As our flight training progresses as a student pilot, we start flying away from our local flying area and airport to new airports.Apart from learning new skills in flying, a student gets to learn how to file a flight plan, its importance and the role of flight plans in aviation. A flight plan is simply advance notice of a pilot’s intentions for a flight in terms of route (including departure
and destination), cruising level and speed and information about the crew and passengers.

This service of filing a flight plan keeps the Air traffic Service Units informed that you will be out flying today and from where and what time you plan to depart and land.In the unlikely event of you having to perform a landing in the bushes or to an off the route airfield and having no communication, the air traffic services will inform the search and rescue team to find you .

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aims to keep aviation goals, standards and practices common between most countries. Hence, the domestic flight plan in countries is in line with the flight plan published by the ICAO. The major differences between the domestic flight plan and ICAO one is that the latter is more detailed and requires details about your aircraft’s navigation systems,survival equipment, transponder details etc in depth.

The above image is a copy of an ICAO flight plan that is submitted to the Air Traffic Service (ATS) units. The items from number 7 to 18 are necessary to be completed and if deemed compulsory for by ATS, the item 19 needs to be filled as well.

ITEM NO 7: Aircraft Identification

  • Aircraft Identification should include a maximum of 7 alphanumeric characters without any symbol.There are two ways of filling item number 7:
  • The first way is using an ICAO approved name of the aircraft plus the flight number.For example, AI144 (Air India+144) or KLM511 (KLM+511).
  • The second way is if the aircraft does not have ICAO approved name,then we use the registration number to fill item number 7 , for example 4XBCD or N2567GA.

ITEM NO 8: Flight Rules and Type of Flight

  • Item No 8 has 2 boxes to fill, the left one is the flight rules followed by the aircraft and the right one is the type of flight it is going to be.
  • The flight rules box can be inserted with an of the following 4 letters to determine the category of flight rules followed:
    1. I- if the entire flight will be operated under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) conditions
    2. V-if the entire flight will be operated under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) conditions
    3. Y-if the flight will initially be operated under IFR and then will be changed to VFR
    4. Z-if the flight will initially be operated under VFR and then will be changed to IFR
  • NOTE: It can get confusing sometimes to remember all the letters and what category they mean.For a quick way to never confuse yourself between Y or Z, remember the phrase (Y IFR WHEN YOU CAN FLY VFR)
  • The type of flight box can be inserted with an of the following 4 letters to determine the category of flight rules followed:
    1. S-Scheduled Flights
    2. N-Non Scheduled Flight
    3. G-General Aviation
    4. M-Military Aviation
    5. X-If any other than the above categories

ITEM NO 9: Number and Type of Aircraft and Wake Turbulence Category

  • The number of aircraft box needs to be inserted if more than 1, for example army formation flying can have 5.Therefore, insert 05.
  • The type of aircraft box is filled with 2 to 4 characters. For example, A320 or B737.
  • The wake turbulence category is filled with one of the following letters after the oblique sign:
    1. H — HEAVY, to indicate an aircraft type with a maximum certificated take-off mass of 136 000 kg or more;
    2. M — MEDIUM, to indicate an aircraft type with a maximum certificated take-off mass of less than 136 000 kg but more than 7 000 kg;
    3. L — LIGHT, to indicate an aircraft type with a maximum certificated take-off mass of 7 000 kg or less.

ITEM NO 10: Equipment and Capabilities

  • The equipment box is filled by the presence of relevant serviceable equipment onboard and it also depends on the flight crew qualifications.
  • The usual letters used to fill this box are:
    • N if no COM/NAV/approach aid equipment for the route to be flown is carried, or the equipment is unserviceable.
    • S if standard COM/NAV/approach aid equipment for the route to be flown is carried and serviceable.If the letter S is used, standard equipment is considered to be VHF RTF, VOR and ILS, unless another combination is prescribed by the appropriate ATS authority.
  • Any other extra equipment carried on board will be notified in the other information box,that is, item 18.To know more about the letters used for mentioning the details of other equipment on board:https://ops.group/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ICAO-Doc4444-Pans-Atm-16thEdition-2016-OPSGROUP.pdf

ITEM NO 13: Departure Aerodrome and Time

  • In the departure aerodrome box , we mention the ICAO approved name of the aerodrome for example VABB (Mumbai airport) or YSSY ( Sydney airport).
  • If the airport does not have an ICAO approved code we insert ‘ZZZZ’ in the departure aerodrome box and mention the name of the airport in the other information box, that is, box 18.
  • The box of time needs to be inserted with ESTIMATED OFF BLOCKS TIME (EOBT) in UTC.The off blocks time denotes the time at which the aircraft moves forward with its own power.


