Table of Contents

Clearance Delivery — VFR Clearances Last updated: 2020-03-20

VFR clearances are generally simpler than IFR clearances. The clearance issued should use the fewest restrictions that are reasonable for the circumstances.

1. Class D airports

At a class D airport, no VFR clearance is required, because no ATC-provided separation is required between VFR aircraft and other aircraft after takeoff. The first call from the aircraft should be for a taxi clearance. There might be some exceptions for airports located near class B or C airspace; in these cases coordinate with the appropriate radar controller and use techniques similar to those described below for class B and C airports.

2. Class C airports

VFR aircraft departing a class C airport are generally issued a clearance prior to taxi. Generally, this is done on the first radio call from the aircraft. These clearances can be very simple. In the flight plan, the departure and arrival airports, aircraft type, requested VFR altitude and beacon code need to be completed. For an aircraft departing BUR, something as simple this might be acceptable:


Pilot: "Ground, Cessna One Two Three Sierra Xray, VFR departure to San Luis Obispo Airport at four thousand five hundred."

ATC: "Cessna One Two Three Sierra Xray, departure frequency one three four point two, squawk one zero three two."

SOPs or the radar controller might require particular headings or altitude assignments. VFR aircraft may be issued any heading so long as they are not assigned an altitude below the minimum vectoring altitude (pilots of these aircraft are expected to advise ATC if they are unable to fly the assigned heading). Any altitude assignment should provide the maximum flexibility to the pilot; except in unusual circumstances, assign either "at or above" or "at or below" altitudes. VFR departures from class C airports generally require a release from the appropriate radar controller, so oftentimes the heading and/or altitude restriction aren't known until the tower controller calls for release. In those cases issue the instructions without either item; the tower controller will amend the clearance as needed. However, in the cases where SOPs assign clearances for VFR aircraft, these should be stated with the initial clearance. Reference the airport's SOP for VFR clearances. The delivery controller, or the controller running the position, shall assign these clearances to aircraft on initial contact.


"November One Two Three Sierra Xray, after departure fly heading three three zero, maintain VFR at or below two thousand four hundred, departure frequency one two four point five, squawk one zero three three".

Aircraft requesting pattern work do not require a clearance, since the tower can visually separate these aircraft from others operating in the class C airspace. Therefore, only taxi instructions are required for aircraft requesting closed traffic.

3. Class B airspace

VFR aircraft departing from a class B airport require a clearance similar to that used for class C departures. The principle difference is that a specific clearance is required to operate in class B airspace. Generally, before departure, an aircraft should be cleared using the phraseology "cleared out of Bravo airspace". For example, a departure requiring no altitude restriction or heading assignment would be issued a clearance like:

"November One Two Three Sierra Xray, cleared out of the Los Angeles Bravo airspace, (VFR departure instructions), departure frequency one two five point two, squawk one zero five two."

Larger aircraft departing a class B airport must be vectored such that they remain within class B airspace until they exit the lateral boundaries or climb through the ceiling of class B airspace (or to look at it another way, they should not operate below the floor of class B airspace).

To determine if an aircraft meets these requirements, consult the ZLA Info Tool. When looking the aircraft up, its TEC class is listed in the fourth column.  Aircraft with the "J" and "M" TEC class must be issued this clearance.

At LAX, we generally accomplish this by issuing headings. Unless otherwise instructed by the radar controller, don't assign headings to these aircraft as the tower controller will issue the appropriate departure instructions. For example:

"Falcon One Two Three Sierra Xray, cleared out of the Los Angeles Bravo airspace, maintain VFR at or below 3000, departure frequency one two four point five, squawk one zero one seven".

Altitude restrictions are not required unless the radar controller advises differently. For small aircraft at LAX, we generally issue a right or left crosswind departure to keep them out of the traffic flow, and to get them out of the Bravo airspace quickly.  These operations do not require a VFR release from the radar controller, but do require an altitude restriction to keep them in tower's airspace. However, the tower controller will issue the appropriate departure instructions. These aircraft should be cleared out of the class bravo airspace, assigned departure instructions and taxied to the runway. Consult the appropriate SOPs for VFR departure instructions

"November One Two Three Sierra Xray, cleared out of the Los Angeles Bravo airspace, make right crosswind departure at the shoreline, maintain VFR at or below 2,500, runway 25L, taxi via Bravo, wind calm, altimeter 2 9 9 2".

A departure frequency and squawk are not required unless the aircraft is requesting VFR flight following, since they will quickly depart the class B airspace on the crosswind leg.

Small aircraft that request something other than a right or left crosswind departure should be coordinated with the radar controller and issued instructions required by the radar controller along with the departure frequency and a squawk code.

Departures from other ZLA class B airports are handled using similar techniques to those described above.