Filing a Flight Plan is a requirement whenever your intended flight crosses an international boundary and is also good practice if you are flying over hazardous terrain such as in the mountains.
The stages in filing a flight plan are as follows:
Open the Plan by sending it to the relevant centre in the country concerned. This can be done electronically for free though AFPEX, RocketRoute or AeroPlus and similar services, by fax, by telephone, on your behalf by an airfield, or through a proprietary service as part of your flight route planning such as SkyDemon.
Activate the Flight Plan. This is usually done in the air on departure, either through the Tower of the airfield, if there is one, or by radio to an ATC service such as London Information 124.6, if in the UK, or one of the French services such as Lille Information and Paris information, or a responsible person on the ground can open it once you have taken off by telephoning 0845 601 0483 or 01489 612792.
Close the flight plan on arrival. This can be done by asking the tower as you taxi in or by telephone to an ATC unit. A useful number when in France to close your flight plan is +33 1 56 310 310, option 2 (English), option 2 (Close a flight plan). It is most important to close a flight plan in Europe as failure to do so could result in Search and Rescue services being activated with the probability of a large bill. You do not however need to close a flight plan when returning to the UK as closure is assumed if there is no report of your being overdue.
The UK National Air Traffic Services provide the AFPEX service for online flight planning service although it only operates on PC's and is relatively complex to use. Studying of the AFPEX Guide and practicing beforehand is recommended!
RocketRoute is a simpler method to create and submit your flight plan. The free basic service used to allow you to create and open your flight plan through either their website or through using their free Android and iOS apps, you now unfortunately have to take out a paid subscription for using their service.
AeroPlus have a similar electronic service for creating and submitting flight plans. They too have paid or free services however their free service only allows submission through the app (i.e. website is a paid-for service) and the AeroPlus ICAO Flightplan app is currently for iOS only.
Many members of the WFAeC use SkyDemon to create and submit their flight plans as it's as simple as a tick-box when planning a route that crosses an international boundary.
The requirements for flight plans in the UK are set out in the CAA's publication CAP694. You must file your flight plan at least 60 minutes prior to activation time, but you can file up to 120 hours in advance - just remember to get the date right! Remember that all flight plan times are entered in UTC. If you are delayed in departing by more than 60 minutes beyond your scheduled time then you must send in notification of a 'delay' to your flight plan - this can be done via SkyDemon, RocketRoute or your departure airfield on AFPEX.
Flight Plans can also be filed by fax, or even in the air, using the information set out in the standard form which predates the online services. Or if you are at an airfield with an ATC function they used to be able to file the plan for you but recent increases in CAA fees for this service has lead to a number of airfields withdrawing the facility. One such airfield who has in the past provided the service is Lashenden Headcorn from where many pilots new to crossing the Channel start their international journey. In extremis Headcorn say they will still assist with filing a fligt plan but pilots are advised if possible to file via one of the alternative methods.
A copy of the paper flight plan form can be found on the NATS website.
Return to the FLIGHT PLANNING section.