Land using ILS during a VFR flight

I mostly fly VFR. Sometimes during my flight I would like to practice different landing procedures. Let’s use ILS landing as an example. Is it possible to change your flight plan mid-flight from VFR to IFR? Can you request an ILS landing during a VFR flight?

I have gone through all of the ATC options and couldn’t find a solution. I have also wiped out my VFR flight plan and created an IFR flight plan with ILS landing during my flight but I can’t find a way to request ATC to use my new flight plan.

Any suggestions are welcome.


In real life, there is a clear distinction between VFR and IFR flying. There can sometimes be a blend - VFR on top, pop up IFR, SVFR etc, but even then, you are clearly within one regime or the other at any given point. It is possible to file IFR in the air. Pop up IFR is sometimes frowned upon especially if it’s clear that you’re just jumping the departure queue waiting for your release.

However, if the weather moves adversely and you’re approaching IMC, an IFR rated pilot would absolutely request airborne IFR assuming the plane was properly-equipped.

Instrument approaches, e.g., ILS, RNAV, etc., are IFR procedures and are not offered to VFR flights. An IFR rated pilot (or a CFII with IFR student) flying VFR in real life can request an extended straight-in pattern entry from the controller, controller’s workload permitting. This “wink and nod” method between pilots and controllers allows controllers to vector VFR traffic into an IFR arrival corridor, providing opportunities for practice approaches. Officially however, the pilot is required to fly VFR with reference to outside, see and avoid, clear of clouds etc.

In MSFS, depending on the plane you’re flying, you need to punch in a full flight plan into the FMS (not simply direct to and select an approach). Then MSFS may recognize that you have something that looks like an IFR flight plan in the “box” and give you the option to request an IFR clearance from the controller.


Well, you could just do it. You don’t have to get ATC clearance for ILS landing or anything else (except VATSIM/IVAO obviously !). Just fly into the cone and tune your avionics.


ILS is not a procedure, it‘s a system and you are free to use the system. The difference is the rules you fly after. If you‘re in VFR you‘re responsible to look outside and your references are strictly visual. But of course you can use a GPS or VOR as a help, nothing speaks against that. There is also SVFR or CVFR which will provide you with a certain guidance if needed, but of course you need to be certified just like IFR.

You can request IFR during a VFR flight and you can cancel it again, you‘ll have to comply to the rules though. You can not officially mix it. Of course everyone flying IFR looks out of the plane too and people flying VFR use nav systems. I often tune in the ILS of our refueling airport just for fun and practice but I‘m not IFR certified. Nobody cares and there‘s nothing against it.

You can‘t rely on an IFR procedure though when you‘re in VFR. And a visual approach during an IFR flight doesn‘t cancel the IFR rules.


When flying under VFR rules, you can use an ILS to help guide you to land.

Typically, at an airport with an ILS, you cannot just jump onto it yourself when flying under VFR rules, but instead you can request Approach / Tower, that as VFR, for premission to fly a Practice ILS approach under VFR flight rules.

Be prepared for them to say no, and tell you to enter a standard VFR traffic pattern, but in many cases, if traffic permits, (and you ask nicely and appear to sound like you know what you are doing), they will often say Yes !!

Yep I was on uncontrolled airports in my mind… if controlled you need to ask and comply with atc of course.

Do many uncontrolled airports have ILSs ?

I use to fly VFR over to Fredrick (KFDK) in the evenings, and shoot the ILS there at night, after the Tower had close. That way it was Uncontrolled with an active ILS !!

Rental Plane was IFR equipped, but not currently certified, so was a cheaper rental !!

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The one I usually fly to has a temporary TMZ which is active if the guy with the Learjet is coming home lol. The ILS is almost always on. Another one has a training ILS for the maintenance crew with a 4 degree GS and a third one has an ILS for reasons that I don‘t know. No idea of other parts of the world :laughing:

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Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. Of course you’re talking things that are allowed in real life. As you mention, in real life we can sweet-talk an ATC and ask for permission to change things. But in our game the ATC menu system is very strictly limited in what it allows. I can’t even do simple things sometimes like ask for altitude changes during IFR flying. I can see the option there sometimes and then other times it’s not available.

