Flight Plan: How It Works and How to File One

Flight Plan: How It Works and How to File One

Once you fly away from your local airport, any number of accidents can happen. As a pilot, you should take all necessary safety precautions, no matter the size of your aircraft. One of those precautions is to fill out and file a flight plan.

Keep reading to learn about the different types of flight plans and how to submit one.

Why File a VFR Flight Plan?

There are two main types of flight plans that a pilot may file: an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and a VFR (visual flight rules). IFR flights may fly in poor weather conditions or through clouds. VFR flights must operate in clear visual conditions.

You must file an IFR flight plan to fly in those conditions, while a VFR plan is often optional. However, a VFR flight plan serves an important purpose. It allows a search and rescue team to find you in case of a plane crash.

For that reason, it’s essential to fill out these forms with enough detail to help emergency workers.

What Information Is Needed?

Once you see the flight plan template, the form is easy to follow. You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Aircraft type and equipment
  • Five-digit aircraft ID
  • Flight rule
  • Departure airport
  • Estimated departure time
  • Destination airport
  • True airspeed
  • Cruising altitude

For equipment, you’ll need to report items like surveillance, radio communication, and navigation tools. All of these items have different codes. Being thorough with this information will help rescue workers identify your plane.

You’ll also need to provide a detailed traffic pattern. While you don’t have to cover every single waypoint, you want to give a rescue team enough information to find you. Try not to go off the course you reported.

The estimated time is important as well. Some platforms will do this calculation for you based on cruise altitude and wind speeds. Finally, you’ll need to add information such as your aircraft’s color, the people on board, and the pilot contact information.

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How to File the Flight Plan

The way you file your flight plan depends on your preferences and your location. You can file your flight plan directly with the Federal Aviation Association by filling out the appropriate form. Then, you can either:

  • Submit the plan online
  • Call a flight services specialist at 1-800-WX-BRIEF
  • Send a hardcopy to your preferred service station or Air Traffic Control Tower

The form for a VFR flight plan is the FAA Form 7233-1. If you have a flight with a long stopover, it’s best practice to file separate flight plans for each leg of the journey. If you leave an hour or later after your estimated departure time, you’ll need to file a new plan.

After filing, you still need to activate the flight plan. Upon departure, the flight service station or airport tower will report the accurate time.

Preventing Accidents

The flight plan allows a team to find you in case of a plane crash. However, before you depart, you need to be sure you have enough fuel and comply with air traffic control regulations.

Want to know more about flying? Check out the rest of our travel section.