Top

Flight Plans

Introduction:

VFR Flight Plans

  • VFR Flight Plans are filed for flight operations conducted under VFR
  • Except for operations in or penetrating a Coastal or Domestic Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or Distance Early Warning Identification Zone (DEWIZ) a flight plan is not required for VFR flight, although strongly recommended
  • Although position reports are not required for VFR flight plans, periodic reports to FAA FSSs along the route are recommended
    • Such contacts permit significant information to be passed to the transiting aircraft and also serve to check the progress of the flight should it be necessary for any reason to locate the aircraft
      • Pilot: "[Callsign], over Kingfisher at [Time], VFR flight plan, [Departure Airport] to [Destination Airport]"
      • Example: "Bonanza 314K, over Kingfisher at 1109, VFR flight plan, Tulsa to Amarillo"
      • Pilot: "[Callsign], over Oklahoma City at [Time], Shreveport to Denver, no flight plan"
      • Example: "Cherokee 5133J, over Oklahoma City at 0920, Shreveport to Denver, no flight plan"
  • Pilots not operating on an IFR flight plan and when in level cruising flight, are cautioned to conform with VFR cruising altitudes appropriate to the direction of flight
  • Under some circumstances, ATC computer tapes can be useful in constructing the radar history of a downed or crashed aircraft
    • In each case, knowledge of the aircraft's transponder equipment is necessary in determining whether or not such computer takes might prove effective
  • After departure the actual time of departure should be reported
    • On pilot's request, at a location having an active tower, the aircraft identification will be forwarded by the tower to the FSS for reporting the actual departure time
    • This procedure should be avoided at busy airports
  • Always conform to VFR cruising altitudes while operating on a VFR flight plan
  • When filing VFR flight plans, indicate aircraft equipment capabilities by appending the appropriate suffix to aircraft type in the same manner as that prescribed for IFR flight
  • Under some circumstances, ATC computer tapes can be useful in constructing the radar history of a downed or crashed aircraft. In each case, knowledge of the aircraft's transponder equipment is necessary in determining whether or not such computer tapes might prove effective
  • Pilots are encouraged to give their departure times directly to the FSS serving the departure airport or as otherwise indicated by the FSS when the flight plan is filed
    • This will ensure more efficient flight plan service and permit the FSS to advise you of significant changes in aeronautical facilities or meteorological conditions
    • When a VFR flight plan is filed, it will be held by the FSS until 1 hour after the proposed departure time unless:
      1. The actual departure time is received
      2. A revised proposed departure time is received
      3. At a time of filing, the FSS is informed that the proposed departure time will be met, but actual time cannot be given because of inadequate communications (assumed departures)

IFR Flight Plans

  • Prior to departure from within, or prior to entering controlled airspace, a pilot must submit a complete flight plan and receive an air traffic clearance, if weather conditions are below VFR minimums (3 NM, 1000' ceilings)
  • Instrument flight plans may be submitted to the nearest FSS or Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) either in person, by telephone, or by radio if no other means are available
    • Traffic saturation frequently prevents control personnel from accepting flight plans by radio
    • In such cases, the pilot is advised to contact the nearest FSS for the purpose of filing the flight plan
  • In order to provide FAA traffic management units strategic route planning capabilities, nonscheduled operators conducting IFR operations above FL 230 are requested to voluntarily file IFR flight plans at least 4 hours prior to estimated time of departure (ETD)
  • Can be canceled in VFR and out of class A airspace
  • In addition to altitude or flight level, destination and/or route changes, increasing or decreasing the airspeed by plus or minus 5% or 10 knots (whichever is greater) constitutes a change in a flight plan
  • There are several methods of obtaining IFR clearances at non-tower, non-FSS, and outlying airports. The procedure may vary due to geographical features, weather conditions, and the complexity of the ATC system. To determine the most effective means of receiving an IFR clearance, pilots should ask the nearest FSS the most appropriate means of obtaining the IFR clearance
  • When requesting an IFR clearance, it is highly recommended that the departure airport be identified by stating the city name and state and/or the airport location identifier in order to clarify to ATC the exact location of the intended airport of departure

Composite Flight Plans

  • Flight plans which specify VFR operation for one portion of a flight, and IFR for another portion, will be accepted by the FSS at the point of departure
  • If VFR flight is conducted for the first portion of the flight:

    • Pilots should report their departure time to the FSS with whom the VFR/IFR flight plan was filed; and, subsequently, close the VFR portion and request ATC clearance from the FSS nearest the point at which change from VFR to IFR is proposed
    • Regardless of the type facility you are communicating with (FSS, center, or tower), it is the pilot's responsibility to request that facility to close the VFR flight plan
    • The pilot must remain in VFR weather conditions until operating in accordance with the IFR clearance
  • If IFR flight is conducted for the first portion of the flight:

    • The pilot will normally be cleared to the point at which the change is proposed (transition point)
    • After reporting over the clearance limit and not desiring further IFR clearance, the pilot should advise ATC to cancel the IFR portion of the flight plan
    • Then, the pilot should contact the nearest FSS to activate the VFR portion of the flight plan
    • If the pilot desires to continue the IFR flight plan beyond the clearance limit, the pilot should contact ATC at least 5 minutes prior to the clearance limit and request further IFR clearance
    • If the requested clearance is not received prior to reaching the clearance limit fix, the pilot will be expected to enter into a standard holding pattern on the radial or course to the fix unless a holding pattern for the clearance limit fix is depicted on a U.S. Government or commercially produced (meeting FAA requirements) low or high altitude enroute, area or STAR chart
    • In this case the pilot will hold according to the depicted pattern

