Filing a flight plan is not required by regulations; however, it is a good operating practice since the information contained in the flight plan can be used in search and rescue in the event of an emergency.

Flight plans can be filed in the air by radio, but it is best to file a flight plan by phone just before departing. After takeoff, contact the FSS by radio and give them the takeoff time so the flight plan can be activated.

When a VFR flight plan is filed, it is held by the FSS until 1 hour after the proposed departure time and then canceled unless: the actual departure time is received; a revised proposed departure time is received; or at the time of filing, the FSS is informed that the proposed departure time is met, but actual time cannot be given because of inadequate communication. The FSS specialist who accepts the flight plan does not inform the pilot of this procedure, however.

Figure shows the flight plan form a pilot files with the FSS. When filing a flight plan by telephone or radio, give the information in the order of the numbered spaces. This enables the FSS specialist to copy the information more efficiently. Most of the fields are either self-explanatory or non-applicable to the VFR flight plan (such as item 13). However, some fields may need explanation.

Filing a VFR Flight Plan
Domestic flight plan form
  • Item 3 is the aircraft type and special equipment. An example would be C-150/X, which means the aircraft has no transponder. A listing of special equipment codes is found in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM).
  • Item 6 is the proposed departure time in UTC (indicated by the “Z”).
  • Item 7 is the cruising altitude. Normally, “VFR” can be entered in this block since the pilot chooses a cruising altitude to conform to FAA regulations.
  • Item 8 is the route of flight. If the flight is to be direct, enter the word “direct;” if not, enter the actual route to be followed, such as via certain towns or navigation aids.
  • Item 10 is the estimated time en route. In the sample flight plan, 5 minutes was added to the total time to allow for the climb.
  • Item 12 is the fuel on board in hours and minutes. This is determined by dividing the total usable fuel aboard in gallons by the estimated rate of fuel consumption in gallons.

Remember, there is every advantage in filing a flight plan; but do not forget to close the flight plan upon arrival. This should be done via telephone to avoid radio congestion.