A pilot requests a zone transit. The controller asks if they can accept IFR clearance, they cannot, due to lack of a rating or equipment. But the weather doesn't require IFR, i.e. visibility is 10km+ and few clouds.

Why would a controller do this and can the pilot assert that they do not need IFR? (I heard of this situation happening recently)


2 Answers 2


Can a pilot tell a controller they don't need IFR clearance?

This is backward, you don't tell a controller what you don't need. You request what you do want and they'll usually do their best to accommodate, limited sometimes by controller workload.

The flight rules are passed on the controller's request to "pass your message" in the UK.

"[Station] Radar, G-ABCD request basic service and zone transit"  
"G-ABCD, [Station] Radar squawk 4567 pass your message"  
"Squawk 4567, G-ABCD is a [type], [Origin] to [Destination] **VFR**, 2,500ft QNH 1013, request zone transit north to south via your overhead"  
"G-ABCD QNH 1014, basic service outside"  
"QNH 1014, Basic service, G-ABCD"  
"G-ABCD can you accept an IFR transit"  

.. See below

Why would a controller do this

When someone flies VFR through controlled airspace they're a little bit of an "unknown" for the controller. They, by definition, will need to remain clear of cloud and will be responsible for maintaining separation from other VFR Traffic. There is, to a lesser extent, the appreciation that those pilots may well be slightly less accurate with their flying. All that together, leads controllers to allow a lot of leaway to those pilots. In some respect, it's a much higher workload for those ATCOs, as they need to expect the unexpected. (sidenote, in UK Class C airspace, the controller is responsible for separating VFR from IFR traffic - but for the same reasons as mentioned above they need to be extra careful with VFR traffic)

On the other hand, IFR traffic is expected to fly accurately and follow all instructions as professionally as possible within safety limits (pilots always have the final say!). IFR pilots wont suddenly change altitude nor direction due to a cloud and all IFR traffic will be under radar control.

All this together, what I suspect is that the controller you heard was under a high workload, and asked whether the pilot could accept IFR transit as this would not increase their workload significantly.

As with any such question, we can only speculate as to the controllers motivation for asking the question.

can the pilot assert that they do not need IFR

I don't think this is a "do you need" sort of request. The correct answer if the pilot is unqualified for IFR and the request "G-ABCD, can [you] accept IFR [transit]" would be "negative. G-ABCD"


VFR weather doesn't automatically entitle a pilot to fly VFR, and temporary IFR restrictions are a thing, usually the subject of a NOTAM.

Large parts of normally VFR airspace around Paris are likely to be IFR only in August for security surrounding the Olympics, for example.*

A pilot can request VFR under those circumstances, but if the controller only offers IFR then no amount of assertion is likely to have much effect, except, possibly, resulting in a chat with the regulatory authorities.

*Years ago I flew to a small airfield south-west of Paris, VFR, and no problem. A few months later I wanted to repeat the flight but found that the whole of Parisian airspace was closed to non-IFR traffic. The reason: Paris was chock full of international dignitaries in the city for the bicentennial celebrations. Fortunately I'd picked up the NOTAM and went to a different field.

  • $\begingroup$ Should the first line have read "VMC doesn't automatically entitle a pilot to fly VFR"? I didn't want to change your answer in case I misunderstood the meaning of your intent. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented May 1 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamiec I suppose so, but I think my meaning is clear enough. If you think it's important go ahead and edit it. $\endgroup$ Commented May 1 at 20:27

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