  • Cruising speed (maximum of 5 characters) is the True Air speed for the first or the whole cruising portion of the flight.
    1. If the speed is mentioned in knots then it is expressed as N followed by 4 figures ( eg :N0400 if the speed is 400 knots)
    2. If the speed is mentioned in kilometres per hour, expressed as K followed by 4 figures (eg: K0800 if the speed is 800 km/hr)
    3. True Mach Number expressed as M followed by 3 figures (eg M082) can also be inserted to the nearest hundredth of the unit mach.
  • Cruising Level (maximum of 5 characters) is the planned cruising level to be flown for the first part of the flight or the entire flight.
    1. Flight level can be expressed as F followed by 3 figures for eg F330.
    2. The level can be expressed in terms of altitude in hundreds of feet, expressed as A followed by 3 figures for eg A100.
    3. Altitude in tens of metres, expressed as M followed by 4 figures (e.g. M0840).
  • The route box includes information such as changes in speed, level or flight routes.All ATS routes have names. For example, domestic flights are given by the code W.If there are no code designators assigned for the point, we define the position with the help of a reference point and the co ordinates from that point in degrees and minutes.In case any changes are to be made to the route , the sequence in which it should be mentioned is:
    • Name of the Waypoint
    • Speed of aircraft
    • Flight level of aircraft
    • Name of airway.

ITEM NO 16:Destination Aerodrome, Total Estimated Elapsed Time and Destination Alternate Aerodrome

  • The destination aerodrome box if filled in a similar way as the departure aerodrome box.The ICAO approved 4 letter indicator of the aerodrome needs to be mentioned and if the does not have one, then we fill the box with ZZZZ and mention the name in box 18.
  • The total estimated elapsed time is the time from take off to the time overhead the navigational facility at destination in case of IFR.
  • The total estimated elapsed time is the time taken from take off time to time overhead the destination in case of VFR.
  • There can be two alternate aerodrome options available for diverting if necessary and are to be inserted in the same way as the destination aerodrome. Pilots are however also allowed to divert to a third unspecified aerodrome in case both alternates are below minimum.

ITEM NO 18: Other Information

ITEM NO 19: Supplementary Information

  • Endurance is the total fuel on board entered as a 4 figure group giving the fuel endurance in hours and minutes ( for eg 0330)
  • Total Persons on Board is the total number of persons, that is, passengers and crew are to be entered if required by the appropriate ATS authority.If the number of persons on board are not known at the time of filing the flight plan, TBN is to be inserted and the commander can notify the ATC about the real number at the time of start up.
  • In the Emergency Radio , Survival Equipment,Jackets and Dinghies boxes, the items that are not available or serviceable need to be crossed out.For example, cross out V if VHF on frequency 121.5 MHz is not available or cross out F if life jackets are not equipped with fluorescene.
  • Remarks box: Cross out the indicator N if the there are no remarks that are needed to be inserted or indicate any other survival equipment carried and any other remarks regarding survival equipment.
  • Pilot in Command:Name of the PIC as per license needs to be inserted and if both pilots have the same name, write the license number under the name.

Fact of the Week

Cargo Airlines are Airlines dedicated to the transport Valuable Freights, Some of the Cargo Airlines are Subsidiaries of Larger Passenger Airlines, most of the Cargo Airlines owned by Logistics Services Companies. Cargo Airplanes are specially designed for Cargo Services to Carry Heavy Goods, Fedex is the Largest Cargo Airlines in the World with 688 Fleet and 67 in new order. There are Hundreds of Cargo Airlines in the World with main Aim of Cargo Transportation. It is hard or nearly inconceivable to achieve any international trading, global export/import processes, international shifting of raw materials/products and constructing without a professional logistical support. Airplanes are the Fastest and Saves huge time for passengers and to delivers the Goods to the respective Places.

There are a few more topics related to the flight pans such as Repetitive Flight Plans (RPLS) which we can cover in a separate blog post. I hope you found this post informative and could gain some knowledge out of it from the world of aviation.Please do not forget to share this post with your fellow aviation lovers and drop a comment or a like as well. Until next week, stay safe and stay healthy.

Your Co Pilot


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