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    How To File A Flight Plan Step By Step?

    triangle | By Just Aviation Team

    Creating a flight plan is a critical step in ensuring a safe journey. It outlines your intended route, how to file a flight plan, and the steps involved, providing vital information to air traffic services. By creating a flight plan, you communicate essential details like departure, destination, and expected time en route. This process is not just a formality; it’s a safeguard. Should an unexpected event occur, your flight plan is the key to prompt search and rescue operations. Always remember, a well-prepared pilot follows the file a flight plan steps meticulously for every flight.

    What is a Flight Plan?

    A flight plan is indeed a detailed document that includes a variety of information critical to the safety and efficiency of the flight. In addition to the pilot’s name, aircraft type, departure and arrival points, estimated time en route, and alternate airports in case of an emergency, a flight plan also typically includes:

    • Aircraft registration and communication equipment on board.
    • Route of flight, including any airways or fixes to be used.
    • Cruising altitude or flight level.
    • Fuel on board and fuel consumption rate, to calculate the range of the aircraft.
    • Number of passengers on board, if any.
    • Emergency equipment available on the aircraft.
    • Pilot’s contact information and license number.

    What is an IFR Flight Plan?

    An IFR Flight Plan is required for flights under Instrument Flight Rules, typically when visibility is poor. It includes intricate details like the aircraft’s intended route, altitude, and expected time of arrival at each waypoint. An IFR Flight Plan could specify required navigation performance (RNP) levels, such as RNP-1, which means the aircraft must be capable of flying within 1 nautical mile of the centerline 95% of the flight time.

    What is a VFR Flight Plan?

    A VFR Flight Plan is less complex than an IFR plan and is used when flying in clear conditions with visual reference to the ground. It includes the route, departure time, and estimated arrival time. For example, it might list visual checkpoints along the route and any relevant airspace restrictions. A VFR Flight Plan might list visual checkpoints such as “Depart KSMO, direct to Ventura VOR (VTU), follow coastline northbound, direct to Santa Barbara Airport (KSBA).” This indicates a reliance on visual navigation using prominent landmarks.

    What is a Composite Flight Plan?

    A Composite Flight Plan is used when a flight will switch between VFR and IFR during the journey. It combines elements of both VFR and IFR plans, specifying the points at which the flight rules will change. For example, it may detail an IFR departure followed by a VFR cruise segment before returning to IFR for the approach.

    What is a Defense VFR Flight Plan?

    A Defense Visual Flight Rules (DVFR) Flight Plan is a type of flight plan that must be filed for operations within an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). An ADIZ is a region of airspace over land or water in which the ready identification, location, and control of aircraft are required in the interest of national security, extending beyond a country’s territory to allow more time to respond to potentially hostile aircraft. The DVFR plan is similar to a standard Visual Flight Rules (VFR) plan but necessitates the pilot to notify Air Traffic Control (ATC) before deviating from the plan while inside an ADIZ. This plan is particularly essential for flights entering or operating within an ADIZ, such as a flight from Canada to the U.S. It includes specific details like the aircraft’s transponder code and the estimated time of ADIZ penetration, ensuring that air traffic and defense authorities can identify and control the aircraft, thereby maintaining national security.

    What is an International Flight Plan?

    An International Flight Plan is necessary for flights crossing international borders. It adheres to the ICAO format and includes detailed information about the route, altitudes, and times for entering and exiting each country’s airspace.

    Is Filing a VFR Flight Plan Necessary for Cross-Country Flights?

    For both scheduled and non-scheduled business flights, filing a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flight plan for cross-country flights is not a regulatory requirement, but it is highly recommended for safety reasons. The primary purpose of a VFR flight plan is to provide a means for search and rescue (SAR) to locate an aircraft in case of an emergency. For example, a VFR flight plan would typically include the aircraft’s departure point, destination, route, estimated time en route (ETE), and information about the pilot and passengers.


    This information is crucial for SAR operations if the aircraft becomes overdue or is reported missing. While not mandatory, the benefits of filing a VFR flight plan include increased safety and the facilitation of efficient use of airspace. It is particularly important when flying through remote areas or over water, where the likelihood of visual detection by others is reduced. In controlled airspace, such as Class B or C, or when entering an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), specific requirements may necessitate filing a flight plan.

    How To File A Flight Plan?

    These file a flight plan steps and methods provide a comprehensive approach to creating a flight plan, ensuring compliance with aviation regulations and promoting safe flight operations. Remember to always verify the successful submission of your flight plan and keep a copy for your records:

    1. Preparation

    Begin by gathering all necessary information about the flight, including aircraft details, pilot credentials, route, altitudes, waypoints, and emergency procedures:


    Aircraft Details

    • Aircraft Identification: Use the registration number of the aircraft.
    • Type: Specify the type of aircraft.
    • Equipment Codes: Indicate the onboard equipment using the appropriate codes.


    Flight Details

    • Departure Point: The ICAO code of the departure airport.
    • Route of Flight: Include waypoints and airways you plan to use.
    • Destination: The ICAO code of the destination airport.
    • Estimated Time En Route (ETE): The expected duration of the flight.


    Pilot Information

    • Name: Full name of the pilot in command.
    • Contact Information: A phone number or other contact details.
    • Credentials: License number and type.


    Additional Information

    • Number of Passengers: Total number of people on board.
    • Fuel on Board: Amount of fuel in hours and minutes.
    • Emergency Equipment: Specify the type of emergency equipment available on board.
    • Briefing Type: Request a standard, abbreviated, or outlook briefing.
    • Weather Briefing: Obtain a weather briefing for your route.

