A flight plan is documentation filed with an Air Traffic Control facility that details the specific information regarding the flight of an aircraft charter. In the United States, either the pilot in command or the flight dispatcher must submit detailed flight information, which includes:
- Departure and arrival points
- Intended flight path and altitude
- Estimated flying time
- Alternate airport options
- Number of passengers
- Charter aircraft information
Additionally, the flight plan must also indicate the type of flight rules the pilot is utilizing: instrument flight rules (IFR) or visual flight rules (VFR).
Air charter safety is the primary reason flight plans are required. They provide air traffic control a way of tracking flights in an airspace to ensure there’s no conflict with other aircraft operating in the area.
Airway routing is an important component of a flight plan when travelling over a landmass. All over the world there are pre-determined airways known as flight paths. You can think of it like a highway in the sky, except the ‘lane’ is usually about eight nautical miles wide! Additionally, there are different flight levels within a flight path, typically measured in 1,000-foot increments. This ensures sufficient separation between aircraft flying on the same airway.
There is a preferred flight path between any two departure and destination airports. When an aircraft charter flies between these two points, they will be required to follow that specific path. Of course, an aircraft charter may need to fly on several different flight paths to reach the intended destination. However, there are protocols in place to ensure they enter and exit these airways safely.