Defense VFR Flight Plan

International Flight Plan

  • Use of FAA Form 7233-4 is recommended for domestic IFR flights and is mandatory for all IFR flights that will depart U.S. domestic airspace
    • A detailed description of FAA Form 7233-4 may be found on the FAA website at: http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/enroute/flight_plan_filing/
    • Filers utilizing FAA Form 7233-1 (Flight Plan) may not be eligible for assignment of RNAV SIDs and STARs. Filers desiring assignment of these procedures should file using FAA Form 7233-4, as described in this section
    • When filing an IFR flight plan using FAA Form 7233-4, it is recommended that filers include all operable navigation, communication, and surveillance equipment capabilities by adding appropriate equipment qualifiers as shown in Tables 5-1-3 and 5-1-4. These equipment qualifiers should be filed in Item 10 of FAA Form 7233-4
    • ATC issues clearances based on equipment qualifiers filed in Items 10 and aircraft capabilities filed in Item 18 (NAV/) of FAA Form 7233-4. Operators should file all equipment qualifiers for which the aircraft is certified and capable. They should also file aircraft capabilities in Item 18 as described below
  • Explanation of Items Filed in FAA Form 7233-4
    • Procedures and other information provided in AIM 5-1-9 are designed to assist operators using FAA Form 7233-4 to file IFR flight plans for flights that will be conducted entirely within U.S. domestic airspace. Requirements and procedures for operating outside U.S. domestic airspace may vary significantly from country to country. It is, therefore, recommended that operators planning flights outside U.S. domestic airspace become familiar with applicable international documents, including Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP); International Flight Information Manuals (IFIM); and ICAO Document 4444, Procedures for Air Navigation Services/Air Traffic Management, Appendix 2
    • The filer is normally responsible for providing the information required in Items 3 through 19

    Filing a Flight Plan:

    • To expedite the processes, flight plans should be filed directly with the nearest Flight Service Station (FSS)
      • For your convenience, FSSs provide aeronautical and meteorological briefings while accepting flight plans
      • This should occur at least 30 minutes prior to the estimated time of departure to preclude possible delays in receiving a departure clearance from ATC
      • Otherwise, a 30 minute delay is not unusual in receiving an ATC clearance because of time spent in processing flight plan data
    • Flight Plans may be filed by two methods:
      • Phone, on the ground
      • Radio, in the air, or on the ground if co-located with the FSS/RCO
    • Traffic saturation frequently prevents control personnel from accepting flight plans by radio
    • In such cases, the pilot is advised to contact the nearest FSS for the purpose of filing the flight plan
    • VFR Flight Plans are filed on the FAA Form 7233-1
    • IFR Flight Plans when conducted within domestic airspace may be filed on FAA Form 7233-1 or the preferred, FAA Form 7233-4
      • Filers utilizing FAA Form 7233-1 may not be eligible for assignment of RNAV SIDs and STARs
      • Fliers not eligible will be required to utilize FAA Form 7233-4
    • International Flight Plans will always be filed on FAA Form 7233-4
    • It is recommended that with a stop over flight plan, you file a separate flight plan for each "leg" when the stop is expected to be longer than an hour
    • Pilots are encouraged to give their departure times directly to the FSS serving the departure airport or as otherwise indicated by the FSS when the flight plan is filed to ensure more efficient flight plan services and to permit the FSS to advise you of significant changes in aeronautical facilities or meteorological conditions
    • Once filed, a flight plan will be deleted 1 hour after the departure time if not activated unless:
      • The actual departure time is received
      • A revised proposed departure time is received
      • At a time of filing, the FSS is informed the proposed departure time will be met but actual time cannot be given because of inadequate communications
    • On pilot's request, at a location having an active tower, the aircraft identification will be forwarded by the tower to the FSS for reporting the actual departure time but increases controller workload

    NOTE:
    1. Procedures outlined in this section apply to operators filing FAA Form 7233−1 (Flight Plan) and to flights that will be conducted entirely within U.S. domestic airspace

    2. Filers utilizing FAA Form 7233−1 may not be eligible for assignment of RNAV SIDs and STARs. Filers desiring assignment of these procedures should file using FAA Form 7233−4 (International Flight Plan), as described in paragraph 5−1−9

    3. There are several methods of obtaining IFR clearances at non-tower, non−FSS, and outlying airports. The procedure may vary due to geographical features, weather conditions, and the complexity of the ATC system. To determine the most effective means of receiving an IFR clearance, pilots should ask the nearest FSS the most appropriate means of obtaining the IFR clearance

    4. When requesting an IFR clearance, it is highly recommended that the departure airport be identified by stating the city name and state and/or the airport location identifier in order to clarify to ATC the exact location of the intended airport of departure

    Airways and Jet Routes Depiction on Flight Plan:

