Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The AOPA Is On Board! (finally)

The FAA wants to move forward. On October 1, the FAA wants to move forward with the flight plan form change for everyone. The airlines have mostly moved forward to use only the ICAO format since about 2008, for all flights.

Today the AOPA agreed that maybe it is time to retire that old friend 7233-1. Yes, that is the old flight plan form that we all grew up with (unless you are in another country, or went straight to a major Airline from a good flight school). You may even send AOPA your comments: airtrafficservices@aopa.org

The Association has a quick video about the changes.


It is no secret that I have been trying to get rid of the 7233 form. The ICAO for, looks intimidating, but is really simple once you look at it. Everything before the "FPL" is not needed and everything after field 18 is optional. The stuff translates pretty well, starting in field 7, aircraft ID is either the N number or the flight number that the ATC will know the aircraft as. Field 8 is the flight rules and type, IFR or VFR, just put an "I" or a "V" in the box, the type is GA (G), Military (M), Scheduled (S), Non-scheduled (N) and Other (X). Field 9 is the number, type and wake turbulence class, put more than 1 if this plan is for a group of aircraft, the type is C172, A36, or whatever your aircraft type is per ICAO 8643, and the wake turbulence is Heavy, Medium or Light depending on aircraft weight.

Field 10 is the big winner in this form. What does a /U represent on the old 7233-1 form? Well field 10 there is no guessing. The equipment you want to use on this flight can be specified here, in all it's glory. Got a VHF comm radio, put a V there. Have a VOR Nav radio, put in a O (vOr), how ab out GPS, put in a G.  If your aircraft has CPDLC use a J with some numbers depending on your type to put here, Mostly, the letters for the common stuff are:

  • A - GPS Landing system
  • F - ADF
  • G - GPS (or other global navigation system)
  • H - HF radio 
  • I - Inertial Navigation
  • L - ILS
  • O - VOR
  • P - Performance Based Navigation (can include various RNAV equipment see FAA Doc 9613)
  • V - VHF radio (12kHz spacing)
  • W - RVSM

Field 10 also includes the type of transponder the aircraft will use. The common values are:

A - Mode A only (squawk code only)
C - Mode A/C (altitude encoding)
E - Mode S with extended squitter (ADS-B)
S - Mode S with altitude and aircraft ID
N - No transponder

There is no field 11, 12 or 14, so there is even less to fill out!

Field 13 is where the flight originated from, all four letters/numbers ICAO format (IE KORD) and time in UTC.
Field 15  Cruise Speed, Level and Route. This is probably the most flexible part, especially the route.
The cruise speed is the cruise speed the aircraft will initially be flying at once at cruise altitude. The Level is the altitude the aircraft will fly at, preceded by the type of information. For flight levels, use an F and the flight level (IE for flight level 180, put F180), or for hundreds of feet use an A followed by the feet (IE for 8500 feet, use A085). The route will be all the waypoints between the departure airport and the destination airport. These waypoints can be specific named waypoints (IE MINEE), lat/lon coordinates (IE 46 degrees 20 minutes N 78 degrees 5 minutes west would be specified as 4620N07805W), or fix radial distance (FRD) coordinates (IE 30 miles south of the Kankakee IL VOR would be specified IKK18030).

Field 16 is the destination, the Estimated Enroute Time (not the arrival time) and the first and second alternates if needed. If it will take 2.5 hours to get to Oshkosh, field 16 will be KOSH0230, if you need to use Milwaukee for an alternate, then the field 16 is KOSH0230 KMKE.

There is no field 17 either, so there is even less to fill out.

Field 18 is labeled "Other Information" which seems casual, but it is really formatted other information. I hinted that if in field 10 the aircraft is RNAV capable a note can be added to field 18 to tell the ATC what kind of approach you may want, as in: NAV/RNVD2 to use a GPS receiver to do a 1 mile approach. (RNP will take specific pilot training). If you just want a note to be put on the flight plan, the RMK/ can be used followed by the text of the message. Other specific field 18 values are:

  • HAZMAT: For a flight carrying hazardous material;
  • HOSP: For a medical flight declared by medical authorities
  • MEDEVAC: For a life critical medical emergency evacuation
  • SAR: For a flight engaged in a search and rescue mission

The one place that gets ugly is the ADS-B specifications. If the aircraft ADS-B installation is DO-260B then the field 18 must contain SUR/260B or if the ADS-B installation is DO-282B compliant then SUR/282B should be specified in field 18, (DO-260B is the specification for a Mode S transponder with Extended Squitter or 1090ES, DO-282B is the specification for UAT radios). I hope that clears that mess up.

An example field 18 can look something like:

   SAR NAV/RNVD2 SUR/282B RMK/Aint we got fun

That would be a search and rescue flight with GPS capable of RNAV 1, using ADS/B UAT radio, telling the controller we might be having fun.

Are we ready for fall? That is when this all will be happening.

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