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I'm asking, because ForeFlight states in their demo training video that an IFR filed flight plans can only be amended or cancelled up to 47 minutes prior to it being filed (and up to 2 hours after, for VFR flight plans that have been filed. Not sure why that's time restricted at 2 hours?).

website: https://foreflight.com/support/video-library/watch/?v=how-to-filing-icao&list=filing-briefing

But in the movies you see jets owners telling the pilots to alternate their course to an alternative location (even International flights).

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    $\begingroup$ Don't confuse brand specific software limitations with ATC requirements. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Dec 22 '19 at 18:11
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Yes, an IFR flightplan can be cancelled at any time. The pilot simply tells ATC "cancelling my IFR flight", then it is cancelled. Depending on airspace classification, ATC may need to issue a clearance to continue as a VFR flight.

However, diverting to another destination that originally planned is not the same as cancelling a flightplan. To do so, the pilot will just inform ATC that they are diverting, and then ATC will provide an appropriate route to fly to get to the new destination. The reporting office at the new destination will, when the flight has landed, send a standard message to the original destination, stating that the flight has landed elsewhere.

Most deviations from your filed flightplan does not actually require an update of the flightplan itself. After all, the flightplan is only the plan you intend to follow at time of departure (or really, at time of filing the plan). Very few flights end up actually following their flightplan to the letter. ATC always keeps a local copy of your flight data, which is updated with any clearances given and other requests that might deviate from your original plan. If the deviation, whatever it may be, affects a downstream ATC sector, it can easily be coordinated verbally. However, if, in some rare case, you need to actually amend your flightplan while in the air, just inform ATC. The controller can either make the required changes (and send related AFTN message) directly, or get in touch with a flight data assistant that can take care of it.

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    $\begingroup$ Good answer, recommend changing "would then need" to "may need" regarding the issuance of a VFR "clearance". $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Dec 22 '19 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Very good answer! I have to add that you can as well ammend your FPL airborne by asking ATC. In some cases it may be possible that eg the aircraft type was filed wrong by accident. After telling ATC, we will call the appropriate AIS units to change the flightplan and distribute the correct version to the respective ATC units $\endgroup$ – pcfreakxx Dec 22 '19 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ Fun (?) fact, but not an answer to the question and therefore added as a comment: given you and your hardware is rated, you can file an IFR fpl enrout, should conditions require. $\endgroup$ – Jpe61 Dec 22 '19 at 21:28
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If you look at all the information in a flight plan, the route of flight is a relatively small part of it. Most of the data is about the aircraft (e.g. navigation and safety equipment), crew and passengers, which is used to determine if the flight is legal or by search and rescue folks if the aircraft goes missing. Given the volume of such data and how rarely it changes in flight, once that info is sent to ATC, the only practical way to amend it is to cancel the flight plan and file a new one.

The route of flight, however, is keenly important to ATC and is routinely changed by them for various reasons, both before and after departure. As such, if the pilot wants to change the route (or destination, which would necessarily change the route), that request needs to be made directly with ATC rather than by amending the filed plan.

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    $\begingroup$ "the only practical way to amend it is to cancel the flight plan and file a new one." Or just ask ATC to update it for you. $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Dec 22 '19 at 20:53

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