How to fill in VFR flight plans
With the removal of barriers in the European Community,
it is now convenient for General Aviation pilots to fly both from their
local airfield/airport, as well as their farm strip, direct to the
Continent. However, although British Customs & Excise and Immigration
have simplified their systems, the French Authorities have not and it is
still necessary to land at a French airport with Customs and Immigration
facilities in order to enter France. It is not this leaflet’s intention
to describe the relaxed procedures operating for Customs here in the UK
– readers are advised to contact their local Customs and Excise Office
to discuss their own individual arrangements.
a VFR FPLs must
be filed for the following flights: • A flight to or from the United
Kingdom which will cross the United Kingdom FIR boundary. • A flight
within Class D control zones/control areas. However, this requirement
may be satisfied by passing flight details by Radio Telephony (RT). • A
flight within the Scottish and London Upper Flight Information Regions,
(but since this will be above Flight Level 245, it seems unlikely that
many GA pilots will be concerned with this situation).
requirements exist for flights where an aircraft’s maximum take-off
weight exceeds 5700 kg (12 500 lbs).
c In addition,
it is advisable to file a VFR FPL if the flight involves flying
over the sea, more than 10 nm from the UK coastline or flying over
sparsely populated areas where Search and Rescue operations might be
difficult. In addition, a VFR FPL may be filed for any flight at
the pilot’s discretion.
d The Prevention of
Terrorism Order applies to flights between the mainland UK and the
Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel
e Some European Countries do
not accept aircraft which only have a Permit to Fly, (homebuilt
aircraft/microlights etc). It is the responsibility of the pilot/
operator to obtain permission beforehand from the State concerned.
f In addition, some – if not
all of the following documents may be required to be carried in the
aircraft: Tech. Log; Certificates of Registration, Airworthiness,
Maintenance Release; Radio Licence; Interception Procedures; Load Sheet;
Pilot’s Licence; Insurance Certificates and your passport.
3 departures from airports
that the departure and destination aerodromes are both major airports,
then the operation of the FPL is as follows. You complete the FPL at the
Air Traffic Service Unit (ATSU) of your departure aerodrome and they
will file it into the system on your behalf. The effect of this filing
will be to inform your destination airfield, together with any of your
alternates, that the flight is going to take place.
b Once you
get airborne, the ATSU will then file a ‘departure’ message and this
will activate the FPL. Thus the destination airfield, knowing your
estimated time en-route from the filed FPL, and now knowing your
departure time, will have an estimated time of arrival (ETA) at their
c Once you arrive, they will
‘close’ the FPL on your behalf, and that marks the end of the operation.
If, however, you do not arrive within 30 minutes of your ETA,
then they will institute overdue action and subsequently, Search and
Rescue operations may commence. It is therefore essential that if you
land at any airfield other than your destination, you MUST inform
your original destination of this fact, otherwise they will institute
overdue and Search and Rescue action, the cost of which may be passed
d This has covered the ideal
situation where others handle it for you.
4 departures from strips ETC
a What if the aerodrome that you
operate from is: • an airfield or airport which does have an ATSU, but
your operations are outside their normal hours, or • an airfield without
an ATSU, or • a private strip. The responsibility for filing,
activating and closing a FPL now rests with the pilot.
b At this state, it is important
to understand the concept of the ‘parent ATSUs’. The UK is divided into
a total of four areas, each of which has a parent ATSU and the map
overleaf shows their areas of responsibility and the table beneath shows
the telephone and fax numbers of the Flight Briefing Unit that you
should telephone or fax when flight planning.