    2. Form Selection

    Choose the appropriate flight plan form based on the type of flight (domestic, international, IFR, VFR, etc.). For international flights, use the ICAO flight plan form.

    3. Filling Out the Form

    Enter detailed information in each section of the form, including:

    • Item 7: Aircraft identification and equipment.
    • Item 8: Flight rules and type of flight.
    • Item 9: Number and type of aircraft and wake turbulence category.
    • Item 13: Departure aerodrome and time.
    • Item 15: Route, including waypoints, airways, and changes in flight rules.
    • Item 16: Destination aerodrome, total estimated elapsed time, and alternate aerodrome(s).
    • Item 18: Other information, such as STS/ for special handling, PBN/ for performance-based navigation requirements, and any other necessary codes.

    4. Choosing Your Filing Method

    Submit the completed flight plan to the appropriate air traffic service unit. This can be done via electronic means (online platforms or apps), by telephone, or in person at a flight service station:

    • Electronic Filing: Online platforms tools have user-friendly interfaces for creating a flight plan details and submitting them electronically.
    • Telephone Filing: Calling the Flight Service Station (FSS) via their toll-free number, 1-800-WX-BRIEF, or using radio frequencies designated for FSS communication to file the flight plan verbally. This method is useful when electronic means are not available or preferred. When calling, state your aircraft identification, location, and the nature of your request (e.g., “Bridgeport Radio, Cessna 12345, 5 northeast of Hampton VOR, with a request to file a flight plan.”).
    • In-Person Filing: Visiting a local FSS to file the flight plan directly. This method allows for face-to-face interaction and immediate assistance with any questions or concerns.
    • After Departure Filing: In certain circumstances, you can file or activate your flight plan via radio communication with the nearest FSS after departure.

    5. Confirmation

    Ensure that the flight plan has been received and processed by the air traffic service unit. Obtain a confirmation number if available.


    1. How do I file a flight plan if I’m flying both VFR and IFR segments?

    When a flight includes both VFR and IFR segments, a composite flight plan is used. For example, you might file a VFR flight plan for the initial portion of your flight and then switch to an IFR flight plan as you enter controlled airspace or if weather conditions deteriorate. This requires coordination with ATC to ensure a smooth transition between flight rules, these are start with:


    • Filing the Plan: Pilots must file two separate flight plans for the VFR and IFR portions of their flight. The VFR flight plan is typically filed with a Flight Service Station or equivalent flight plan filing service, while the IFR flight plan is filed with Air Traffic Control (ATC).
    • Specifying Transition Points: In the flight plan, pilots need to specify the point or points where the change from VFR to IFR rules (or vice versa) is planned.
    • Coordination with ATC: The IFR portion of the plan will be routed to ATC, and the VFR portion will be routed to a Flight Service for Search and Rescue services. It’s essential to coordinate with ATC to ensure a smooth transition between flight rules.
    • Activation and Closure: Pilots need to activate and close their VFR portion and obtain a clearance for the IFR portion.
    • Timing: The VFR flight plan proposals are normally retained for two hours following the proposed time of departure unless the actual departure time or a revised proposed departure time is received.


    1. Is it necessary to file a flight plan for every flight?

    Filing a flight plan is mandatory in various countries, especially for international flights and flights that require crossing borders. Here are some instances where a flight plan is mandatory:

    • United States: For all IFR flights, Defense VFR flights in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), and certain TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions).
    • International Flights: The international flight plan format (FAA Form 7233-4) is mandatory for any flight that will depart U.S. domestic airspace.
    • Canada: Pilots must file and activate a flight plan for all flights crossing the U.S.–Canada border, including flights with no landing (FAR 91.707).
    • China: Flight plans are required for all flights, and there are specific altitude level restrictions and approved airways that must be used.
    • EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM): For every flight in European skies, pilots intending to depart from, arrive at, or fly over one of the countries part of the operational area of the NM must submit a flight plan to the operations center (NMOC).


    It’s important to note that these are just examples, and requirements can vary depending on the airspace and the country. Just Aviation is advised to consult the aviation authorities of the respective countries or regions they plan to fly in for the most accurate and up-to-date information.


    1. What happens if I need to change my flight plan after filing?

    If you need to change your flight plan after filing, you must notify ATC or the nearest Flight Service Station as soon as possible. It’s crucial to communicate any changes, such as encountering unexpected weather or needing to divert, to ensure that your flight plan reflects your new route or destination. Additionally, if you have an overflight permit, especially when utilizing a border overflight exemption, you must update the remarks section of your ICAO flight plan accordingly. Remember to promptly report any changes to aircraft, pilots, or crewmembers to Customs, and update the APIS manifest with any alterations to ensure compliance with permit requirements.


    1. What is the difference between IFR and VFR flight plans?

    IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight plans are required when flying in conditions where pilots cannot rely solely on visual cues and must use instrument navigation. For example, an IFR flight plan includes specific waypoints, altitudes, and air traffic control (ATC) clearances. VFR (Visual Flight Rules) flight plans are used when pilots can navigate visually; they are recommended for safety but not always required, such as when flying cross-country in clear weather.


    Choose Just Aviation for a seamless journey, where how to file a flight plan is just the beginning. Our expertise in file a flight plan steps ensures safety and precision in every operation. Experience the ease of creating a flight plan with our dedicated team, guiding you through every phase. With Just Aviation, file a flight plan with confidence, knowing that every detail is crafted for your convenience and security. Fly above the rest, fly Just Aviation.


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