Volume 29 | Thursday, May 6th, 2021
Best Practices for Flight Planning in the U.S.
Welcome back to Jump Seat. With GA traffic in the United States rapidly approaching a potentially busy summer season, we thought it might be a good idea to provide you with helpful information to ensure your flight day goes as smoothly as possible.
Doing Your Homework

So what resources are available for pre-trip planning in the United States? The FAA Preferred Route Database should be the first site to visit before running any flight plan. The searchable database and downloadable spreadsheet are invaluable resources for planning a route that will give you the smallest chance of receiving a reroute. For the United States ARINCDirect ingests these published routes and makes them available as route options with an ATC Preferred designator, similar to the KTEB-KFLL route shown below:
Don’t see your planned city pair in the database or on our website? Try entering a departure or arrival airport on the FAA Preferred Route Database page and scan the list for a route that you can select a portion of, ensuring your terminal routes are in line with preferred procedures. For example, if KMMU-KPBI is not displaying a preferred route then try entering PBI in the Destination field on the FAA site along with ZNY as the Departure ARTCC. You should then have several options available to give you a good idea of the type of route you should be planning on. 

For city pairs like KMMU-KPBI that may be lacking a published preferred route, the ARINCDirect Flight Planning and Navigation team is currently in the midst of an effort to improve the quality of the Auto-Generated Routes. Our team is accomplishing this by reaching out to operators, control towers, and traffic management units (TMU’s) to verify preferred arrival and departure procedures and incorporate them into the Auto-Generated routes.

Clear(ed) as Mud

Our continued integration with the System Wide Information Management (SWIM) feed and other FAA products will enhance the toolset of the pilot or dispatcher who is tasked with flight planning for an upcoming mission. ATC cleared routes are one way that this data can be presented to flight planners. 

A common misconception about cleared routes is that they are vetted and approved by the departure center and the entirety of the route can be flown with minimal or no deviations. Unfortunately, that only holds true for the departure center itself. It is possible these routes contain segments downline that infringe on warning or restricted areas and Military Operations Areas (MOAs) or do not adhere to preferred arrival procedures. Let’s take a look at this recently cleared route between KDAL and KLAX:
A label of ‘ATC Cleared’ indicated this route was vetted up to BHRMA and CNX which is just beyond the boundary of the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). After CNX it is possible that the aircraft which flew this route received a re-route, depending on the time of day. In fact, a segment on this cleared route between J74 and NABOB potentially violates a published restriction on J74 stating that it may be unavailable between 1400z and 0400z, daily. Though this route was “cleared”, it had the potential for a re-route to avoid the airway restriction. 

Routes such as this are ingested via the SWIM feed from the FAA and incorporate routes filed and cleared by not only ARINCDirect users but other flight planning providers throughout the industry as well. Carrying out due diligence and filing vetted routes not only helps your flight but also ensures we are all doing our part as stewards of the industry. 
The Backup Plan

With GA traffic already returning to pre-COVID levels in the United States, the threat of lengthy Expected Departure Clearance Time (EDCTs) are on the horizon due to Flow Constrained Areas (FCAs) or ground stops. By far, one of the most frustrating aspects of trip planning is doing your homework and then receiving notification of a 3-hour EDCT to your flight. There are several options at this point however one option that should not be on your radar is canceling, refiling to a new destination, and then asking for an airborne adjustment back to your original flight plan. Controllers will not be happy nor accommodating, your passengers will not be pleased, and you’ve added another stress to an already complicated flight day.

With some early planning and a backup plan, you can make the best of a bad situation such as this. Take for example a flight from KTEB-KSFO. Ground stops due to fog in the Bay Area are a frequent occurrence between June and August. Barring weather impacting the NYC terminals, a ground stop would be specific to aircraft arriving at KSFO leaving nearby options across the bay such as KOAK or KHWD as viable backup options. If you see fog in the forecast at San Francisco it would be beneficial to calculate and assign a recall number to a suitable alternative airport so that you can quickly change your plans should an EDCT impact your flight. As mentioned earlier, don’t make the mistake of trying to make an airborne change back to KSFO to avoid the ire of en route controllers. 

Tools of the Trade

One of the many benefits of being an ARINCDirect customer is that you are able to leverage our longstanding relationship with the NBAA GA Desk and our access to FAA tools such as Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) and the Tactical Customer Advocate (TCA) Hotline. For instance, when setting your U.S. domestic flight plan to file you are added to an early intent list that is sent to the FAA, giving them access to preliminary flight plan data. This data is a critical piece of information used to help plan traffic management initiatives such as ground stops or Flow Control Advisories (FCAs). One benefit of early intent is that your flight will not be classified as a late filer and subject to delays that are much longer than the average.

Not to overshadow these digital tools, your ARINCDirect subscription also gives you access to our team of Flight Coordinators. This group of trained, licensed FAA dispatchers is available 24/7 to assist with troubleshooting and route guidance. The flight coordination team is briefed throughout the day and closely monitors the National Airspace System (NAS) to keep track of FCA’s, re-routes due to weather, and Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR’s). In fact, here’s what one of our customers had to say about support for a recent flight:

“Thanks for the rockstar flight plan, keeping me out of the convective SIGMETs, and for finding a route with no delays regardless of the three AFP’s in place today.”

There are numerous resources at your disposal to carry out a successful mission including our access to FAA data and tools, the industry partnerships we've cultivated, and the expertise of our Flight Coordinators. ARINCDirect and our suite of applications are standing by to assist with EDCT mitigation, routing guidance, and alert notifications at just a phone call, email, or click away. 
Did you know?
  • ARINCDirect ingests published preferred routes for major events such as the Masters, Kentucky Derby, and many others. Arrival and departure procedures for these events are incorporated into the Auto-Generated Route. Look for banners at the top of the website for more information during high-traffic events. 
  • Stay on top of your EDCT by entering your email in the EDCT/CTOT Notification box to be instantly updated if your flight has been assigned an EDCT.
  • With airspace redesigns becoming more reliant on aircraft RNAV capabilities, now would be a great time to ensure your aircraft equipment codes are correct on the ARINCDirect website. Many of the newer airways such as Q routes and T routes require RNAV 1 or 2 en route capabilities. Our Next-Gen flight planning engines will take these codes into account when determining which airways it makes available in the route planning for your flight.
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Thank you for reading!
We want to invite you to take another tour of our upcoming webinar training events to expand your knowledge of new and existing features. Register for these sessions listed on the ARINCDirect Help and Training page.