We’re fortunate in the U.S. to have a variety of “free” aviation support services provided by the FAA and Flight Service. We can download digital charts from the FAA, request preflight weather briefings and file flight plans with no out-of-pocket expense. This system is set up with safety in mind so that a pilot has access to all available information while planning a flight without having to consider if it’s “worth the cost”.
One of the services that is commonly overlooked though by pilots is the VFR Flight Plan. This is something we all learn to use during flight training, and then often forget about after passing the checkride.
Up until recently, you had to either call Flight Service or use the Flight Service website to file a VFR flight plan. Once airborne, it takes another call to Flight Service over the radio to open the flight plan. And then at the end of a flight, it takes one more call to Flight Service to let them know you’ve arrived at your planned destination.
The VFR Flight Plan should be given more respect though, as it is designed to save your life. It lets someone know that you’ll be out flying for the day, your planned route of flight, and when and where you expect to land. Then in the unlikely event you have to perform an off-airport landing and are out of range of communications, rescue workers will know where to come looking for you.
Fortunately, today’s iPhone and iPad apps make the entire VFR Flight Plan process much easier. The apps will essentially fill out the flight plan forms for you, and they’re connected right to the Leidos Flight Service servers, allowing you to file VFR Flight Plans right from the app. Then when you’re out in the airplane just before takeoff you can use the iPhone version of the app (or iPad with cellular data) to open the flight plan. Closing it is just as easy after landing right from the app – no phone or radio calls to Flight Service required.
- After planning a flight in the Flights section of the app, press the Proceed to File button at the bottom right corner of the screen.
- Verify the pre-populated flight plan form on the File screen, and press the File button at the lower right.
- After receiving confirmation the VFR Flight Plan was filed, you’ll see 3 buttons at the bottom of the Flights screen: Cancel, Amend and Activate.
- After activating the flight plan, the green “Activate” button will switch to a Close function, so that you can easily close the flight plan after landing.
- Start a new flight in the Flight Plan section of the app, and then press the Create Trip button in at the lower right of the screen, which sends the flight data to the Trip Planning section of the app
- Verify the data in the fields, ensure VFR is selected as the Flight Rules type, and press File at the top right of the screen.
- After the VFR flight plan is filed, you’ll see the 3 action buttons at the top of the screen: Amend, Cancel and Activate with FSS.
- Enter your flight details in the route editor window on the main map screen, and then press the FILE button at the lower left corner of this window.
- Confirm the flight plan data, and press the File button at the top of the pop-up window.
- After the flight plan is filed, the FILE button will change to a yellow, with an OPEN/EDIT label. Tap this to display a pop-up menu with options to Activate, Amend, Create New or Cancel the active flight plan.
- Select the Flight Service option from the home screen, and enter your pilot and aircraft credentials using the buttons in the lower right
- Press the “New” button at the top right of the screen, select File Flight Plan, enter the flight details and press the Send button at the top right of the window.
- Select the filed VFR flight plan from the list on the left side of the screen, and a pop-up menu will appear with options to activate, close or cancel a flight plan.