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Premature closure of GA flight plans

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Premature closure of GA flight plans

Old 22nd Aug 2013, 15:53
  #1 (permalink)  
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Angel Premature closure of GA flight plans

I work in ATC in a regional airport which provides a LARS service. We are often asked by GA pilots to close their flight plans whilst they are en-route to their private home strip returning from a foreign trip.

Many of my team are not happy to do this for a variety of reasons - first and foremost, the aircraft has not arrived safely at their destination and the plan is being closed prematurely whilst they are still airborne.

The pilot is really resonsible for this action and my understanding is that they can ring the NATS AFPEX help desk and do it themselves. If that is the case - they should be doing it themselves.

If all else fails, I would feel happier if they rang us when safely landed and we could send an ARR message with a clear conscience knowing that they actually have arrived.

I would be interested in the views of ATC colleagues and pilots themselves as we are getting more and more of these requests and I think for the sake of safety - the subject is worth airing.
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 19:51
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Not a lot you can do if they ask you to cancel there flight plan.

And as well over 90% of VFR flights in the UK are conducted without a flight plan once your over the international FIR border its just business as usual for the pilot not to be on one.

Its better to get it done, than forget about it once you have managed to get a signal on the phone after landing. Because if you do all hell lets loose.

I really can't see it being an issue from a pilots POV
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 20:57
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We get this too, i've never been happy with it. They're not asking to cancel (CNL message) the flight plan, they're asking to close it (ARR message). The ARR confirms safe arrival at destination, which is obviously tricky to do while still airborne.
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 20:59
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With respect, cancelling their flight plan and sending an ARR message are two totally different things.

I think the correct procedure is for the pilot nominate a responsible person to initiate overdue action if they fail to arrive within 30 minutes of their FPL ETA. The FPL is automatically 'closed' when the responsible person is aware that the pilot has arrived safely.

Last edited by callum91; 22nd Aug 2013 at 21:01.
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 21:06
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That's fair enough, refuse to send an arrival message but offer to cancel the flight plan.

After a couple of months/next time they fly they will just cancel instead.

The phoning the helpdesk is a bit off a pain in the bum to be honest poor signal at farm strips and other such things. When they can get a signal they are driving and by the time they get home they are over due.

If you could only send your arrival message by text that might work. Although there would be no guarantee the aircraft was on the ground when it was sent.
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 21:55
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When I did approach radar, many a/c called us transiting outside the zone. They often left the frequency without 'saying good-bye', due to high ground, RTF coverage or whatever.
I spent a lot of time making sure these folk were still around, and not upside down on a hill somewhere.
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 08:31
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From a pilots point of view, I totally agree with you. I'd never close a flight plan before I have landed. As you say, this is my lifeline if something goes south after I've left the frequency.

However, many other pilots do just as you say. I do not agree with them, but I can still understand why. Many GA-pilots feels that the flight plan is just a pain in the ... And when they finally file a flight plan, many are afraid that they should actually forget to close the flight plan when they have landed. This have happened, and say that you have forgot to switch on your phone after landing, and the 30 minute period expires, the ARCC will try to establish contact with you and when they isn't sucessful, it can be a very bad day at the office..

Many pilots are afraid for this, and therefore they might tend to close the flight plan already in the air when it is fresh in their mind so that they won't forget it.
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 09:10
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In the UK there is no such thing as 'closing a flight plan' and the request should be met with the response of "what is it you expect me to do?". This is 100% a continental procedure and the safe arrival at a UK destination either observed by the ATC/AFISO/Air Ground at that airfield or, if closed, the responsible person nominated by the pilot is the 'closure process'
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 09:12
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From someone who normally closes my flightplan in the air:

I usually ask to have it closed when I'm within gliding distance of the field, there is almost always someone waiting for me or for other reasons are around who will witness any mishaps.

I have forgotten to close it once and that resulted in a very unpleasant phone call with warnings of potential heavy fines if it happened again, result: I am a lot more scared of missing to close it than I am of being alone in a field somewhere in a crashed AC
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 09:33
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In the UK, who is going to take overdue action if an aircraft doesn't turn up at a private strip ? I don't believe there is anyone monitoring Flight Plans for such flights to make sure they are closed, is there ? It's up to the pilot to arrange for a responsible person to look out for them and raise the alarm if need be. That person will do so whether a plan is filed or not, and whether a filed plan is open or closed, regardless. For that reason, I don't see it as a big safety issue in the UK since I don't believe the mechanisms exist for monitoring arrivals and matching them to filed plans at landing sites where there is no ATC or FISO presence.
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 09:46
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We have an instruction stating we should not close a FPL on behalf of the pilot......after all what is the most dangerous part of the flight? The final approach and landing, no use closing a FPL saying the flight has landed safely whilst he has stuffed the aircraft into the side of a mountain!!! The best option is to remind the pilot of the AFPEX telephone number and ask him to phone them on landing to close the FPL.
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 10:03
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after all what is the most dangerous part of the flight?
The car drive home.
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 10:31
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I could swear we did this subject only a few weeks ago. Maybe it was on another forum?!
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 10:49
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In New Zealand the cost of filing GA flight plans is so expensive that most pilots don't even consider filing one in the first place unless the club or flying school insists. However we do have a SARwatch as an alternative to a full flight plan, and the cost of that is much cheaper. The Sarwatch is simply a route and ETA.

The last time I filed a flight plan was in 2007, but I do ensure that someone knows where I am flying and my ETA so they can notify SAR if I fail to arrive. I tend to cancel any SARwatch when I am on descent for my destination.

Last edited by Ka6crpe; 23rd Aug 2013 at 10:51.
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 21:27
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Does anyone know the cost of filing a flight plan in the U.K.?
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 23:06
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It's free to file.
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Old 23rd Aug 2013, 23:39
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But unless its an international flight nobody does for vfr.

I think the last time i filed one was my cpl test they are pretty pointles, they don`t acutually make life any easier. No units get informed apart from takeoff and arrival. And if its a farm strip both ends not even then.
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Old 24th Aug 2013, 07:03
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But unless its an international flight nobody does for vfr.
Not true, we get and send loads of VFR FPLs.
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Old 24th Aug 2013, 08:09
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Fair enough I stand corrected. Must be a regional thing if you do or don't.

Must admit these days with rocket route and such things its easier than it was in the day of fill out the form then fax it then wait a bit for it to go into the system then go flying.
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Old 24th Aug 2013, 09:04
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As Mad Jock says though, a VFR plan is of little use unless there is ATC at the arrival airfield. Area Control units don't process them so if you call for a service then the information has to be verbally obtained from the pilot anyway. I know that NATS ATC operated airfields with electronic flight data systems (EFPS) like plans filed if possible, as its a bugger to input manual data, but it's not mandatory. The only time Area Centres would use a VFR plan would be if SAR action is required, but that relies wholly on someone raising the alarm that the aircraft is overdue.
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