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Evan Reiter

Filing ICAO Flight Plans on VATSIM

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When filing flight plans using most pilot clients or the existing VATSIM Pre-File, you are using a modified VATSIM version of the FAA Flight Plan. This is a format that has mostly been phased out in real life but continues to be used on the network. For now, BVA recommends continuing to use this format for all VATSIM flight plans. Our Getting Started Guide and other learning material are oriented toward this format. 

 

However, in 2020, VATSIM created the ability for pilots to file using the new ICAO-based format. In real life, the FAA now requires ICAO flight plans for flights to be assigned RNAV SIDs and STARs as well as for IFR flights that will depart domestic airspace. The FAA also recommends ICAO flight plans for domestic IFR flights. However, the way the ICAO flight plan was implemented on the network creates problems for U.S.-based controllers and display issues in programs like VatSPY. Until VATSIM updates their ICAO flight plan functionality, pilots are encouraged to file FAA-style flight plans using the VATSIM Pre-File or via your pilot client. Information on filing flight plans is included on our Pilot References pages and Getting Started Guide.

 

For pilots who elect to file using the ICAO format anyway, we have produced this brief guide. This information is derived from the FAA and other real-world sources, with adaptations for U.S. departures on VATSIM. 

 

How to File ICAO Flight Plans

 

ICAO flight plans can be filed on the MyVATSIM website: https://my.vatsim.net/pilots/flightplan. Once filed, the flight plan will automatically be registered when you connect to the network using a matching callsign. There is no need to re-file the flight plan when you connect to the network. If you have an existing flight plan filed when you first visit the page, you'll be asked whether you wish to edit this one or begin anew.

 

Import FPL

 

If you use a flight planning program like PFPX or SimBrief that generates an ICAO flight plan, you can import the flight plan directly using the "Import ICAO FPL" button at the top right of the screen. Copy and paste the ICAO flight plan from your flight planner and click "Process". 

 

Filing the Flight Plan

 

The flight plan has several fillable fields, with required fields denoted by an asterisk (*). A brief description for each of the fields is included in the sections below. 

 

Flight Details

  • Callsign: The callsign you will connect to the network with. (For more information on using correct callsigns, visit our Airline Codes page.)
  • Flight Rules: The flight plan allows you to file IFR or VFR. Other types of flight plans (composite, DVFR, SVFR) are not supported. Special VFR is available from ATC upon pilot request. 
  • Aircraft TypeThe approved (ICAO) Aircraft Type Designator for your aircraft. This will typically be between 2-4 characters, and most commonly exactly 4 characters. To look up your aircraft type, visit our Aircraft Type Abbreviations page.
  • Wake Category: The ICAO Wake Turbulence Category for your aircraft, based on the maximum certificated takeoff weight of the aircraft. You can find this information by using the search on our Aircraft Type Abbreviations page.
  • Equipment: List the equipment capabilities of your aircraft, including all operable equipment, even if you do not plan to use a particular capability on this flight. Equipment capabilities are indicated with letters that correspond to a specific capability. For example, including the letter "D" means your aircraft has DME. As this information is not transmitted to U.S. ATC on VATSIM, the exact information you include is currently not all that important. Some common equipment entries are provided below. The full list of equipment options may be found in FAA AIM Table 5-1-4.
    • Modern airliners, private jets, etc.: enter "SDE3GILORVW" in the "Equipment" field.
    • General aviation (with GPS/FMS-based RNAV capability): enter "SDG" in the "Equipment" field.
    • General aviation (no GPS): enter "S" in the "Equipment" field.
  • Transponder: Enter one of the following characters (note: despite what you file, VATSIM currently only has the ability to simulate Mode C transponders):
    • C - Mode C (altitude reporting only)
    • S - Mode S (altitude and aircraft identification capability)
    • L - Mode S, plus ABS-B and enhanced surveillance capability 
  • Departure: The ICAO code of the departure airport. 
  • Off Block UTC (HHMM): The proposed time for you to remove the parking brake and begin to push or taxi, in Zulu (GMT).
  • Altitude: The altitude in feet (enter "35000", "4000", etc.).
  • Airspeed (knots): The planned true airspeed at cruise (in knots).
  • Arrival: The ICAO code of the arrival airport.
  • Alternate: The ICAO code of an alternate airport, if required.
  • Enroute Time (HHMM): The planned time for your flight, in hours and minutes.
  • Fuel Endurance (HHMM): The amount of time your aircraft will be able to fly at its "endurance" profile, based on the amount of fuel boarded at departure.

Route Details

  • Use this box to enter the proposed route of flight.
  • On ICAO flight plans, consecutive fixes, NAVAIDS, and waypoints should be separated by the characters "DCT", meaning direct (example: "FLACK DCT IRW").
  • You can find preferred routes using our Route Finder. These routes are displayed in FAA format and will not include "DCT" between waypoints. 

Other Details

 

This section populates the "Remarks" section of the flight plan (for example: "DOF/210106". Below, we only list the fields that would be relevant/helpful for VATSIM flight plan filing purposes. When a section is not listed below, we recommend leaving it blank. For more information on sections not listed below, reference FAA AIM 5-1-9 and other real-world sources. 

  • PBN: Indication of RNAV and/or RNP capabilities. For VATSIM purposes, enter the following:
    • "B2B3B4B5C1D1S2" for most VATSIM airliners.
    • "B2B3B4B5C1D1S1T1" if you wish to simulate/fly RNP AR approaches using RF.
  • DOF: The date of the flight's departure, based in Zulu time.
  • REG: The civil registration of the aircraft, if different from the callsign (normally used if you are flying with an airline callsign).
  • SEL: SELCAL code (really only applicable to oceanic flying).
  • OPR: The three-letter airline designator of the operator, if not used in the callsign. 
  • RALT: ICAO indicators for enroute alternate(s).
  • TALT: ICAO indicator for takeoff alternate.
  • RMK: Any other plain language remarks when relevant. BVA recommends including "CALLSIGN XXXXXX" whenever you are flying with a callsign that you feel may not be immediately familiar to ATC within the region you are operating. Several airlines file this with every flight plan.
  • Voice Rules: indication of your VATSIM voice capability (all BVA member pilots are requested to select and use voice to communicate with ATC). 

What ATC Receives

 

Despite the information you file, U.S. ATC on VATSIM will only receive the following information: 

  • Flight rules
  • Departure
  • Altitude
  • Arrival
  • Alternate
  • Route
  • Remarks (populated by information you enter in the "Other Details" section of the flight plan)
  • Voice Rules

The callsign and type code transmitted to ATC are based on how you connect to the network. Although other ICAO flight plan information may be stored on the network, it is not available to ATC. 

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Evan Reiter

Community Manager
Administration Team

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