What is flight planning?

I’ve been flying for 22 years now. When I started training I would trundle down to the briefing office at Moorabbin, talk the a Flight Service officer, get the latest weather and NOTAM’s and spend 30 minutes with a pen,  paper and E6B producing a flight plan, fuel loading plan, weight and balance checks. This was then verified by the briefer and submitted. (Most flights were done with full position reporting – wasn’t that fun!)

Briefing offices were closed and along came PC based flight planning programs, AvFax, DECTalk. The internet arrived and so did NAIPS.

These days every GPS and GPS app on your portable electronic device is also calling itself a flight planner. Flight planning is far more than just entering in a few waypoints into a GPS and then launching into the wild blue yonder and most of these devices and apps only allow you to do this. A flight plan is basically the process of establishing an intent before flight – remember the old saying about the 5P’s (prior planning prevents poor performance)?

In my opinion, to be called a flight planner, a device or app must be able to do the following;

  • Multiple stage flight plans with multiple legs per stage (with LSALT’s for NVFR & IFR flight)
  • Accurate heading, TAS and ground speed calculations based on the aircraft type and the altitude to be flown
  • Ability to apply winds from a forecast and display estimated en route times for each leg
  • Produce a fuel plan based on the current fuel load, route to be flown and the current weather conditions
  • Give you the ability to view weather (TAF’s and other forecasts) and NOTAM’s and other relevant pre flight briefing products
  • Verify the aircraft loading and centre of gravity

For ease of use and portability it would be nice to have an electronic flight bag (EFB) tool that;

  • Embodies all the flight planning capabilities that are required (see above)
  • Allows the continual display of the flight plan as a part of the app
  • Can seamlessly import weather information into your flight plan
  • Can seamlessly send flight notifications via NAIPS.
  • Saves all briefing materials (Forecasts, NOTAM’s) for offline use.
  • Contains all relevant flight documentation (ERSA, DAP, AIP, AIP SUP) and link these to the flight plan as appropriate.
  • Contains all the relevant aviation charts and then uses smart technology to overlay other required in-flight information on these maps (such as weather and NOTAM information) allowing much faster route creation.
  • Can share flight information with other devices (so other devices can serve as a useful backup) and other people.
These were the requirements that drove the development of AvPlan.

Do your requirements vary much from the above? Does your current EFB tool give you all these capabilities?

1 reply
  1. Halden Boyd says:

    A great article….I am one of those who started flying at the start of the “electronic revolution”. However, what was firmly entrenched by my instructor was to use these “new fangled devices” as he called them as a back-up. “What if there is an electronic failure or if the batteries run out or if your computer or GPS crashes mid flight” he continually drummed into me. “Good knowledge of navigation and flight planning is the best back-up you can have”, he told me, as a proliferation of recreational aviators trying to save flying costs came along only armed with a hand held GPS and no maps when they went for a fly. So the moral to this comment is that no matter what fan-dangled piece of computer equipment you might have, which can distract you from not looking out of the cockpit and keeping your ears open, is no excuse for not properly planning your flight, and especially knowing how to navigate without an iPad or iPhone. – Halden Boyd ARN 417497

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