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Premature closure of GA flight plans

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Premature closure of GA flight plans

Old 24th Aug 2013, 14:29
  #21 (permalink)  
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As a pilot and a FISO I believe that the reason that pilots ask for flight plans to be "closed" is that they do not understand the process.

Within the UK the destination airfield will initiate overdue action* if an aircraft fails to arrive within 30 minutes of its ETA. Therefore what is the point of the destination airfield sending an ARRival message ("closing" the flight plan) since all that the ARR message does is inform the destination airfield that the aircraft has landed?

The one time that an ARR message will be sent is if the aircraft diverts in which case the airfield at which it has landed will send an ARR message so that the destination airfield is aware that the aircraft has landed safely.

* There are other times when an ATSU will initiate overdue action but these apply irrespective of whether or not a flight plan has been filed.
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Old 24th Aug 2013, 17:52
  #22 (permalink)  
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Thumbs up

Another CFI

Spot on!
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Old 24th Aug 2013, 18:37
  #23 (permalink)  
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It has been a while since I've filed a VFR flight plan but I have always assumed, and as I understand from what other UK based posters have said, that if you have filed a VFR flight plan into an unmanned airfield and do not turn up unless you have nominated someone to initiate overdue action then nothing will happen...

So I don't understand why the question even arises; why would someone want to cancel a VFR plan since if you have no nominated person nothing will happen, if you are late and the nominated person initiates over due action then cancelling the flight plan will not stop that anyway and if you land at an airfield with an ATSU then they will close it for you...

Last edited by Contacttower; 24th Aug 2013 at 18:39.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 15:53
  #24 (permalink)  
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No reference to "close flight plan" in the UK Flight Planning Guide [CAP 694]...although, as colleagues have touched on, there is a "cancel" in certain circumstances.
Could this be a result of flying instruction having taken place outside the UK where such practice is the norm? It is a while since I had a "close flight plan" request and I asked the pilot [in plain English]...what do you expect me to do?
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 16:57
  #25 (permalink)  
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A lot of countries in Europe you have to close it via a phone call if operating into an unmanned field.

And it is also possible to close it on the radio with the controller.

So they are only doing what's normal elsewhere. The fact that the UK does things differently is what the problem is.

Last edited by mad_jock; 25th Aug 2013 at 17:18.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 18:17
  #26 (permalink)  
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Thanks for that, and I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the subject. I think that use of the "close flight plan" option could be a good thing for me as a controller....it immediately absolves me of any responsibility or accountability if the aircraft subsequently ends up in a tree or in the side of a hill somewhere....perhaps undiscovered for days or weeks. Obviously that is a ridiculous attitude to take.......and so I favour the general drift of the thread that there should be some responsible person or some kind of accountability trail to act as a safety stop in case of non arrival. Safety is what it is all about....it is what I'm about....it is what all my ATC colleagues are about; don't treat a flight plan as an unnecessary inconvenience to be cancelled prematurely.....make safe arrangements....make safety the top consideration.
Perhaps VFR flight plans are not rigorously processed...but they are available and do provide a starting point in case of [whatever]. From a simple flight plan, even if you are non-radio or never speak to anyone, a complete trace action with radar tracking can be retrieved literally within minutes should it be required; but if nobody is going to report an overdue aircraft we would never look.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 18:46
  #27 (permalink)  
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Its the PIC's call if they want a flight plan or not for internal flights, they have to have it for international.

If they close it before arrival I really can't see how this can be the problem of the ATCO if they then muff the approach/landing up and nobody comes looking for them.

To me asking to close it early is just the same as not bothering with one in the first place. If they cancelled their flight plan there wouldn't be a lot you could say apart from "flight plan canceled at xx:yy" but I can see where you are coming from, from a bum covering POV.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 19:06
  #28 (permalink)  
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I really can't see how this can be the problem of the ATCO
I remember our ATCO'S (years ago) NOT bothering about worrying whether an aircraft had safely landed...helicopter...behind the hills...professional crew...always did it like that ....anyway next morning when the aircraft was located up a mountainside in County Louth with no lives left on board......

I ALWAYS checked that the guy had landed safely. I always asked the ATSA to make sure the aircraft captain had a mobile number in section 18/19. We insisted(for example) that the current operators of the ill fated Helo called in......always.

