Visual Climb Over Airport (VCOA)

A Visual Climb Over Airport (VCOA) procedure is a departure option for an IFR aircraft, operating in visual meteorological conditions equal to or greater than the specified visibility and ceiling. To visually conduct climbing turns over the airport to the published “climb−to” altitude from which to proceed with the instrument portion of the departure. VCOA procedures are developed to avoid obstacles greater than 3 statute miles from the departure end of the runway as an alternative to complying with climb gradients greater than 200 feet per nautical mile.

Pilots are responsible to advise ATC as early as possible of the intent to fly the VCOA option prior to departure

Here are two examples of a VCOA procedure:

[one-half-first]graphic departure procedure[/one-half-first][one-half]ifr vcoa procedure[/one-half]

A couple things about VCOAs

  • Obstacle clearance is only good for the visibility specified on the procedure, meaning if the required visibility is 3300-2, then you are only guaranteed obstacle protection for within 2 miles of the airport.
  • You must advise ATC you plan to use the VCOA option before departing
  • You still need the minimum 200′ per nm climb rate to get from the end of the VCOA to the en-route portion of your flight plan.
  • VCOAs can be part of a Graphic or Textual ODP (the two options are shown above for two separate airports)
  • To see a VCOA Procedure discussed in depth, click here

Example ATC Clearance:

“Climb in visual conditions so as to cross the McElory Airport southbound, at or above 6000, then climb via Keemmling radial (033) zero three three to Keemmling VORTAC.”

So what’s your favorite way to climb out IFR?

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