    • It is vitally important that the route of flight be accurately and completely described in the flight plan
      • To simplify definition of the proposed route, and to facilitate ATC, pilots are requested to file via airways or jet routes established for use at the altitude or flight level planned
    • If flight is to be conducted via designated airways or jet routes, describe the route by indicating the type and number designators of the airway(s) or jet route(s) requested
      • If more than one airway or jet route is to be used, clearly indicate points of transition
      • If the transition is made at an unnamed intersection, show the next succeeding NAVAID or named intersection on the intended route and the complete route from that point
      • Reporting points may be identified by using authorized name/code as depicted on appropriate aeronautical charts
    • The following two examples illustrate the need to specify the transition point when two routes share more than one transition fix
      • Example: ALB J37 BUMPY J14 BHM... Spelled out: from Albany, New York, via Jet Route 37 transitioning to Jet Route 14 at BUMPY intersection, thence via Jet Route 14 to Birmingham, Alabama
      • Example: ALB J37 ENO J14 BHM... Spelled out: from Albany, New York, via Jet Route 37 transitioning to Jet Route 14 at Smyrna VORTAC (ENO) thence via Jet Route 14 to Birmingham, Alabama
    • The route of flight may also be described by naming the reporting points or NAVAIDs over which the flight will pass, provided the points named are established for use at the altitude or flight level planned
      • Example: BWI V44 SWANN V433 DQO Spelled out: from Baltimore-Washington International, via Victor 44 to Swann intersection, transitioning to Victor 433 at Swann, thence via Victor 433 to Dupont
    • When the route of flight is defined by named reporting points, whether alone or in combination with airways or jet routes, and the navigational aids (VOR, VORTAC, TACAN, NDB) to be used for the flight are a combination of different types of aids, enough information should be included to clearly indicate the route requested
      • Example: LAX J5 LKV J3 GEG YXC FL 330 J500 VLR J515 YWG Spelled out: from Los Angeles International via Jet Route5 Lakeview, Jet Route 3 Spokane, direct Cranbrook, British Columbia VOR/DME, Flight Level 330 Jet Route 500 to Langruth, Manitoba VORTAC, Jet Route 515 to Winnepeg, Manitoba
    • When filing IFR, it is to the pilot's advantage to file a preferred route which are described and tabulated in the Chart Supplement U.S. [Figure 1]
    • ATC may issue a SID or a STAR
      • ATC may issue a SID or a STAR, as appropriate
      • Pilots not desiring a SID or STAR should so indicate in the remarks section of the flight plan as "no SID" or "no STAR"

    IFR Route Selection Planning
    Figure 3: IFR Route Selection Planning

    Chart Supplement U.S. Preferred Routes Listings
    Figure 4: Chart Supplement U.S. Preferred Route Listings

    Direct Flights:

    • All or any portions of the route which will not be flown on the radials or courses of established airways or routes, such as direct route flights, must be defined by indicating the radio fixes over which the flight will pass. Fixes selected to define the route must be those over which the position of the aircraft can be accurately determined. Such fixes automatically become compulsory reporting points for the flight, unless advised otherwise by ATC. Only those navigational aids established for use in a particular structure; i.e., in the low or high structures, may be used to define the en route phase of a direct flight within that altitude structure
    • The azimuth feature of VOR aids and that azimuth and distance (DME) features of VORTAC and TACAN aids are assigned certain frequency protected areas of airspace which are intended for application to established airway and route use, and to provide guidance for planning flights outside of established airways or routes. These areas of airspace are expressed in terms of cylindrical service volumes of specified dimensions called "class limits" or "categories"
    • An operational service volume has been established for each class in which adequate signal coverage and frequency protection can be assured. To facilitate use of VOR, VORTAC, or TACAN aids, consistent with their operational service volume limits, pilot use of such aids for defining a direct route of flight in controlled airspace should not exceed the following:
      • Operations above FL 450: Use aids not more than 200 NM apart, as depicted on enroute high altitude charts
      • Operation off established routes from 18,000' MSL to FL 450: Use aids not more than 260 NM apart, as depicted on enroute high altitude charts
      • Operation off established airways below 18,000' MSL: Use aids not more than 80 NM apart, as depicted on enroute low altitude charts
      • Operation off established airways between 14,500 MSL and 17,999' MSL in the conterminous U.S.: (H) facilities not more than 200 NM apart may be used
    • Increasing use of self-contained airborne navigational systems which do not rely on the VOR/VORTAC/TACAN system has resulted in pilot requests for direct routes which exceed NAVAID service volume limits
      • These direct route requests will be approved only in a radar environment, with approval based on pilot responsibility for navigation on the authorized direct route
      • Radar flight following will be provided by ATC for ATC purposes
    • At times, ATC will initiate a direct route in a radar environment which exceeds NAVAID service volume limits. In such cases ATC will provide radar monitoring and navigational assistance as necessary
    • Airway or jet route numbers, appropriate to the stratum in which operation will be conducted, may also be included to describe portions of the route to be flown
      • Example: MDW V262 BDF V10 BRL STJ SLN GCK Spelled out: from Chicago Midway Airport via Victor 262 to Bradford, Victor 10 to Burlington, Iowa, direct St. Joseph, Missouri, direct Salina, Kansas, direct Garden City, Kansas
    • When route of flight is described by radio fixes, the pilot will be expected to fly a direct course between the points named
    • Pilots are reminded that they are responsible for adhering to obstruction clearance requirements on those segments of direct routes that are outside of controlled airspace
    • The MEAs and other altitudes shown on low altitude IFR enroute charts pertain to those route segments within controlled airspace, and those altitudes may not meet obstruction clearance criteria when operating off those routes [Figure 2]

