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An ATC flight plan is a document which provides specified information to air traffic service units relative to an intended flight or portion of a flight of an aircraft. (ICAO Annex 2: Rules of the Air)
A navigation flight plan is a document prepared in accordance with the instructions of the operator contained in the Operations Manual and used in flight by the pilot to assist in navigation and safe operation of the aircraft.
Detailed rules regarding submission, contents, completion, changes to, and closing of a flight plan are contained in ICAO Annex 2 (Rules of the Air) and in national flight information publications.
A flight plan may be filed as a written document, an electronic document, or may be filed verbally.
A flight plan is required prior to operating:
- A flight or portion of a flight to be provided with air traffic control service;
- An Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight within advisory airspace;
- A flight within or into designated areas, or along designated routes, when so required by the appropriate ATS authority to facilitate the provision of flight information service, alerting and search and rescue services;
- A flight within or into designated areas, or along designated routes, when so required by the appropriate ATS authority to facilitate co-ordination with appropriate military units or with air traffic services units in adjacent States in order to avoid the possible need for interception for the purpose of identification;
- A flight across international borders.
Where a flight plan is required, it must be submitted before departure to an air traffic services reporting office or, during flight, transmitted to the appropriate air traffic services unit or air-ground control radio station, unless arrangements have been made for submission of repetitive flight plans (RPLs).
A flight plan contains such of the following information as is relevant to the flight:
- Aircraft identification
- Flight rules and type of flight
- Number and type(s) of aircraft and wake turbulence category
- Departure aerodrome
- Estimated off-block time
- Cruising speed
- Cruising level
- Route to be followed
- Destination aerodrome and total estimated elapsed time
- Alternate aerodrome
- Fuel endurance
- Total number of persons on board
- Emergency and survival equipment
- Other information.
- Annex 2 (Rules of the Air)