• Diversions are deviations from the original plan which are usually due to fuel, weather, aeromedical or systems
  • Practice develops skills necessary for plotting a new course and determining a new ETA while en route
  • Diversions occur due to low fuel, bad weather, fatigue, illness, airplane or system malfunction, and others
  • Although the concept is the same, their procedures can be dramatically different when flying Visual Flight Rules (VFR) or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)

VFR Diversion Procedure:

  • Note the time
  • Verify the airplane's present position
  • Determine the location of the new destination
  • Turn in the appropriate direction to an estimated heading, taking into consideration: airspace, obstructions, and/or adverse weather
  • Determine the distance and compass heading to the new destination
    • Distance:
      • Plotter
      • Mileage scale on chart
      • 1 min of latitude = 1 NM
    • Compass Heading
      • Use compass rose on VOR on map
  • Turn to the compass heading
  • Select prominent land marks to aid in flying the new course
  • Compute ETE, ETA, and the fuel required to reach the new destination
  • Contact FSS to amend your flight plan

When diverting to a nearby airport (25 NM or less) and fuel is not critical, make reasonably accurate estimates rather than performing actual computations

IFR Diversion Procedure:

  • Determine new destination
  • Request a clearance
    • This is going to sound identical to picking up an IFR clearance (even though you're already operating on one) in air
  • Execute new clearance

Diversion Common Errors:

  • Failure to note the time
  • Unaware of fuel before diversion
  • Improper calculations
  • Forgetting to turn toward estimated heading
  • Getting lost


  • The decision to divert cannot be made too soon
    • Many pilots have put themselves into avoidable situations by pushing a situation that they knew to be bad
  • When making alterations due to weather, simple deviations of 10 or 20 degrees left or right of course can be made to preclude a full re-work of the previously planned flight