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Flight Itinerary Overdue Notification

By Brian Byl, TCC Liaison, International Cessna 195 Club

December 2018 - Our local COPA Flight 114 (Calgary Recreational Ultralight Flying Club or CRUFC) has made an effort to educate our members about flight rules, procedures, and regulations we must follow for our own safety and that of our fellow aviators and passengers. We have had some very good presentations, and a lot of information has been reviewed, discussed, shared, and learned.

One of the topics was flight planning and flight itineraries. In Canada, a pilot must file a flight plan or flight itinerary outlined in the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) as follows (quoted in part):

CAR 602.73 states that no pilot-in-command shall operate an aircraft in VFR flight unless a VFR flight plan or a VFR flight itinerary has been filed, except where the flight is conducted within 25 nm of the departure aerodrome.

CAR 602.75

(1) A flight plan shall be filed with an air traffic control unit, a flight service station, or a community aerodrome radio station.

(2) A flight itinerary shall be filed with a responsible person, an air traffic control unit, a flight service station, or a community aerodrome radio station.

A lot of my flying around Alberta is in the company of one or more aircraft from the CRUFC as we careen around the countryside seeking new adventures. In the event of a problem we always have backup and there is someone to assist. We consider each other the “responsible persons.” When flying to visit family in another province I normally wouldn’t file a flight plan but would “file” a flight itinerary by telling them when I expected to arrive. That was the extent of the information I gave them.

When cross-border flying into another country, it is mandatory to file a flight plan, and I always filed as required. Until recently, while I was travelling in the United States, I had not filed a flight plan, although I did always request flight following. I now file a flight plan on most occasions unless I’m with a group such as the Cessna 195 Club.

After one of our CRUFC meetings in which we reviewed flight plans and itineraries, I realized that while I told my “responsible” persons when to expect me, I didn’t give them any instructions about what to do if I didn’t show up as planned. I asked my wife, Maggie, if she knew who to call if I was overdue, and of course, she had no idea. I talked to several other fellow pilots, and they in turn asked their spouses — unfortunately the answers were just as bad. Nobody knew what to do or who to call! Not a good situation when your life could depend on the proper action.

So, I decided to put together a set of instructions and contacts so that when I file a flight itinerary, the “responsible” person knows what to do if I’m overdue. I call it the Aircraft Overdue Notification, which I have tailored to our aircraft.

I spent a lot of time trying to gather information on the internet and made numerous phone calls to Canadian and U.S. search and rescue centers, NAV Canada, and U.S. Flight Service to confirm phone numbers and procedures. Even though I spent several hours trying, it wasn’t clear who to call in the United States to report an overdue aircraft — Canada was much simpler as the Canadian Flight Supplement had the information readily at hand.

I talked to Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton, Edmonton FIC, U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, U.S. Flight Service, and finally the Leidos Outage and NOTAM line. I did call the Leidos Outage line to confirm it was the correct number to call to report an overdue aircraft. Everyone I talked to was very helpful as I explained what I was trying to do. Trenton JRCC and Leidos told me that they have called SPOT to get flight information and have a very good working relationship with them. U.S. Flight Service said it was a good idea to do position reports along the way and get flight following if you could.

I also contacted AOPA for more information and was given another contact for reporting an overdue aircraft — the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC).

I created accounts in the Nav Canada Collaborative Flight Planning System (CFPS) and U.S. Flight Service to create flight plan templates in both systems. The Nav Canada template is from the International Civil Aviation Organization while the United States has domestic and ICAO templates. I did all three. I included a link to my SPOT account so it is accessible to the briefers.

The template requires a little personalization to suit your requirements, and I think it’s easy to follow. I have reviewed it with my wife, and she’s comfortable with it. I got good feedback from other club members, and they have all shared it with their spouses.

As an aside, in the past if I flew to North Battleford, Saskatchewan, to visit my parents, I would inform them I was on my way and my ETA. As this template development process took place, I realized they are probably not capable of following the procedures if something goes wrong and I don’t arrive. So, I either let my wife know of my plans or file a flight plan. If she is travelling with me, flight plan it is!

 I have passed these instructions to Maggie, my kids, and other family members and reviewed the form and procedures to make sure they know what to do. Hopefully these procedures are never used but to quote a famous motto, “Be prepared.” 

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