c To file a FPL, telephone
or fax the Flight Briefing Unit at least 60 minutes before the intended
flight. A fax is cheaper than a telephone call. Prior to departure,
arrange for some responsible person on the ground to telephone
the Flight Briefing Unit as soon as you are airborne in order to pass a
departure time. This has now activated the FPL. This is a very simple
procedure and a suitable responsible person could be your spouse,
relative, friend, fellow pilot or secretary. Passing an airborne time
over the RT could lead to a delay if the controller is busy. If it is
not possible to file a FPL on the ground, it can be filed while airborne
with any ATSU, but normally with the FIR controller responsible for the
area in which the aircraft is flying. In such cases the message should
begin with the words ‘I wish to file an airborne flight plan’. Once
again, when this method of filing is used, delays can occur due to
areas of responsibility of associated AFTN & ATSUS
Flight Briefing Unit Telephone Number Fax Number
Scottish ATCC – EGPXYFYX 01292 692679 01292
Manchester – EGCCZQZX 0161 499 5502/5500 0161 499
London/Heathrow – EGLLZPZX 020 8750 2615 or 2616
020 8750 2617 or 2618
returning to the UK
Prior to departure for the return flight to an airfield without an ATSU
(when closed for instance) or to a private strip, pilots are responsible
for informing a responsible person at their destination of the
estimated time of arrival. The responsible person is required to
notify the parent ATSU if the aircraft fails to arrive within 30 minutes
of the ETA. This action will then trigger the parent ATSU into alerting,
overdue and Search and Rescue action. Thus it becomes clear that this
have the telephone numbers of the appropriate parent ATSU.
If the parent ATSU fails to hear anything, it will assume that the
flight landed safely i.e. NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS and no further action is
required. If the responsible person does inform the parent ATSU
of your non-arrival, then the parent ATSU will go back to the filed FPL
to check departure times, routings and so on as part of the Search and
b It can be seen that the
responsible person is crucial to this operation, after all, if no
one is expecting you, no one will be looking for you if you do not
arrive. If, in an extreme case, the pilot fails to find a responsible
person at his destination, then he may contact his parent ATSU prior
to departure and request then to act in the capacity of the
responsible person. Should the pilot follow this course of action,
he will be required to contact the parent ATSU within 30 minutes of
landing at his destination or diversion airfield, to confirm his
arrival. Failure to do this, will automatically result in the parent
ATSU initiating alerting action.
6 completion of the flight plan
(Note that this is an abbreviated explanation intending
to cover simple VFR flights. Full details are obtainable from CAP 694
(The UK Flight Plan Guide). An ICAO poster on completing Flight Plans is
available from Westward documedia at Cheltenham.
Enter all details in block capitals. Leave the top part
of the form blank, ie start at item 7.
ITEM 7 aircraft identification
INSERT aircraft registration when the
radiotelephony call sign will be the aircraft registration (OMIT THE
ITEM 8 flight rules
TYPE OF FLIGHT
INSERT V – VFR to denote the
category of flight rules (other letters apply if you plan to fly under
IFR) INSERT G – General Aviation to denote the type of flight
ITEM 9 number
INSERT The NUMBER of aircraft if more
type of aircraft
INSERT aircraft type designator or ZZZZ if no designator
or formation flight comprising more than one type (see item 18 TYP)
Note: Aircraft Type Designators for most types are shown
WAKE TURBULENCE CAT
INSERT L – Light (17 000 kg or less)
ITEM 10 equipment
INSERT Preceding the oblique stroke one letter as
N – if no COM NAV Approach aid equipment for the
route to be flown is carried, or the equipment is unserviceable. OR S
– if standard COM NAV Approach aid equipment for the route to be
flown is carried and serviceable. (Standard equipment is considered to
be VHF RTF, ADF, VOR and ILS unless another combination is prescribed by
the appropriate ATS Authority.)
Individual letters apply to each item of navigation
equipment. THEN following the oblique stroke INSERT one of the following
to describe the serviceable SSR equipment carried
N – nil
A – Transponder Mode A 4096 Codes
C – Transponder Mode C 4096 Codes
and Mode C
ITEM 13 departure aerodrome
INSERT location indicator of the departure aerodrome or
ZZZZ if no ICAO location indicator assigned (see item 18 – DEP).
INSERT estimated off-block time in Universal
Co-ordinated Time (UTC). Note: Location Indicators are given in UK AIP
and most flight guides.
