VFR/IFR at Ithaca...What's a pilot to do?

Ithaca during Instrument Conditions 

Ithaca is a non-radar, level one VFR facility. We separate traffic with the "mark one eyeball" and the help of binoculars! So if the field is IMC and you are inbound on an instrument flight plan, Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport is "one in, one out" or what is called "single-threaded." Elmira Radar provides separation during IMC until you are established on the approach and then we provide landing clearance and separation on the runway. (After Elmira closes at midnight, NY Center can also provide limited radar service in this area.) We can allow two flight operations in the Delta during IMC (such as an instrument departure with an aircraft on approach) if we can provide "visual separation" from the traffic (lights on sure helps!) When we are in instrument conditions and you request take-off we coordinate the IFR release with Elmira Radar. Essentially, Elmira Approach runs the airspace above Ithaca when the field goes IMC. During the hours when the tower is closed, before 6:30am local or after 10pm, you need to self-announce your intentions for taxi and take-off on CTAF (119.60) and coordinate your IFR release directly with Elmira on 124.30.

Obtaining your IFR Clearance or "Flight Following" (VFR Traffic Advisories)

Ithaca ground on 121.80 provides clearance delivery service and will issue your IFR clearance on request from the pilot. In the perfect world, if you are filed your flight plan correctly the clearance will be available 30 minutes prior to your proposed departure time. We can also often find your lost clearance or extend your departure time since we have a flight data computer terminal. If the clearance has not yet arrived, you may hear "clearance on request." This means we are requesting your clearance from Elmira (no need to ask again!) Tower enroute clearances are available directly from the tower if time and workload allows. For this request we will need your aircraft code and suffix, requested altitude, true airspeed and route of flight. "Flight following" can be requested in the same manner but with a VFR altitude and we can get you a transponder squawk code. This service provides an "IFR strip" along your entire route of flight so only one squawk is necessary and the radar facilities expect your arrival through their airspace. A more efficient way of creating a "flight following" clearance is directly with flight service. The procedure is to file aVFR flight plan and request "flight following" in block 11. This should cue the Flight Service Specialist to create a separate IFR flight plan (with a slightly different proposed time) with a VFR altitude. Remember that all requests from the tower, such as is the radar service for VFR flights, are available only on a workload permitting basis. Weekends such as NASCAR or Cornell graduation might be a little too busy for coordinating a pop-up request for a IFR or VFR flight following trip!