OH, NO! ANOTHER NEW FORM TO FILL OUT
THE ICAO FLIGHT PLAN
Yes, it is true. Starting in June, 2017 pilots will be required to use a new Flight Plan. Actually we were to begin using it in January, but that got extended. The new Flight Plan is in the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) format, but don’t worry; it still has an FAA form number: FAA Form 7233-4. You can find out all about it in the AIM Section 1 Paragraph 5-1-9 (Go to page 315 of the AIM PDF to see 5-1-9.)
All of us are familiar with the FAA Flight Plan, the 3” by 5” index card size flight plan that we learned how to fill out in our private pilot training. It is so simple that we may actually do it from memory without looking at the form at all. That is, if you frequently file flight plans. There are pilots that never file a flight plan, then those that do for every flight.
I was in a flight planning room at the FBO during a planned stop while on a long cross-country flight. A corporate pilot was in there, too. We talked briefly, then he called Flight Service to file a Flight Plan. He was going from that airport to another airport not more than 30 miles away. He gave the flight plan on the phone to the FSS Specialist, without a single piece of paper in front of him. I was impressed with his ability to file a flight plan without looking at anything, and told him so. Apparently, even a short hop when flying a jet requires a flight plan. For such a short hop, he would hardly get the gear retracted before he had to start a landing checklist. I wonder if that pilot would be able to file from memory for the new ICAO plan?
So, what is different? Well for one thing, the new “plan” is a full page, not the nice little 3” by 5” size flight plan that we love, and that alone is enough to make one cringe. However, take a closer look and you will see that the new plan requires much of the same stuff as did the old plan: Aircraft number, type of flight (IFR, VFR), type of aircraft, departure point, cruising altitude, route of flight, destination, time in route, alternate, pilot, and a few other things. Not so bad. If you have been flying out of the country (Mexico, Canada, or the Bahamas) you are already familiar with this flight plan.
The new plan does ask for some things we never used before, like what survival equipment I have on board, wake turbulence, aircraft type designators. What are those? The instructions tell us to “Consult ICAO Document 8643 before providing your approved 24 character aircraft type to avoid rejection of your flight plan.” (We all have a copy of 8643 somewhere, don’t we?) Twenty Four Character aircraft type!!?? (You can do an ICAO Aircraft Designator Search. Here is another good resource, FAA Flight Planning Information.)
OK, I’m lost already, but not to worry, there is a “Simplified Guidance for United States Domestic Flight using the ICAO Flight Plan Format.” For example: Item 10 on the ICAO flight plan: Equipment and Capabilities. The FAA says we don’t need any of these:
- Communications Capabilities
- Approach Capability
- LORAN C (I thought that was shut down years ago)
- 8.33 kHZ VHF (really?)
- Mode S Transponder (does everyone have one of these?)
- ADS-C (C? Now I need to go back and look. What comes after B?)
- ADS-B using VDL Mode 4 (more confusion)
So, in the U S we fill in Field 10a Nav, Comm, Approach with: S (standard), D (DME), G (GNSS), I (INS), O (VOR), R (PBN), T (TACAN), W (RVSM), or Z (Other Cap). I guess I will just use S, and hope for the best here. There’s more: Field 10b Surveillance. Fill in with: A (Transponder, no mode C), C (Transponder Mode C), B1 (ADS-B 1090ES, Out), B2 (ADS-B, 1090ES Out/In) U1 (ADS-B UAT, Out), or U2 (ADS-B, UAT, Out/In).
The Arizona Pilots Association has been doing seminars on the ADS-B for quite a while already. If you have attended any of those, you might have an understanding of the ADS-B requirements, what all of those letters stand for, and why you are going to need it soon. If not, look for one soon.
There is more hope and help for us, too. If you are using an iPad with ForeFlight, or any other tablet with electronic flight software, you will probably find a way to fill out the ICAO flight plan that is already in that app. There are also some YouTube videos online that will walk you through filling out the new form. Still need help? Arizona Pilots Association has already done seminars on the ICAO Flight Plan and will repeat this seminar at some events this year. Keep checking the AZPILOTS.ORG website for a seminar near you, and “Don’t forget to bring your Wingman.”