ITEM 15 cruising speed
INSERT CRUISING TRUE AIR SPEED for initial or whole
cruise as follows:
N (knots) followed by 4 digits (e.g. N0125) (K =
kilometres per hour)
Note: there is no provision for statute mph)
INSERT CRUISING LEVEL for initial or whole cruise as
A – Altitude in hundreds of feet (use 3 digits eg
F – Flight Level (use 3 digits eg F055). OR VFR
– for uncontrolled VFR flights.
INSERT the ROUTE to be flown as follows: for flights OFF
designated routes, list points normally not more than 30 minutes flying
time apart and enter DCT (DIRECT) between successive points. Points may
be VORs, VRPs, land features or
ITEM 16 destination aerodrome
INSERT LOCATION INDICATOR of the designation aerodrome
or ZZZZ if no assigned indicator (see item 18 – DEST)
INSERT TOTAL ESTIMATED ELAPSED TIME
(EET) time en route as a four figure group expressed in
hours and minutes.
INSERT LOCATION INDICATOR(S) of not more than two
alternate aerodromes or ZZZZ if no assigned indicator(s) (see item 18 –
INSERT 0 (zero) if no other information OR any other
necessary information in the preferred sequence shown hereunder, in the
form of the appropriate indicator followed by an oblique stroke and the
information to be recorded
EET/ – Significant points or FIR boundary
designators and accumulated Estimated Elapsed TImes to such points or
FIR boundaries, when so prescribed on the basis of regional air
navigation agreements or by ATS authority (eg EET/EGTT0020 LFF0105 or
EET/EINN0204) TYP/ – TYPe(s) of aircraft, preceded by the
number(s) of aircraft in a formation flight, if ZZZZ is used in item 9.
DEP/ – Name of DEParture aerodrome if ZZZZ is
inserted in item 13.
DEST/ – Name of DESTination aerodrome, if ZZZZ is
inserted in item 16.
ALTN/ – Name of ALTerNate aerodrome(s) if ZZZZ is
inserted in item 16.
RMK/ – any additional information.
ITEM 19 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION (NOT TO BE TRANSMITTED IN FPL MESSAGES)
– used a four-figure
group to express fuel endurance.
PERSONS ON BOARD – includes passengers and crew, use
TBN if number not known at time of filing.
EMERGENCY RADIO – cross out equipment not available.
SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT – cross out equipment not
available including S if none carried.
JACKETS – same as above and cross out J if no
DINGHIES – cross out both D and C if no dinghies
REMARKS – enter other remarks regarding survival
equipment or cross out N if no remarks.
FILED BY – insert name of the unit, agency or person
filing the flight plan.
7 SOME GENERAL TIPS FOR VFR FLIGHT
a The procedures as outlined
above will work when filing FPLs over inhospitable areas or mountainous
terrain in the UK. In this case, it can be seen that you will need a
at both your departure and
destination airfield and both of those will need to have the telephone
number of the parent ATSUs in both your departure area and your
destination area if they are different.
b To make the process of
filing a FPL over the telephone as speedy as possible, have a copy of
your FPL, ready filled in, so that you can pass the information quickly
in the correct order.
c Many pilots are now filing
their FPLs by fax. In such circumstances, it is suggested that you
include a contact telephone number in the remarks section, or
phone the office direct to confirm that
the plan has been received.
A test showed that it took
well over a minute to fax the top copy of the FPL due to the shaded
area, while the nonshaded COM copy took under 15 seconds. Either copy is
acceptable for this purpose.
e If your FPL is for a
future date, make sure that the date is entered clearly in the remarks
section, item 18 (eg RMK/DATE OF FLIGHT 12 APRIL).
f It is essential that ATC
is advised of cancellations, delays over 30 minutes and changes to FPL
details. To prevent a double entry into the computer which would lead to
confusion, always cancel the first FPL and resubmit.
g When departing from
smaller airfields, do not assume that the Air Ground Operator or FISO
will automatically telephone a departure time to the parent ATSU on your
behalf, check with them or, once again, find a
to do this for you.
h All in all, the procedure
is intended to simplify VFR FPLs and to move the onus for safe operation
on to pilots.