A flight plan is a document that is usually filed by either a flight dispatcher or the pilot. A flight plan is usually created prior to departure and contains important information such as departure, arrival, estimated journey time, pilot information, type of flight, number of people on board, and information about the aircraft.
In most countries across the world, flight plans are a legal requirement under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) although they are usually optional if the pilot is flying VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and not going to be crossing over any international borders over the course of the flight journey.
Regardless, though a pilot might be able to fly without a flight plan under some circumstances, they are still highly recommended for safety reasons. This is because if the pilot is flying in bad weather, or areas that are particularly inhospitable, it means that rescuers will be able to refer to the flight plan, which will alert them as to where the aircraft might be in the event of an emergency.
What happens if you do not follow a flight plan?
Sometimes, a pilot may decide to change the predetermined flight path while airborne, and this can be down to a number of factors from bad weather, even to low fuel.
In addition to that, airline dispatches often work closely with the pilot to not only help analyze the weather and wind conditions between the start and endpoints of the flight but to also help determine the most economic route.
Though this is usually done while creating the flight plan, these sorts of situations can occur mid-flight, as external factors (like the weather) are never set in stone and always changing.
So, in other words, if you find yourself on a flight and hear over the speakers that your pilot has had to detour or change the flight plan in some way, there will almost always be no cause for panic, as they will have made a calculated and well-informed decision to do so.
This is because, as we mentioned above, when a pilot chooses to stop following a flight plan, they will have carefully made the decision to do while in communication with Air Traffic Control and other personnel, such as the flight dispatcher.
In addition to this, pilots may also need to change the flight plan due to something known as ‘Holding’, which is when bad weather or congestion occurs at an airport.
Instead of being able to land the plane as per the flight plan, the pilot has to re-route slightly and circle in a designated pattern near the airport’s control tower. Usually, if a flight dispatcher or pilot thinks that there is a chance that this may occur, the estimated holding time and fuel requirements will be specified in the flight plan before departure.
However, unforeseen circumstances can sometimes mean that the pilot has to enter the holding period without it being accounted for in the flight plan.
Can you fly without a flight plan?
Yes, it is possible to fly an aircraft without a flight plan. Though it is a legal requirement in many countries (including the USA) that the pilot or a flight dispatcher makes sure to file a flight plan report prior to departure, this is only ever the case for commercial and IFR flights.
In contrast, a flight plan is usually not a requirement for VFR flights, though they may be made a requirement if the pilot plans on crossing over any international borders.
A flight plan may also be required (on both IFR and VFR flights) if the pilot is going to be flying over potentially dangerous areas such as the ocean, as the flight plan will be able to alert rescuers as to where the aircraft is.
In addition, a flight plan may also be a requirement in the United States and Canada if the aircraft plans on crossing the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone). In this instance, all IFR will need to file a standard flight plan, though VFR flights will need to create a special type of flight plan known as a Defense VFR.
How do I plan a flight during FSX?
Flight Simulator X (or FSX) is an incredibly useful tool that allows budding and experienced pilots to hone their skills while being in the comfort of their own home or training center.
FSX is an extremely realistic flight simulator that many users report feels almost identical to the real thing, so it’s a great exercise to help ensure that you are able to stay in control while up in the sky.
To get you started and ready to go, you’ll first need to plan the flight before you depart. Follow these steps below to make sure that you take off without a hitch:
- Click on the Free Flight button on the left side of the menu on the FSX home screen.
- After pressing on Free Flight you will see Flight Planner appear, press on this and it will bring up a new section.
- Press on Create, press on Find Route, and then follow the steps to determine your route and departure.
- If you want to switch up the route or make it more difficult, select Add Waypoint to create additional routes along the way.
- With the Up and Down keys, you can then adjust the altitude for different points across the route.
- When you are ready to begin the flight, select Fly Now, and the simulation will begin!
What does a flight planner do?
A flight planner helps to create predetermined routes for pilots to follow.
They will usually do this at the same time that the flight plan is being filed, and take a variety of factors into consideration (such as weather and potential congestion) to help create the safest and most economical route for the airline.