Pilot Flight Planning
According to the FAA and other sources, the US will shift to using the ICAO International Flight Plan as early as February 2017. So it's probably a good idea for pilots to familiarize with the new form now, warns Dave Higdon...
The Federal Aviation Authority, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and National Business Aviation Association all offer guidance on the use of the ICAO International Flight Plan, and where to find it. Meanwhile, the delay until February is to give FAA and its vendors and Automated Flight Plan-Filing services extra time to ensure compatibility with their systems – and in turn, more time for aviators to get used to the new form. Rest assured - no pilot must face this change alone.
Readily Available, Already
Between the associations and the FAA, there's already plenty of help for pilots ready to begin the transition. Information on how to use the ICAO Flight Plan form previously became available on the Flight Service Website.
And additional updated guidance will appear later in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), according to Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic.
The goal of FAA’s outreach is to simplify the transition by clarifying differences between the international flight plan form and the domestic flight plan form to be eliminated, thus easing the concern of pilots as they approach the switch-over.
“FAA flight plan filing data shows pilots who use flight service, whether online or via the telephone, are primarily using the domestic format for IFR and VFR flights,” Duke said. “A concern was that some pilots who would have filed a VFR flight plan with the domestic format may view the international flight plan as complicated, and not file. The new AIM guidance was designed to simplify all fields of the form, and to target VFR pilots’ questions.”
The FAA also offers help for commercial operators in the form of an ‘Information for Operators’ (InFO 16015), issued back in September.
Familiar Turf for International Flyers
Those operators who already fly internationally will find some of the FAA's work useful in terms of offering a simplified ICAO-standard form for domestic operations – and the familiar ICAO-standard form for those trans-border flights.
But for the operators who never – or rarely – cross an international border, the new form and its information requirements and codes will be a bit of a change.
And that's a reminder that change is, as the cliché goes, the only constant. Thus it is with the flight-planning form we've been using for years.
There will be some old dogs needing to learn some new tricks to stay on par in the coming year. Start learning today! But be encouraged. Years of adapting to new avionics technologies, and past changes in airspace designations and working around TFRs offer proof positive that we can all adapt!