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Early 2017 start date for international flight plan formEarly 2017 start date for international flight plan form

The FAA is now planning for an early 2017 start date for the mandatory use of the international flight plan form for domestic VFR and IFR flight plans, and is working to update official guidance information for pilots.

The AOPA Flight Planner offers a tool to assist with the selection of equipment codes and other technical questions related to completing the international flight plan.

Information on how to use the form, which is also known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Flight Plan form, is now available on the Flight Service website. Updated guidance will appear later in the Aeronautical Information Manual, said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. The FAA’s outreach has the goal of simplifying the transition by clarifying differences between the international flight plan form and the domestic flight plan form to be eliminated, thereby easing pilots’ concerns about switching.

“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.”

AOPA worked with the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization to identify ways to simplify the updated guidance that will appear in the AIM, “organizing it in an intuitive manner,” he said, noting that the existing guidance has not been updated since 2012.

The most important way pilots can avoid delays and receive all appropriate air traffic services will be to use correct codes on the form’s fields. A good idea would be to start using the international form in advance of the requirement to do so, Duke said.

For commercial operators, the FAA also has issued an Information for Operators communication that discusses how to file the proper communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) codes on flight plans.

The FAA had originally planned to eliminate the domestic form by October 2015. AOPA, in comments on that proposal, noted the need for improved guidance about the new flight plan, and urged that the FAA delay the changeover—a decision in which the FAA concurred.

Instead the agency set an implementation date for the international form of January 2017, but now expects a later start date to allow for the completion of automation testing by flight service vendors like Leidos and CSRA. 

AOPA’s comments also emphasized the need for the FAA to update its Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area online training course—required for VFR flights within 60 nautical miles of the DCA VOR/DME—to accommodate use of the new flight plan form. The revisions are expected to be complete before 2017, Duke said.

AOPA will continue to work closely with the FAA to ensure that the transition will be smooth, Duke said.

For more information, pilots are encouraged to view this recent AOPA webinar, “ICAO and Advanced Flight Planning: Tips and Time Savers.” Pilots also can utilize AOPA’s Flight Planner which has a tool to assist with the selection of equipment codes and other technical questions related to completing the international flight plan.

Also, the November/December edition of the FAA Safety Briefing contains a news update on the international flight plan form that notes safety improvements and the ease of use that are expected to be realized with its implementation (see page 2).

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: FAA publications, Cross Country, Flight Planning

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