A recent comment about flight plans by a reader has prompted me to write this post about flight itineraries.
Pilots have the option of filing a flight plan or a flight itinerary. There are important differences between to the two. It’s important to know what these differences are so you don’t expect a certain level of service that may be available when in fact it is not.
When do you need to file a plan or itinerary?
CAR 602.73(2) lets us know:
(2) No pilot-in-command shall operate an aircraft in VFR flight unless a VFR flight plan or a VFR flight itinerary has been filed, except where the flight is conducted within 25 nautical miles of the departure aerodrome.
There may be that rare case (bonus points if you can tell me when this would apply) where you may be flying from a Canadian airport to a US one, where the distance is less than 25nm. CAR 602.73(4) covers this:
(4) Notwithstanding anything in this Division, no pilot-in-command shall, unless a flight plan has been filed, operate an aircraft between Canada and a foreign state.
If you are doing circuits or airwork, sightseeing, etc.. near your airport, you do not need to file a plan or itinerary unless you will be leaving that 25nm boundary.
Although I cant seem to find it in the CARs, I’m pretty sure you need to file a flight plan if you are entering an ADIZ.
So you’ve determined that you need to file a plan or itinerary. So which one do you use?
The main difference between a flight plan and itinerary is where the responsibility is for letting the authorities know when you are missing or overdue.
A flight itinerary gives you the option of “filing” the plan with a responsible person. This person should be someone you trust to notify the authorities if you have not arrived at your destination.
A flight itinerary does not preclude you to do proper flight planning. You still need to provide them with your planned route of travel, speeds, altitudes, ETA, etc…
It is important to note that unlike with a flight plan, search and rescue is not automatically initiated by NavCanada if you are over due. The responsible person must contact the proper authorities to initiate SAR.
I would suggest that you give clear instructions to your responsible person on when and how to contact the authorities to initiate search and rescue. You can’t expect your responsible person to understand how to read a flight itinerary form. Something similar might work well:
If I don’t arrive at Anypoint Airport by 12:00pm, please contact the RCMP at: xxx-xxxx.
CAR 602.79 outlines what the responsible person must due when an aircraft is overdue.
Another big difference between flight plans and itineraries can be illustrated by the following scenario:
Lets say you’ve filed a flight itinerary with your responsible person. It outlines that you will arrive at your destination at 13:00. You depart on time and head towards your destination. About half way there, you notice that your engine is running a little rough. You decide to divert to the closest airport. This airport would take you 30nm north of your course. During your diversion, your engine quits and you are forced to land 2nm short of the airport.
Your responsible person calls the authorities at 14:00 because you are over an hour late. SAR is launched and they are looking for you along your planned route. Nobody was made aware that you diverted to another airport.
Granted, I’m sure you could tell FSS that you are diverting, but they know nothing of your itinerary because it was filed with someone else.
Flight plans on the other hand contain the same information as a flight itinerary. The difference is that the “responsible person” is now NavCanada. They will automatically notify the authorities when you are overdue.
Do you use a flight itinerary? If so, why? Personally I don’t see why I wouldn’t file a plan 100% of the time.
Mr. Buckley from CASARA had this to add:
Instructing your responsible person to call the RCMP is not sufficient under CARS, nor is it the best way to get the help you may need. The best way is to call 866 WX-BRIEF (866 992 7433) select the menu option emergency services and go from there.
Assuming ATC, FSS, CARS or JRCC is notified you are overdue (as above), the first thing they will do is a communications search, which will include looking for contacts from the aircraft in question to ATC, FSS, CARSs etc. So notifying FSS about a diversion when on a Flight Itinerary is every bit as good, useful and recommended as when on a Flight Plan. In fact giving regular position updates to FSS when possible is a very good idea as each position report removes a good chunk of the country behind you from the area that needs to be searched in the event the worst happens.