Airspace systems all over the world are evolving every day and becoming more connected with real-time information. At ForeFlight, we believe that if you are connected to the most current data and conditions through mobile technology, then you can be more productive and efficient preparing for, and conducting, every flight. Modernized briefings and flight plan filing is an important goal of ours and we continue to build a foundation that streamlines those activities.
A good reference for illustrating this point is the FileSmart campaign, developed by, and in cooperation with, the National Business Aviation Association, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the National Air Transportation Association. FileSmart is a public awareness initiative “designed to educate aircraft operators on the importance of filing timely and accurate flight plans, helping them to avoid air traffic delays and operate more efficiently in the National Airspace System.” Sounds good to us!
Be An Early Bird
When it comes to filing early, the main thing to remember is that more information sooner to the FAA results in better Traffic Flow Management (TFM) decisions. TFM uses “known demand” to plan for Traffic Management Initiatives (TMIs) -in other words, things like ground delays, reroutes, or miles-in-trail. Being counted in the known demand equation as early as possible can reduce the severity of delays you may experience down the line.
ForeFlight primarily files flight plans directly via the modernized Lockheed Martin Flight Services AFSS interfaces (we also continue to file via DUATS if that is your preference). A benefit of using the LMFS AFSS interface is that your flight plan is immediately released to TFM, up to 17 hours before your departure time. Your early filing feeds the stream of data to the planners so that better traffic flow, and potentially less restrictive TMI, decisions can be made.
How early is early? FileSmart recommends the day before or at least before 8am Eastern time the day of your flight. We understand it is not always possible, especially in on-demand operations, to avoid late filer status. But when every minute counts to get a flight plan filed, ForeFlight enables you to tap a route, brief, and get your plan into the system in a matter of minutes.
In addition, if you are coordinating with passengers and weather is a concern, the iPad makes it easy to show and share developing route conditions. Email a screenshot of the route with radar overlay, for example to help expedite communication, set expectations, and reach a decision on a realistic departure time.
Filing blind (defaulting to Direct and letting ATC sort it out) can create workload issues as it requires manual coordination by ATC to move you into the correct route. ForeFlight makes it easy for you to choose upfront the standard published procedures and routing that will most likely be assigned. For example, directly from the route editor you can select from recently ATC assigned or Preferred routing options. One tap and the waypoints are loaded to your NavLog and the route field of your flight plan form.
ForeFlight now supports the ICAO format, which can be an advantage even when filing US/Domestic VFR. The ICAO format collects additional bits of information about your flight and aircraft profile that increase safety and may help with potential search and rescue efforts.
Circling back to the system planning concept, the additional fields communicate to ATC a complete picture of the equipment and capabilities of your aircraft and crew for a particular flight. Armed with this information in advance, ATC has an opportunity to issue a route or procedure that would reduce your flight time or ground delay.
Brief The NAS, Too
Using ForeFlight has freed up some time for you in the planning phase so consider giving a few moments to briefing the current conditions of the National Air Space. This is the final recommendation from the File Smart initiative and there are many good resources listed to view big-picture conditions and TMIs that may affect your flight.
Like a lot of things in life, flying relies upon effective communication to operate safely and efficiently. ForeFlight taps you into the real-time flow of data and information to more efficiently brief your route of flight and to more effectively communicate with ATC. No matter if you are flying VFR, IFR, in the congested Northeast corridor, or the wide-open West we encourage you to keep these communication tactics in mind so you can set expectations for yourself, for ATC, and for your passengers.