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Flight Planning Fundamentals

Flight planning - Lesson 1

· Education


Flight planning is the process of producing a flight plan to describe a proposed aircraft flight.

It involves two safety-critical aspects: fuel calculation, and compliance with various aspects like for example air traffic control requirements, Aircraft MEL restriction or ETOPS safety rules regulations.

Some commercial airlines have their own internal flight planning system and operational control center, while others employ the services of external planners.

A licensed flight dispatcher or flight operations officer is required by law to carry out flight planning and flight watch tasks in many commercial operating environments (e.g., US FAR §121, Canadian regulations). These regulations vary by country but more and more countries require their airline operators to employ such personnel.

The basic purpose of a flight planning system used by dispatchers is to calculate how much trip fuel is needed in the air navigation process by an aircraft when flying from an origin airport to a destination airport.

KLM OCC (Operational contro center) - Netherlands

Aircraft must also carry some reserve fuel to allow for unforeseen circumstances, such as an inaccurate weather forecast, or air traffic control requiring an aircraft to fly at a lower-than-optimal altitude due to congestion.

The way in which reserve fuel is determined varies greatly, depending on airline operations manuals or country restrictions.

Example of flight planning systems nowadays

There is often more than one possible route between two airports.

Subject to safety requirements, commercial airlines generally wish to minimize costs by appropriate choice of route, speed, and height.

Various names are given to weights associated with an aircraft and/or the total weight of the aircraft at various stages are going to be reviewed further accurately.

The OFP (Operational Flight Plan) is a fundamental document for flight planning.

 It is included in the Briefing Package, which also contains the Weather Information (METAR, TAF, AIRMET, SIGMET, Weather Maps ) and NOTAMS.

In the upper part, we find the Header.

It contains the general information of the plan such as Flight number, Date and Time, Aircraft type with relative Registration marks, and SELCAL code. 

The Cost Index (CI) is the ratio between Time-related Costs and Fixed Costs (Fuel). 

he part to be completed under the heading is used by pilots to record the useful starting data. 

The second section is one of the most important parts of the OFP: Fuel Data and Estimated Weights.

Fuel Data : are explained in detail in the "Fuel Calculation" section.

The "REQD" is the Minimum Fuel with which the aircraft can leave the parking to carry out the flight. The fuel to be embarked then, once established by the Commander, cannot be less than that.

The "MDF" is the Minimum Diverting Fuel: represents the sum between the Alternate and the Final Reserve Fuel. It is a very important post because it establishes the minimum fuel at which the plane must divert to the alternate airport in order to land with no less than the Final Reserve Fuel on board. 

Pay attention to the item "EXTRA" in the FUEL section: that is the extra fuel to get the "Two Stage".

Below the Weight section, that will be analyzed deeply in the next lessons, we find the information of Average Wind, ISA Deviation (temperature) and flight altitude included in the performance part.

Further down we find different corrections to be used depending on the case in-flights variations (higher weights, different flight quotas from the planned one, etc.). 

The last row at the bottom contains the route to be inserted in the ROUTE page of the FMC.

Bruno Stefano Rodriguez

Private Pilot - Flight Planning & Air Navigation Expert

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