I guess my feeling is that whilst I don't HAVE to worry about it....I always took a professional pride in making sure.

Mad Jock,this seems to have overtones of "over controlling" a la Class G .

I trust you never end up up a mountain in county Louth.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 19:41
  #29 (permalink)  
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Sort of is and sort of isn't to be honest.

Its more of who is actually responsible for the aircraft and if that person makes a decision not to join into a service or leave one is it there right to do so or not.

If its legislated as it is in some European countries there are rules in place about the responsibilities of the PIC dealing with said plan and when it should be shut down and who they should contact etc.

In the UK currently we don't have such rules. I don't see it as a controllers job to make rules up even if its for the benefit of the pilots concerned. Or force pilots into what are seen as best practises for ATS to work to without it being legislated that its the way it should be done.

The poo really does hit the fan if they do start looking for the aircraft and discover the pilot is already knocking a pint back. I am not surprised that in some parts of the country they are rarely used. And I can understand why the pilot wants to make sure the plan is closed.

For me there was never much point because I never knew which route south I would take or for that matter if I was IFR or not until I got to see the wx on route. I could go down the A9, straight across the top of the cairngorms or round to the east or round the coast. Or IFR over the top.

I just used to tell Scottish info what I was doing when I had decided.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 19:54
  #30 (permalink)  
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The poo really does hit the fan if they do start looking for the aircraft and discover the pilot is already knocking a pint back.
And that happens on a weekly(if not more regular) basis.

Just remember to phone in .....especially if your destination is a bloody farm strip in the middle of nowhere.

I agree that ATCO's should not make it up. MATS part 1 states

1.2 The Manual of Air Traffic Services contains instructions and guidance for controller providing Air Traffic Services to cater for both routine and many emergency situations.

However, nothing in this manual prevents controllers from using their own discretion and initiative in response to unusual circumstances, which may not be covered by the procedures herein.

For me that was always a big enough catch all to allow me(and members of my watch) to have a bit of wiggle room...you may call it making up rules for the benefit of the pilot. I called it concern.

Last edited by eastern wiseguy; 25th Aug 2013 at 19:56.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 20:14
  #31 (permalink)  
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You can call it what you want. If the pilot doesn't want to play there isn't anything you can do about it in class G.

And forcing what you think is best on the pilot may lead to the pilot withdrawing from taking a service from you or for that matter putting a plan in ever again.

There needs to be consistency across the whole of the FIR's, if they find out that the unit before yours is happy to close the plan that's what they are going to start doing.

By applying your best practise and what you think is right just confuses the hell out of the pilots, Stick to the rules. If there is nothing in the book which says you can't and the PIC request's it do it. The pilot won't know or care what's in your MATZ part 1 or MATZ part 2. If country wide its decided that its not allowed to close the plan in the air get the rule book changed and document it so every pilot is using the same rule book with every ATS.

You can't refuse a "cancel my flight plan" so to me its a bit of a bun fight about nothing and who is really in charge of the way a flight is operated.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 20:34
  #32 (permalink)  
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You can't refuse a "cancel my flight plan"

Stick to the rules
In many cases...Pot calling Kettle over.

Still wouldn't stop me trying to look out for you.I joined NATS when service was the over riding principle.

Do whatever you want in CAT G..take a Basic service or a F**k All service ....don't care...just NEVER want ANYONE to remain strapped to an aircraft up a mountain..or upside down in a bog in a farm strip...when I MIGHT have been able to help.

Hey Ho...I retired last month after 36 years of ATC so do whatever you prefer....Bear OUT !!

Last edited by eastern wiseguy; 25th Aug 2013 at 20:36.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 20:48
  #33 (permalink)  
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We do stick to the rules in glass G which are defined in the ANO. the EASA stuff s pretty badly worded to be honest with missing definitions which hopefully someone will get sorted before it comes in next year.

I can fully understand your point of view about looking after you chicks.

But your not the PIC so as such you have no real say in the risk level they are willing to carry.

By trying your best for the pilot you may be having an adverse effect of air safety which I know is not what you want.

But as I have said previously it is the lack of standardisation which is the main issue across all ATS in the UK FIR's. Once pilots know what they can and can't do they will in the main do it. If they get conflicting procedures between units that's when the problems start. Which ultimately leads in class G of saying " it" I can't be bothered with the hassle.
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Old 25th Aug 2013, 22:04
  #34 (permalink)  
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Angel Premature closure GA FPL - CAA Safety Sense 20

I am glad that we have given this a good airing. I posted it as I had not seen a similar thread before.

