As you may know, or have had brought to your attention, the FAA has placed some restrictions on domestic IFR flight plan filing if pilots want to use certain features of the airspace. If you don’t want the detail and just want the answers then skip to Just The Facts.
In order to utilise the following airspace features you will need to file an ICAO flight plan (reference FAA Flight Planning Information):
- The flight expects routing or separation based on Performance Based Navigation, e.g. RNAV 1
- RNAV Standard Instrument Departures (SID)
- RNAV Standard Terminal Arrivals (STAR)
- RNAV Point-to-Point (PTP)
- Equipment Restricted Preferential Departure/Arrival Routes (e.g. PDR, PAR, PDAR)
- The flight will enter RVSM airspace
- The flight expects services based on ADS-B
- The flight will enter international airspace (including Oceanic airspace controlled by FAA facilities
You do not need an ICAO flight plan to utilise GPS/RNAV approaches.
Here is an example of the ICAO flight planning form – however you will almost never have to fill out such a form directly, because the days of walking into a facility to file a paper flight plan are pretty much gone. Note also that often additional data is filed in the Remarks or Other Information section – so the format of the form is only partially helpful.
The AOPA has an explanation of the new flight plan requirements – but their explanation is a little confusing with respect to utilizing GPS/RNAV approaches – AOPA seems to think ICAO flight plans are required, the FAA’s documentation doesn’t agree.
In preparing this document we’ve looked at the filing options in fltplan.com, DUAT and DUATS. The information here should be sufficient for you to decode any flight plan filing system you may find. If you do find differences with a specific system please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Information for an ICAO Flight Plan
This information is tailored for small singles and twins operating domestically but wishing to file an ICAO flight plan.
There are 4 “complex” areas of an ICAO flight plan – but luckily we can dismiss 3 of them fairly quickly.
ADS Equipment – we have only just started the process of equipping our planes with ADS equipment, and you only need to fill out this section if you wish to “expect services based on ADS-B”. For the next few years you probably leave this section blank.
CPDLC (Controller Pilot Data Link Communication) – you don’t have this – leave it blank.
ACARS & SATCOMM Communication Equipment – you don’t have this either, leave it blank.
RNAV and RNP Equipment
So this just leaves us with the complex section of the form. We can eliminate a number of options fairly quickly.
We don’t have:
- RNP capability, because this requires specific authorization from the FAA.
- DME/DME or VOR/DME.
- An INS (Inertial Navigation System) or IRS (Inertial Reference System).
- Loran C – the US Coastguard stopped transmitting coastal Loran service in 2010.
So we’ve narrowed down our choices considerably. We do have GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), a specific instance of which is GPS. So an aircraft fitted with the typical GPS approved installation can file (these are Performance Based Navigation – PBN):
- B2 – RNAV 5 GNSS – although RNAV 5 is only used in Europe and Middle East, so you don’t need to file it, but it doesn’t hurt.
- C2 – RNAV 2 GNSS – for en-route operations.
- D2 – RNAV 1 GNSS – for terminal operations and approaches (don’t file this if your GPS is approved only for en-route operations, possible, but rare).
Transponder/ICAO Surveillance Equipment
This is just the normal selection of our transponder type. Almost all aircraft these days have a Mode A and C transponder installed. If for some reason you don’t have a transponder that reports altitude, then you have a Mode A transponder.
Some of the very latest installations may have a Mode S transponder installed, if they do then you can select his option. You’ll also want to know your aircraft Mode S hex code – you can look up your aircraft registration record at the FAA and find the code there.
Additional Radio Equipment
An ICAO flight plan wants a lot more detail on the types of equipment you have installed, a typical installation will include:
- Standard Equipment (means VHF Radio, VOR and ILS)
- LPV – if you have WAAS enable GPS approach capability with glideslope.
Less common options might include:
It’s extremely unlikely you have any of the other options – but if you do then you’ll know it and you should select those options.
This section is also fairly simple, because it’s rare for smaller aircraft to have much of this equipment on-board.
ELT – you almost certainly have an ELT on-board.
VHF – if you have a VHF radio YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOU as part of your survival equipment then select this option.
Just the Facts
The simplified version:
- You probably don’t have Regional Survival Gear, Lifejackets or Dinghies.
- You probably have an ELT, but you probably don’t have a separate VHF or UHF radio.
- If you have GPS you should file GNSS (if it’s an option) and your PBN equipment codes are B2, C2 and D2.
- You probably have a Mode A and C transponder.
- You probably don’t have ADS, CPDLC, ACARS or Satcomm.
- You probably have Standard Equipment.
- You can select the other equipment you have (ILS etc.), but if you don’t understand what the option is, don’t select it, you probably don’t have it.
That’s pretty much it. If you have comments or feedback please don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.