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Evan Reiter

Filing Flight Plans on VATSIM

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Flight plans are required for all IFR flights, and optional for VFR flights. This post explains how flight plans can be filed on the VATSIM network, and explains some of the differences between how flight plans are filed. 

 

Introduction

 

There are two ways to file a flight plan on the VATSIM network:

  1. Using the vPilot or swift pilot clients. This uses the older FAA Flight Plan format.
  2. Using the online Flightplan Prefile system. This uses the new ICAO Flight Plan format. 

Regardless of how you file your flight plan, ATC has access to your flight plan information. You can file a flight plan using either of these two methods. 

 

When a flight plan is filed using the vPilot or swift pilot clients, the flight plan is formatted using a modified 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. 

 

When a flight plan is filed using the online Flightplan Prefile system, the ICAO-based format is used. 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.

 

The remainder of this post provides guidelines for filing flight plans in both formats. 

 

Filing FAA Flight Plans

Using the flight planning options in vPilot and swift.

 

Connect to the network using your pilot client, then select the "Flight Plan" option. Complete the form by entering information as follows:

 

Block Details
Flight Type

The type of flight plan being filed. Available options are:

  • IFR: Instrument Flight Rules
  • VFR: Visual Flight Rules
  • DVFR: Defence VFR, used when transiting an ADIZ
  • SVFR: Special VFR
Departure Airport The departure airport for the flight.
Destination Airport The planned arrival airport.
Alternate Airport If operating IFR, the airport you might divert to in the event bad weather is encountered at the destination (not required for VFR).

Departure Time

The proposed time of departure, in UTC (or "Zulu"); for reference, the current Zulu time appears in the title bar of the window in vPilot.
Time Enroute Planned duration of the flight, in hours of minutes.
Fuel Available The amount of fuel on board the aircraft, expressed in hours and minutes of flying time at cruise power settings.
Cruise Speed Planned cruise speed of the aircraft, expressed in True Air Speed (TAS) as knots.
Cruise Altitude

The planned altitude for the flight.

IFR flights are always flown at altitudes on the thousands.

  • For IFR flights eastbound, fly at an odd altitude (7 000; 11 000; FL330)
  • For IFR flights westbound, fly at an even altitude (8 000; 12 000; FL340)

VFR flights follow the same rules as IFR flights, but add 500' to each altitude. Remember, VFR flight is prohibited in Class A airspace (above 17,999').

  • For VFR flights eastbound, fly at an odd altitude plus 500 (7 500; 11 500)
  • For VFR flights westbound, fly at an even altitude plus 500 (8 500; 12 500)
Heavy Aircraft Check this box if the aircraft's maximum takeoff weight is above 300,000 pounds.
Equipment Suffix Select the Equipment Suffix for your navigation capabilities (use our Equipment Type Suffix Selector if you are unsure of which suffix to choose from).
Route

Enter the route of flight, including any proposed SIDs or STARs (if operating IFR). VFR routes can be as simple as "Highway 25".

If you flying IFR and are unsure of which route to file, BVA maintains a set of Preferred Routes for common citypairs in our airspace.

Remarks Enter any remarks or additional comments in the flight plan. For example, you may wish to enter "New Member" or "Student Pilot" to let controllers know that you are learning the airspace and procedures.
Voice Select "Send + Receive". All BVA members are required to use voice to communicate with ATC.

 

Sample VFR Flight Plan (vPilot):

 

A sample VFR flight plan filed through vPilot.

 

Sample IFR Flight Plan (vPilot):

 

A sample IFR flight plan filed through vPilot.

 

Filing ICAO Flight Plans

Using the online Flightplan Prefile system.

 

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 form 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

 

No matter what type of flight plan you file, U.S. ATC on VATSIM will only receive the following information: 

  • Flight rules
  • Equipment capability, as expressed by an FAA Equipment Suffix
  • 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 aircraft 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 readily available to ATC. 

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Evan Reiter

Community Director
Administration Team

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