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).

  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Don't confuse brand specific software limitations with ATC requirements. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 18:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ForeFlight is not connected directly into the ATC system, but submits it through some public interface, so it cannot modify it after it hands it over. But ATC can, it's their system. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 6:41

3 Answers 3


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 than 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.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Good answer, recommend changing "would then need" to "may need" regarding the issuance of a VFR "clearance". $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 18:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 18:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 21:28

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.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ "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. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Agree. We amend flight plans every day in the Center, often when the pilot doesn't one one! $\endgroup$
    – atc_ceedee
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @atc_ceedee Toy can seriously amend the non-ATC details like color, survival equipment, etc. without calling FSS? $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. All that's necessary from the ARTCC's point of view is a transmission by the pilot, stating the change. As of that moment, it becomes an official record (it's on the tape). For instance, if you jumped in an aircraft at the FBO, but used a flight plan normally reserved for a different aircraft, you could change even your aircraft call sign and type once you're airborne. It's happened, and there are no repercussions. $\endgroup$
    – atc_ceedee
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ I've taken full flight plans in this manner, many times. After getting the aircraft type, qualifier, requested route and altitude from a popup, for instance, I can have the pilot give the rest of the flight plan on the frequency, and it becomes a matter of record. $\endgroup$
    – atc_ceedee
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 23:59

Answering in the context of the , as (to my knowledge) ForeFlight is used primarily in the United States:

According to the FAA's ICAO Flight Planning Interface Reference Guide (Version 2.1), Section 2.2.1:

An FPL can be changed by the filing entity until the flight data has been displayed to ATC. This is typically 30 minutes before proposed departure time, but may be an hour or longer in some cases. If a revision is made to a previously filed FPL after the departure flight data has been displayed to ATC, the message will be rejected. If this occurs, call the Flight Data Unit at the departure ARTCC to coordinate the change.

As the paragraph says, at some point (usually 30 minutes prior to the proposed departure time) the flight plan is forwarded to the appropriate ATC unit in the form of a flight progress strip. This is a physical piece of paper which shows only the portion of the flight plan that is directly relevant to ATC: The identifier for the flight, A/C type and equipment information, computer-assigned beacon code, proposed departure time, requested final altitude, departure fix, and route to be flown. Once this flight progress strip has been shown to ATC you are no longer allowed to amend the flight plan yourself because of the risk that ATC might not receive the amendment and then clear you "as filed," leading to a misunderstanding.

However, ATC is able to directly edit all of the above parameters of the flight progress strip if you contact them directly and request it, either before you depart or while you are airborne. So if you (or the VIP in the back) need to change to a different altitude, or change the route you will fly, or divert to another airport entirely, ATC can issue an amended clearance and can update your flight information so the flight data processing computer knows what's going on. You just aren't allowed to send in those amendments yourself.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .