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The basics of flight planning haven’t changed. You need to file a flight plan anytime you’re flying under instrument flight rules so air traffic control knows your origination point, time of departure and destination, as well as the route and altitude you’re requesting. Flight plans are filed with ATC and must be approved and accepted before departure.
Many operators choose to file a flight plan even when they’re flying under visual flight rules, because it adds a level of safety by ensuring enough fuel is loaded to reach the planned destination, with adequate reserves to accommodate the effects of weather or the need to divert to another airfield. Whether flying under VFR or IFR rules, fuel loading is a primary element of flight planning.
Connectivity has enabled enormous improvements in flight planning and flight optimization. Flight crews, flight planning specialists and third-party service providers now have computerized tools at their disposal to create better flight plans in less time. Flight optimization tools help pilots fly routes and profiles that improve safety and efficiency, while saving time and fuel.
Business aviation operators have a wide range of options available that enable them to view available options and create, optimize and file a great flight plan. Today’s tools make it easy for pilots to develop the flight plan themselves, which is the standard practice in flight departments without an on-staff flight planning specialist. Many external services are available and are particularly helpful when it comes to developing complex flight plans.
Many operators subscribe to value-adding flight-optimization tools and services that improve flight efficiency, reduce pilot workload and save fuel. These tools include electronic flight bags, which let pilots store flight plans, charts, weather information and more on a personal tablet. In addition to using flight-planning services, operators can use third-party providers for concierge-style services to handle a wide range of essential tasks and flight-following services to provide an extra level of support.