    Low Altitude IFR Enroute Charts Obstruction Clearance
    Figure 5: Low Altitude IFR Enroute Charts Obstruction Clearance

    Area Navigation (RNAV):

    • Random impromptu routes can only be approved in a radar environment
      • ATC will first consider the capability to provide radar monitoring and compatibility with traffic volume and flow
      • ATC will radar monitor each flight, however, navigation on the random RNAV route is the responsibility of the pilot
    • Pilots of aircraft equipped with approved area navigation equipment may file for RNAV routes throughout the National Airspace System and may be filed for in accordance with the following procedures:
      • File airport-to-airport flight plans
      • File the appropriate RNAV capability certification suffix in the flight plan
      • Plan the random route portion of the flight plan to begin and end over appropriate arrival and departure transition fixes or appropriate navigation aids for the altitude stratum within which the flight will be conducted. The use of normal preferred departure and arrival routes (DP/STAR), where established, is recommended
      • File route structure transitions to and from the random route portion of the flight
      • Define the random route by waypoints. File route description waypoints by using degree-distance fixes based on navigational aids which are appropriate for the altitude stratum
      • File a minimum of one route description waypoint for each ARTCC through whose area the random route will be flown. These waypoints must be located within 200 NM of the preceding center’s boundary
      • File an additional route description waypoint for each turn-point in the route
      • Plan additional route description way-points as required to ensure accurate navigation via the filed route of flight. Navigation is the pilot’s responsibility unless ATC assistance is requested
      • Plan the route of flight so as to avoid prohibited and restricted airspace by 3 NM unless permission has been obtained to operate in that airspace and the appropriate ATC facilities are advised
    • Greater detail can be found under the Area Navigation section

    NOTE:
    To be approved for use in the National Airspace System, RNAV equipment must meet the appropriate system availability, accuracy, and airworthiness standards. For additional guidance on equipment requirements see AC 20−130, Airworthiness Approval of Vertical Navigation (VNAV) Systems for use in the U.S. NAS and Alaska, or AC 20−138, Airworthiness Approval of Global Positioning System (GPS) Navigation Equipment for Use as a VFR and IFR Supplemental Navigation System. For airborne navigation database, see AC 90−94, Guidelines for Using GPS Equipment for IFR En Route and Terminal Operations and for Nonprecision Instrument Approaches in the U.S. National Airspace System, Section 2

    • Pilots of aircraft equipped with latitude/ longitude coordinate navigation capability, independent of VOR/TACAN references, may file for random RNAV routes at and above FL 390 within the conterminous U.S. using the following procedures:
      • File airport-to-airport flight plans prior to departure
      • File the appropriate RNAV capability certification suffix in the flight plan
      • Plan the random route portion of the flight to begin and end over published departure/arrival transition fixes or appropriate navigation aids for airports without published transition procedures. The use of preferred departure and arrival routes, such as DP and STAR where established, is recommended
      • Plan the route of flight so as to avoid prohibited and restricted airspace by 3 NM unless permission has been obtained to operate in that airspace and the appropriate ATC facility is advised
      • Define the route of flight after the departure fix, including each intermediate fix (turnpoint) and the arrival fix for the destination airport in terms of latitude/longitude coordinates plotted to the nearest minute or in terms of Navigation Reference System (NRS) waypoints. For latitude/ longitude filing the arrival fix must be identified by both the latitude/longitude coordinates and a fix identifier
        • Example: MIA1 SRQ2 3407/106153 3407/11546 TNP4 LAX5
          1. Departure airport
          2. Departure fix
          3. Intermediate fix (turning point)
          4. Arrival fix
          5. Destination airport

        • Example: ORD1 IOW2 KP49G3 KD34U4 KL16O5 OAL6 MOD27 SFO8
          1. Departure airport
          2. Transition fix (pitch point)
          3. Minneapolis ARTCC waypoint
          4. Denver ARTCC Waypoint
          5. Los Angeles ARTCC waypoint (catch point)
          6. Transition fix
          7. Arrival
          8. Destination airport
      • Record latitude/longitude coordinates by four figures describing latitude in degrees and minutes followed by a solidus and five figures describing longitude in degrees and minutes
      • File at FL 390 or above for the random RNAV portion of the flight
      • Fly all routes/route segments on Great Circle tracks
      • Make any in-flight requests for random RNAV clearances or route amendments to an en route ATC facility

    RNAV and RNP Operations:

