New Flight-Plan Rules Take Effect Sunday

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As part of FAA's ongoing effort to harmonize its paperwork and procedures with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the form for filing a flight plan is about to change, but only for IFR flights that include RNAV arrival or departure routing. Pilots filing VFR, or filing IFR but without the RNAV arrivals or departures, can continue to file using the usual flight plan format. Pilots filing point-to-point (RNAV direct) and "T routes" also are not affected. The format change, which takes effect at 0900 UTC June 29, is being made to help expedite the FAA's transition to a new en route computer system for Air Route Traffic Control Centers. Click here for the text of FAA's Letter to Airmen. Pilots affected by the change can find more information, including FAQs and step-by-step filing instructions, at the FAA Web site.

The FAA site also includes contact information, with e-mail addresses and phone numbers, to answer any questions. The changes will affect only about 10 percent of general aviation flights, says AOPA. Lockheed Martin flight service station specialists will be trained to help pilots file the new flight plan. "The ICAO flight plan is necessary because it collects more detailed information about actual avionics equipage and aircraft capability," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "This in turn allows ATC to match the most efficient routing to the aircraft capabilities, resulting in better service to pilots." Pilots with questions about the change can also contact AOPA for more information.