half an hour after the aircraft's ETA.  By that time we'll have the cops on their way to go look for the aircraft.  After half an hour, we can start clearing approaches in again, as long as we tell the pilots about what's going on and advise them to be on the lookout for the concerned aircraft, since there's a possibility (albeit infinitesimal) that he still might be flogging around somewhere in the vicinity of the field.

Previous posters are correct that this happens mainly at uncontrolled fields where the "one-in-one-out" rule applies (in fact, many of the airports in our specialty are so close together that clearing an approach into one of them effectively shuts down any other approaches OR departures at four or five separate fields).  However, it's not entirely correct to say that a cancellation from an inbound into a controlled field wouldn't create any operational advantage for us.  For instance, the rule at the one towered field in my airspace is that once an IFR inbound has passed a certain fix which is about 8 miles from touchdown, we can't get a departure off.  Ensuring this separation is actually the responsibility of the radar controller (me), NOT the tower controller as this tower isn't certified to provide IFR separation outside the control zone.  What happens is that the tower will call me on the hotline and say "ABC123 is ready to go at runway 30" and if I have an inbound who's more than 8 miles out I'll say "ABC123 valid off runway 30, [departure instructions], cancelled when XYZ234 reports FIXXX."  Then I'll clear XYZ234 for the approach and switch him to tower with the instruction to report FIXXX on tower frequency.  If that happens before the departure goes, then the clearance I gave is no longer valid and tower has to hold ABC123 until after XYZ lands.  In that case, tower will call me back on the hotline and I'll change the clearance to "ABC123 valid off runway 30, [departure instructions] *when* XYZ234 is on, over, or cancelled."  On = landed, over = tower assumes control (he can provide separation within his 5-mile control zone, but he can't do the actual approach sequencing), cancelled = cancelled IFR.

So if XYZ234 just happened to cancel IFR when he was 6 miles out, we no longer have to provide IFR separation for him, so as long as we can get ABC123 off before he touches down, we're good to go.  It doesn't happen very often, but it can happen -- especially when the departure that's waiting and the arrival that's causing the delay happen to be from the same airline (and we're always quick to let them know they're holding for company traffic inbound -- sometimes, at an uncontrolled field where the wait for an aircraft to shoot a full-procedure approach can be quite long, the two aircraft concerned will go over to company frequency and work something out, then come back to you and let you know what they want to do).  And that's why a pilot might choose to cancel IFR in the air even when landing at a controlled airport -- long-winded explanation, but hopefully it helps.
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Scrapper
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« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2006, 06:51:17 PM »

zla_ms, thanks for that explanation... might explain what was happening in Quebec... also, I found out later that their tower radar was down, so that might also explain why the TCU would try to get them to cancel in flight prior to landing, so as to avoid having to provide IFR seperation with departing aircraft? makes total sense...

w0x0f, obviously based on the last explanation, I'm not reading too much into this... in the air control world there is very specific phraseology for everything, and if cleared visual approach and cancel IFR, were one and the same (or one implied the other) then there wouldn't be two different phraseologies for them and people wouldn't be doing it one way at a controlled airport, and another way at another... Montreal and Quebec City are both controlled airports, both with their own terminal controls, and both within the same Montreal control centre, so they use the same procedures and phraseology (albeit in french or english... pilot's choice...) I agree with you about the cancelling bit, but if they cancel automatically on the ground, then there must be a reason why they're cancelling early in the air.... and if they cancel early in the air, then if they execute a missed approach, they've already cancelled, so your post doesn't really make any sense...
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