It forced me to get out all the books late at night and do some research on the UK position - which does differ from our European neighbours. Of all the documents we refer to in British ATC, MATS Pt1, CAP694, AIP ENR section none of them cover it as succinctly as the CAA Safety Sense leaflet "VFR Flight Planning" which says:


a) If you are landing at your planned destination within the UK, there is no need to ‘close’ the flight plan.

b) If you are landing outside the UK, or at an aerodrome within the UK which was not your planned destination, you must ‘close’ the flight plan to avoid unnecessary Search and Rescue activity. Even if you land at an aerodrome with an ATSU, it is advisable to confirm they have closed your FPL.

c) You may do this by radio (just before landing) or by telephone after landing.

(Safety Sense Leaflet 20, January 2013, Section 8)

So - that is the answer from the CAA themselves. It is clear that many pilots do not understand the system and I would have to admit that nobody at my unit did either. How did we manage in the days before AFPEX, Skydemon, iPad, Facebook and Twitter ?

Thanks to you all - safe flying and safe controlling
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Old 26th Aug 2013, 08:53
  #35 (permalink)  
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Well it would be nice if that was the end of it

I suspect though now that you have highlighted the safety sense that someone will disagree with it and it will be changed. I presume its had more pilot input than ATC input. And as NATS policy is not to do it, it would appear to be in conflict with both Scottish and London info.

But.......... before you change it.

How about thinking about an easy process to change to. The helpdesk has already had the number of bods on it reduced. And getting flight plans sorted should be the priority.

How about getting a mobile number either sim card or through skype and then pilots could just text the aircraft reg to that number to close the plan. Saves loading the phone line up and someone to answer it. Its quick and easy to see at a glance if someone has closed it or not if the updating the system is behind. Or for that matter aircraft reg open to open it and reg closed to close it. Saves all the buggering around by the various units trying to find it when they get asked to open it on a free call.

Just a suggestion!!!
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Old 26th Aug 2013, 09:09
  #36 (permalink)  
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all of this comes down to an appraisal of risk. the guy sitting in the act radio centre has been bought up on a steady diet of safety culture.

to me the safety culture totally overstates the risks involved.

I maintain my aircraft so that it doesnt fail.

I am quite prepared to fly the aircraft a thousand miles over the remotest parts of australia because I maintain the aeroplane and I have absolutely precise navigation (GPS).
I have never filed a flight plan since my training and I never will because there is actually no need.

much of this flight following guff came about when aircraft were unreliable, instrument flying in its infancy, and navigation was by P2 compass. the world has moved on.
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Old 26th Aug 2013, 09:46
  #37 (permalink)  
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I wouldn't go with that.

There are many many things that can get you apart from shite nav and technical issues. And even technical issues you have no way of knowing that you have a manufacturing defect in any of the engine components.

I would take a flight following over such terrain just so that the risk to the emergency services/wasting money while searching would be reduced. I know it wouldn't make much difference to my mortality chances but at least it would increase the chances of only me being dead. And you never know they might find you in time before all the local animals had eaten you.

And if you do manage to survive the crash...... you might survive.
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Old 26th Aug 2013, 10:11
  #38 (permalink)  
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oh bollocks mad jock.
we carry a gps enabled search and rescue beacon identified to the aircraft in australia.
flip the trigger on the way down and the sar people get a precision location to investigate.

as I said it is all about the appraisal of risks and making certain that the mechanicals are kept in running order.
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Old 26th Aug 2013, 10:38
  #39 (permalink)  
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yep and I have had a colleague who was 35 years old and crashed without a mayday or from what they can tell any control input.

Who says you can flip the trigger. Stroke is the biggest killer of pilots sitting at the controls, some have even just walked out of their medicals that morning and bang the FO is now PIC.

bang your head off the roof as the AP kicks out again no trigger.

But your PIC so its your choice what you do.
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Old 26th Aug 2013, 10:49
  #40 (permalink)  
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mad jock if I get killed in any of those scenarios how is a flight plan going to help? duh.

btw 2 people at source know my intents and one person at destination usually.
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