    • During the pre-flight planning phase the availability of the navigation infrastructure required for the intended operation, including any non−RNAV contingencies, must be confirmed for the period of intended operation. Availability of the onboard navigation equipment necessary for the route to be flown must be confirmed
    • If a pilot determines a specified RNP level cannot be achieved, revise the route or delay the operation until appropriate RNP level can be ensured
    • The onboard navigation database must be current and appropriate for the region of intended operation and must include the navigation aids, waypoints, and coded terminal airspace procedures for the departure, arrival and alternate airfields
    • During system initialization, pilots of aircraft equipped with a Flight Management System or other RNAV−certified system, must confirm that the navigation database is current, and verify that the aircraft position has been entered correctly. Flight crews should crosscheck the cleared flight plan against charts or other applicable resources, as well as the navigation system textual display and the aircraft map display. This process includes confirmation of the waypoints sequence, reasonableness of track angles and distances, any altitude or speed constraints, and identification of fly−by or fly−over waypoints. A procedure must not be used if validity of the navigation database is in doubt
    • Prior to commencing takeoff, the flight crew must verify that the RNAV system is operating correctly and the correct airport and runway data have been loaded
    • During the pre−flight planning phase RAIM prediction must be performed if TSO−C129() equipment is used to solely satisfy the RNAV and RNP requirement. GPS RAIM availability must be confirmed for the intended route of flight (route and time) using current GPS satellite information. In the event of a predicted, continuous loss of RAIM of more than five (5) minutes for any part of the intended flight, the flight should be delayed, canceled, or re−routed where RAIM requirements can be met. Operators may satisfy the predictive RAIM requirement through any one of the following methods:
      • Operators may monitor the status of each satellite in its plane/slot position, by accounting for the latest GPS constellation status (e.g., NOTAMs or NANUs), and compute RAIM availability using model−specific RAIM prediction software;
      • Operators may use the Service Availability Prediction Tool (SAPT) on the FAA en route and terminal RAIM prediction website;
      • Operators may contact a Flight Service Station (not DUATS) to obtain non−precision approach RAIM;
      • Operators may use a third party interface, incorporating FAA/VOLPE RAIM prediction data without altering performance values, to predict RAIM outages for the aircraft’s predicted flight path and times;
      • Operators may use the receiver’s installed RAIM prediction capability (for TSO−C129a/Class A1/B1/C1 equipment) to provide non−precision approach RAIM, accounting for the latest GPS constellation status (e.g., NOTAMs or NANUs). Receiver non−precision approach RAIM should be checked at airports spaced at intervals not to exceed 60 NM along the RNAV 1 procedure’s flight track. "Terminal" or "Approach" RAIM must be available at the ETA over each airport checked; or,
      • Operators not using model-specific software or FAA/VOLPE RAIM data will need FAA operational approval
    • If TSO−C145/C146 equipment is used to satisfy the RNAV and RNP requirement, the pilot/operator need not perform the prediction if WAAS coverage is confirmed to be available along the entire route of flight. Outside the U.S. or in areas where WAAS coverage is not available, operators using TSO−C145/C146 receivers are required to check GPS RAIM availability
    • Pilot:

      • If unable to comply with the requirements of an RNAV or RNP procedure, pilots must advise air traffic control as soon as possible. For example, "N1234, failure of GPS system, unable RNAV, request amended clearance"
      • Pilots are not authorized to fly a published RNAV or RNP procedure (instrument approach, departure, or arrival procedure) unless it is retrievable by the procedure name from the current aircraft navigation database and conforms to the charted procedure. The system must be able to retrieve the procedure by name from the aircraft navigation database, not just as a manually entered series of waypoints
      • Whenever possible, RNAV routes (Q- or T-route) should be extracted from the database in their entirety, rather than loading RNAV route waypoints from the database into the flight plan individually. However, selecting and inserting individual, named fixes from the database is permitted, provided all fixes along the published route to be flown are inserted
      • Pilots must not change any database waypoint type from a fly−by to fly−over, or vice versa. No other modification of database waypoints or the creation of user-defined waypoints on published RNAV or RNP procedures is permitted, except to:
        • Change altitude and/or airspeed waypoint constraints to comply with an ATC clearance/ instruction
        • Insert a waypoint along the published route to assist in complying with ATC instruction, example, “Descend via the WILMS arrival except cross 30 north of BRUCE at/or below FL 210.” This is limited only to systems that allow along-track waypoint construction
      • Pilots of FMS−equipped aircraft, who are assigned an RNAV DP or STAR procedure and subsequently receive a change of runway, transition or procedure, must verify that the appropriate changes are loaded and available for navigation
      • For RNAV 1 DPs and STARs, pilots must use a CDI, flight director and/or autopilot, in lateral navigation mode. Other methods providing an equivalent level of performance may also be acceptable
      • For RNAV 1 DPs and STARs, pilots of aircraft without GPS, using DME/DME/IRU, must ensure the aircraft navigation system position is confirmed, within 1,000 feet, at the start point of take-off roll. The use of an automatic or manual runway update is an acceptable means of compliance with this requirement. Other methods providing an equivalent level of performance may also be acceptable
      • For procedures or routes requiring the use of GPS, if the navigation system does not automatically alert the flight crew of a loss of GPS, the operator must develop procedures to verify correct GPS operation
      • RNAV terminal procedures (DP and STAR) may be amended by ATC issuing radar vectors and/or clearances direct to a waypoint. Pilots should avoid premature manual deletion of waypoints from their active “legs” page to allow for rejoining procedures
      • RAIM Prediction: If TSO−C129 equipment is used to solely satisfy the RNAV and RNP requirement, GPS RAIM availability must be confirmed for the intended route of flight (route and time). If RAIM is not available, pilots need an approved alternate means of navigation
      • Definition of “established” for RNAV and RNP operations. An aircraft is considered to be established on-course during RNAV and RNP operations anytime it is within 1 times the required accuracy for the segment being flown. For example, while operating on a Q-Route (RNAV 2), the aircraft is considered to be established on-course when it is within 2 nm of the course centerline
        • Pilots must be aware of how their navigation system operates, along with any AFM limitations, and confirm that the aircraft’s lateral deviation display (or map display if being used as an allowed alternate means) is suitable for the accuracy of the segment being flown. Automatic scaling and alerting changes are appropriate for some operations. For example, TSO-C129 systems change within 30 miles of destination and within 2 miles of FAF to support approach operations. For some navigation systems and operations, manual selection of scaling will be necessary
        • Pilots flying FMS equipped aircraft with barometric vertical navigation (Baro-VNAV) may descend when the aircraft is established on-course following FMS leg transition to the next segment. Leg transition normally occurs at the turn bisector for a fly-by waypoint (reference paragraph 1-2-1 for more on waypoints). When using full automation, pilots should monitor the aircraft to ensure the aircraft is turning at appropriate lead times and descending once established on-course
        • Pilots flying TSO-C129 navigation system equipped aircraft without full automation should use normal lead points to begin the turn. Pilots may descend when established on-course on the next segment of the approach
    Civilian IFR Flight Plan
    Figure 5: Civilian IFR Flight Plan