Of course like others are stating, I can just perform an ILS landing if I want. But I’m hoping somebody had found a way to do it formally through the ATC of the tower and other controllers. It seems silly that there’s not more menu options to request flight plan changes etc.

Last paragraph of my reply if you are using in-sim ATC.

In MSFS, depending on the plane you’re flying, you need to punch in a full flight plan into the FMS (not simply direct to and select an approach). Then MSFS may recognize that you have something that looks like an IFR flight plan in the “box” and give you the option to request an IFR clearance from the controller.

Yes you can, once you have been offered a “climb and maintain” instruction to a target cruise altitude, not before such as intermediate step altitudes. Also, not after atc starts your descent.

I did read that and thanks for the help. The few times I made an entirely new flight plan in the MFD I haven’t seen the IFR option. What do you think is the key to get it to appear. Why might it sometimes appear and sometimes not appear? It’s just code after all so there must be some logic to make it appear. That’s what I’m hoping somebody has discovered because I can’t figure out the logic.

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What airplanes are you flying?

It’s worked for me. I typically fly C172 steam gauge, G36, G58 and airliners.

You might also try turning on AI to handle radio chatter. With AI handling comms, try destination change to new airport in the MFD and see if you get an ATC box option that says “request Instrument FP from Controller”

If you are close enough to DEST, it should send you to transition point or Initial Approach Fix (IAF), which is effectively your Instrument approach clearance.

If you want to do that, you have to set the sim, such that is what ATC will logically offer you,

Say you want to fly the ILS 4R into Boston.

You need to
(1) Set Boston as your destination (obviously) 4R with Star
(2) Set the winds in the Sim to favor 4R
(3) get IFR Clearance –
(a) Trick to doing this is to edit anything in your FLight Plan (in your GPS)
(4) You will then get the option in the ATC menu to file IFR
(4) Select that option, and you stand a very good change of ATC controlling you to an ILS 4R

There is obvious room for a lot of improvement, but like in Real Life, learn to "WORK THE SYSTEM: !!!

Still not have found a way to stop approach handing you off way to early to Tower – that will need a LOGIC mod by ASOBO

Normally I choose between the Mooney, DA62, DA40, TBM 930 or the JMB VL3.

I haven’t tried that so good thought. I will.

I haven’t adjusted the wind so I’ll certainly add that to my process. Good idea.

But I will try again. You seem certain it should work so that’s a positive and it gives me the energy to keep at it. Thanks.

I don‘t even bother with the sim ATC honestly. I just pretend to get what I want lol


In the sim there’s no need to request anything. Just enter the correct frequencies for the ILS and have at it.

The only time you’ll need to contact anyone about anything (in real life flying) is if you’re flying into a controlled (class D,C or B) airport.

In the sim, I do this all the time, landing in either an RNAV or ILS approach while flying in VFR. Use an IAP chart to get your waypoints/altitudes and fly it on down.

One benefit is that ATC will use “flight following” instead of the roller coaster up & down and why aren’t you at your assigned altitude, even when you are. ATC is buggy at best, significantly worse since SU5.

If you want another level of immersion, consider Pilot2ATC.

After reading this post, I did recall one time I opened an IFR plan in flight (due to weather changes at KSFO) using P2A and was successful at getting the controllers to route me safely to the ILS runway.

I agree, ATC is frustrating. I like the process of contacting ATC and getting the verbal guidance but it is not a great process even when it works. That’s for sure.

This might be the only solution. I again tried to alter my flight plan during flight in hopes of getting the ATC menu options, but that still doesn’t work for me. I haven’t looked into Pilot2ATC but might be a good alternative. Thanks for the suggestion.

All of the previous responses have useful information but perhaps too much is being read into this.

If you are flying VFR you are free to approach the airport from any direction you want. Yes, there are procedures for entering the traffic pattern but if you don’t want to do that just fly to the point that puts you on an extended final for a straight in approach. Assuming you have picked the same runway that ATC considers he active runway, when you contact the tower they will tell you to fly the straight in approach. At that point there is nothing preventing you from flying the ILS. No need to change your flight plan.

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