Standard procedure for T-38 training is to cancel IFR in the MOA and fly back to the base VFR.

A couple days ago I canceled in the MOA out of habit and instantly realized that I was above a broken layer between my and the base.

Luckily the other side of the MOA was clear, and I used the extra distance for a more shallow descent than I'd have otherwise done.

But it got me thinking, could I have asked ATC to get me back on my previous clearance? Being a military training flight, and military controllers I'm sure they would have been super chill and helped me out regardless. But in the civilian world what would be the best way to handle this situation (other than "don't cancel IFR")?

  • $\begingroup$ You can call FSS or center and pick up a clearance in the air. Here is an article about it. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 4:16
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ This is as a comment since I retired in 1999, but my suggestion is do do the simplest thing and say something like, "Center, N1234, I cancelled IFR prematurely. Request clearance to....., sorry about that." Pop up clearances are commonly given. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Terry - I retired in 2012, but I still teach ATC at my old facility (I could be a loser!), but your comment also still works as an answer. Also, it's a piece of cake these days to get a new flight plan into the machine. In EDST, the canceled flight plan will stay in your list for a bit, and you can recall it and re-enter it in a couple of trackball entries. $\endgroup$
    – atc_ceedee
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:13

2 Answers 2


Since you used the term MOA, I assume you're in the US.

Within the FAA ATC software (not sure about DOD's), the only data difference between IFR and VFR Flight Following is the flight plan altitude. For instance, IFR might have a filed altitude of "060" (6000ft) while VFR FF might have a "filed" altitude of "VFR/065" (6500ft). When you cancel IFR, the controller amends your altitude and leaves the rest of the data unchanged. They don't actually delete your flight plan unless you cancel radar service. Therefore, to resume IFR, all they have to do is amend your altitude again.

Obviously, IFR and VFR are very different procedurally. When you canceled IFR, your existing clearance was invalidated, so you'll need to get a new one. However, since they should still have all your previous data available, it'll probably be similar. But it's less work for them than a normal pop-up IFR.


Based on OACI standards (which FAA follows) you couldn't re open an IFR already closed; but while you are on air you can fill and ask for a new flight plan, asking to using same data of previous flight plan.


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