    How to Complete a Flight Plan:

    • Block 1:

      Check the type of flight plan (VFR/IFR) or check both blocks for a composite flight plan
    • Block 2:

      Enter your complete aircraft identification including the prefix "N" if applicable
    • Block 3:

      Enter the designator for the aircraft, followed by a slant (/), and the transponder or DME equipment code letter; e.g., C−182/U
      • Aircraft Prefixes:

        • When filing, include as a prefix to the aircraft type, the number of aircraft when more than one, and/or heavy aircraft indicator "H/" if appropriate
          • 2/F18/A
          • H/DC10/U
      • Aircraft Suffixes:

        • When filing, identify the equipment capability to ATC by adding a suffix, preceded by a slant, to the AIRCRAFT TYPE [Figure 1]
          • ATC issues clearances to IFR aircraft based on filed suffixes which requires pilots to determine the appropriate suffix based upon desired services and/or routing
            • Example: if a desired route/procedure requires GPS, a pilot should file /G even if the aircraft also qualifies for other suffixes
          • For procedures requiring GPS, if the navigation system does not automatically alert the flight crew of a loss of GPS, the operator must develop procedures to verify correct GPS operation
          • The suffix is not to be added to the aircraft identification or be transmitted by radio as part of the aircraft identification
          • It is recommended that pilots file the maximum transponder or navigation capability of their aircraft in the equipment suffix in order to provide ATC with the necessary information to utilize all facets of navigational equipment and transponder capabilities available
      • RVSM Aircraft Suffixes
        Figure 1: RVSM Aircraft Suffixes
        No-RVSM Aircraft Suffixes
        Figure 2: No-RVSM Aircraft Suffixes
      • Consult an FSS briefer for any unknown elements
      • Under some circumstances, ATC computer tapes can be useful in constructing the radar history of a downed or crashed aircraft. In each case, knowledge of the aircraft’s transponder equipment is necessary in determining whether or not such computer tapes might prove effective
    • Block 4:

      Enter your true airspeed (TAS)
      • If the average TAS changes plus or minus 5% or 10 knots, whichever is greater, report so to ATC
    • Block 5:

      Enter the departure airport identifier code (or the airport name, city and state, if the identifier is unknown)
      • Use of identifier codes will expedite the processing of your flight plan
      • Include the city name (or even the state name) if needed for clarity
      • With cell phone use and flight service specialists covering larger areas of the country, clearly identifying the departure airport can prevent confusing your airport of departure with those of identical or similar names in other states.b. Airways and Jet Routes Depiction on Flight Plan
    • Block 6:

      Enter the proposed departure time in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (Z). If airborne, specify the actual or proposed departure time as appropriate
    • Block 7:

      Enter the appropriate en route altitude or flight level to assist the FSS briefer in providing weather and wind information (FAR 91.159)
      • VFR:

        • When flying VFR or VFR on top:
          • Magnetic course of 0-179° any odd thousand +500 feet MSL or;
          • Magnetic course of 180-359° any even thousand +500 feet MSL
      • IFR:

        • Except while in a holding pattern of 2 minutes or less, or while turning, each person operating IFR, uncontrolled through RVSM altitudes:
          • Magnetic course of 0-179° any odd thousand feet MSL or;
          • Magnetic course of 180-359° any even thousand feet MSL
      • Enter only the initial requested altitude in this block
      • When more than one altitude or flight level is desired along the route of flight, it is best to make a subsequent request direct to the controller
    • Block 8:

      Define the route of flight by using NAVAID identifier codes (or names if the code is unknown), airways, jet routes, and waypoints (for RNAV)
      • Use NAVAIDs or waypoints to define direct routes and radials/bearings to define other unpublished routes
    • Block 9:

      Enter the destination airport identifier code (or the airport name, city and state, if the identifier is unknown)
      • Include the city name (or even the state name) if needed for clarity
    • Block 10:

      Enter your estimated time en-route in hours and minutes based on latest forecast winds
    • Block 11:

      Enter only those remarks that may aid in VFR search and rescue, such as planned stops en route or student cross country, or remarks pertinent to the clarification of other flight plan information, such as the radiotelephony (call sign) associated with a designator filed in Block 2, if the radiotelephony is new, has changed within the last 60 days, or is a special FAA-assigned temporary radiotelephony. Items of a personal nature are not accepted
      • In cases where there is no three-letter designator but only an assigned radio-telephony or an assigned three-letter designator is used in a medical emergency, the radio-telephony must be included in the remarks field
      • Items of a personal nature are not accepted
      • The pilot is responsible for knowing when it is appropriate to file the radio-telephony in remarks under the 60-day rule or when using FAA special radio-telephony assignments
      • "DVRSN" should be placed in Block 11 only if the pilot/company is requesting priority handling to their original destination from ATC as a result of a diversion as defined in the Pilot/Controller Glossary
      • Do not assume that remarks will be automatically transmitted to every controller. Specific ATC or en route requests should be made directly to the appropriate controller
    • Block 12:

      Specify the fuel on board computed from the departure point in hours and minutes
      • VFR: FAR 91.167 states, for IFR operations, you must have enough fuel to fly to your first point of intended landing and fly thereon to the alternate and fly after that for 45 minutes at normal cruising speed, 30 for helicopters
      • IFR: FAR 91.151 states you must have enough fuel to fly to your first point of intended landing and assuming normal cruising speed 30 minutes beyond (day) or 45 minutes beyond (night) or 20 minutes (rotor-craft)
    • Block 13:

      Specify an alternate airport if desired/required (see below) but do not include routing
    • Block 14:

      Enter the complete name, address, and telephone number of the pilot-in-command, or in the case of a formation flight, the formation commander
      • Enter sufficient information to identify home base airport or operator
      • If you do not want to give your personal information you may write "on file with..." and name your flight school
      • This information is essential in the event of search and rescue operation
    • Block 15:

      Enter total number of Persons on Board (POB), including crew
    • Block 16:

      Enter the predominant colors
    • Block 17:

      Record the FSS name for closing the flight plan
      • If the flight plan is closed with a different FSS or facility, state the recorded FSS name that would normally have closed your flight plan
      • Close IFR flight plans with tower, approach control, or ARTCC, or if unable, with FSS
        • When landing at an airport with a functioning control tower, IFR flight plans are automatically canceled
    • Record a destination telephone number to assist search and rescue contact should you fail to report or cancel your flight plan within 1/2 hour after your estimated time of arrival (ETA)
    • The information transmitted to the destination FSS will consist only of flight plan blocks 2, 3, 9, and 10
    • The information transmitted to the ARTCC for IFR flight plans will consist of only flight plan blocks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11
    • Estimated time en route (ETE) will be converted to the correct ETA

    NOTE:
    A description of the International Flight Plan Form is contained in the International Flight Information Manual (IFIM)

    Determining if an alternate is required (IFR):

    • All rules apply to the runway in use
    • If an A is in the header section of the approach plate other minimums apply, an A-NA means it cannot be used as an alternate
    • FAR 91.169 can be summed up using the 1-2-3 rule:
      • 1 hour before to 1 hour after ETA
      • No alternates required if:
        • 2000' ceiling
        • 3 mile visibility
      • Alternates required if less than above and the alternate must:
        • 800-2 if non-precision approach
        • 600-2 if precision approach
        • Descent from cruising altitudes under basic VFR if no IAP
        • Exception: minimums published for approaches may differ
    • Must file an alternate if no IAP is published at the arrival airport

    IF Alternate Required:

    • Route: fly to destination IAF and then to alternate IAF at filed cruising altitude
    • Fuel: for one approach, start, taxi, and takeoff
    • Fuel Reserve: 10% of planned requirements or 20 minutes of flight computed at 10,000' MSL maximum endurance operation (whichever is greater)

    IF Alternate NOT Required:

    • Route: fly to destination IAF, plus fuel for one approach
    • Fuel Reserve: 10% of planned requirements or 20 minutes of flight computed at 10,000' MSL maximum endurance operation (whichever is greater)

    • When considering an alternate, consider filing one for any high altitude operations where weather can deteriorate quickly and minimums are not as low as other low altitude airports
    • When computing fuel reserves, include any known or expected delay in your "time en-route"
    • If the route or altitude assigned by ATC renders the planned fuel reserves inadequate, you must inform ATC of the circumstances and if you're unable to obtain a satisfactory altitude or routing, alter the destination accordingly

    Canceling an IFR Flight Plan:

    • “When a flight plan has been activated, the pilot-in-command, upon canceling or completing the flight under the flight plan, must notify an FAA Flight Service Station or ATC facility
    • Upon cancellation:

      • Immediately after canceling an IFR flight plan, a pilot should take the necessary action to change to the appropriate frequency, VFR radar beacon code and VFR altitude
      • ATC separation and information services will be discontinued, including radar services (where applicable) unless VFR radar advisory service (flight following) has been requested, and approved by ATC
        • Pilots must be aware that other procedures may be applicable to a flight that cancels an IFR flight plan within an area where a special program, such as a designated Terminal Radar Service Area (TRSA), Class C airspace, or Class B airspace, has been established
    • An IFR flight plan may be canceled at any time the flight is operating in VFR conditions outside Class A airspace by pilots stating “CANCEL MY IFR FLIGHT PLAN” to the controller or air/ground station with which they are communicating. Immediately after canceling an IFR flight plan, a pilot should take the necessary action to change to the appropriate air/ground frequency, VFR radar beacon code and VFR altitude or flight level
    • If operating on an IFR flight plan to an airport with a functioning control tower, the flight plan is automatically closed upon landing
      • It is a good idea to confirm anyway
    • If operating on an IFR flight plan to an airport where there is no functioning control tower, the pilot must initiate cancellation of the IFR flight plan. This can be done after landing if there is a functioning FSS or other means of direct communications with ATC. In the event there is no FSS and/or air/ground communications with ATC is not possible below a certain altitude, the pilot should, weather conditions permitting, cancel the IFR flight plan while still airborne and able to communicate with ATC by radio. This will not only save the time and expense of canceling the flight plan by telephone but will quickly release the airspace for use by other aircraft
    • If there is no tower the flight plan remains open until you close it, expedite the process to clear that airspace for other aircraft
    • A flight plan may be canceled at any time when in VFR conditions outside of class A
      • "[Callsign] is canceling my IFR flight plan"
    • Immediately after canceling an IFR flight plan, a pilot should take the necessary action to change to the appropriate frequency, VFR radar beacon code, and altitude
    • The pilot must, at this point, request VFR radar advisory service if desired, as it will not be provided otherwise
    • If a DVFR flight plan requirement exists, the pilot is responsible for filing this flight plan to replace the canceled IFR flight plan
      • If a subsequent IFR operation becomes necessary, a new IFR flight plan must be filed and an ATC clearance obtained before operating in IFR conditions

    Change in Proposed Departure Time:

    • To prevent computer saturation in the en route environment, parameters have been established to delete proposed departure flight plans which have not been activated
      • Most ARTCCs have this parameter set so as to delete these flight plans a minimum of 1 hour after the proposed departure time
      • To ensure that a flight plan remains active, pilots whose actual departure time will be delayed 1 hour or more beyond their filed departure time, are requested to notify ATC of their departure time
    • Due to traffic saturation, control personnel frequently will be unable to accept these revisions via radio. It is recommended that you forward these revisions to the nearest FSS

    Change in Flight Plan:

    • In addition to altitude or flight level, destination and/or route changes, increasing or decreasing the speed of an aircraft constitutes a change in a flight plan. Therefore, at any time the average true airspeed at cruising altitude between reporting points varies or is expected to vary from that given in the flight plan by plus or minus 5 percent, or 10 knots, whichever is greater, ATC should be advised

    Closing The Flight Plan:

    • VFR Flight Plans:

      • A pilot is responsible for ensuring the VFR/DVFR flight plan is closed
      • Close the flight plan with the nearest FSS, or if not available, any ATC can relay your cancellation to an FSS
      • Towers do not normally close VFR/DVFR flight plans because they don't know if a particular aircraft is on a flight plan or not
      • If you fail to report or cancel your flight plan within 30 minutes after your ETA, SAR procedures begin
    • IFR Flight Plans:

      • Close IFR flight plans with tower, approach control, or ARTCC, or if unable, with FSS
      • When landing at an airport with a functioning control tower, IFR flight plans are automatically canceled
    • See 14 CFR Section 91.153 and 14 CFR Section 91.169 for more

    IFR Operations to High Altitude Destinations:

    • Pilots planning IFR flights to airports located in mountainous terrain are cautioned to consider the necessity for an alternate airport even when the forecast weather conditions would technically relieve them from the requirement to file one
      • See 14 CFR Section 91.167, and AIM, Paragraph 4−1−19, Tower En Route Control (TEC) for more
    • The FAA has identified three possible situations where the failure to plan for an alternate airport when flying IFR to such a destination airport could result in a critical situation if the weather is less than forecast and sufficient fuel is not available to proceed to a suitable airport
      • An IFR flight to an airport where the Minimum Descent Altitudes (MDAs) or landing visibility minimums for all instrument approaches are higher than the forecast weather minimums specified in 14 CFR Section 91.167(b). For example, there are 3 high altitude airports in the U.S. with approved instrument approach procedures where all of the MDAs are greater than 2,000 feet and/or the landing visibility minimums are greater than 3 miles (Bishop, California; South Lake Tahoe, California; and Aspen−Pitkin Co./Sardy Field, Colorado). In the case of these airports, it is possible for a pilot to elect, on the basis of forecasts, not to carry sufficient fuel to get to an alternate when the ceiling and/or visibility is actually lower than that necessary to complete the approach
      • A small number of other airports in mountainous terrain have MDAs which are slightly (100 to 300 feet) below 2,000 feet AGL. In situations where there is an option as to whether to plan for an alternate, pilots should bear in mind that just a slight worsening of the weather conditions from those forecast could place the airport below the published IFR landing minimums
      • An IFR flight to an airport which requires special equipment; i.e., DME, glide slope, etc., in order to make the available approaches to the lowest minimums. Pilots should be aware that all other minimums on the approach charts may require weather conditions better than those specified in 14 CFR Section 91.167(b). An inflight equipment malfunction could result in the inability to comply with the published approach procedures or, again, in the position of having the airport below the published IFR landing minimums for all remaining instrument approach alternatives

    Conclusion:

    • To obtain maximum benefits from the flight plan program, flight plans should be filed directly with the nearest FSS
      • For your convenience, FSSs provide aeronautical and meteorological briefings while accepting flight plans. Radio may be used to file if no other means are available
      • Some states operate aeronautical communications facilities which will accept and forward flight plans to the FSS for further handling
    • When a "stopover" flight is anticipated, it is recommended that a separate flight plan be filed for each "leg" when the stop is expected to be more than 1 hour duration
    • For more information see www.1800wxbrief.com

    References: