VFR Flight Plans, useless or not?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by NoHeat, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. NoHeat

    NoHeat En-Route

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    In another thread, one poster said a VFR flight plan is "useless" and another proposed a need for a new thread to challenge that view. So here's the new thread.

    What's your opinion?
     
  2. chartbundle

    chartbundle Line Up and Wait

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    Should have been a poll... Also, with 3 days/year of VFR in the PNW it's not often a problem here.
     
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  3. Brad Z

    Brad Z En-Route

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    You can file, open and close a VFR flightplan all online without ever having to talk to anyone. That should appeal to at least the most anti-social of us here, right?
     
  4. EdFred

    EdFred Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If I'm flying in an area where search and rescue is going to be required if I go down I'm already going to have people knowing when my eta is and they will know before flight service will to start calling the authorities if I don't check in.

    There's nothing that a VFR flight plan does that can't be accomplished by other means... and in some cases more efficient.
     
  5. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    According to the crackerjack press not filing a VFR flight plan a leading cause of crashes. Or so I heard.
     
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  6. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    this is going to be an interesting thread.

    full disclosure - I use both flight plan and FF when I am going somewhere. though I will admit, in more than 1 occasion I have filed the plan and forgot the activate after run up
     
  7. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Been discussed many times, guess it's due again. Y'all have fun with it. :rolleyes:
     
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  8. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    Wait wait, (HOLDING MY HAND UP VIGOROUSLY) I know when/where VFR flight plans are useful: When VFR on a Canada over-flight!!!

    ...it's the only time I use them, actually.
     
  9. Ryanb

    Ryanb Final Approach PoA Supporter

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  10. rk911

    rk911 Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    not useless at all, IMO but i usually didn’t file unless my flight was longer than 50nm. the rental company required a flight plan for the same 50nm flights; someone else was aware of where and when i was going and would come looking should i fail to arrive.
     
  11. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    but that was winter.. this is spring :p
     
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  12. DanWilkins

    DanWilkins Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I am pretty sure one needs to be filed if a flight into or in a TFR is planned. It doesn't have to be activated.
     
  13. cowman

    cowman En-Route

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    It's pointless unless you crash and nobody sees or knows about it.

    Decide for yourself how worried you are about that and act accordingly.
     
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  14. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    Depends on who you are filing with. I don't file with Flight Service.

    For my VFR flights I do company plans. They know the route and almost to the second when I should be calling in to say I made it.

    Just flying for fun, which I hardly do, I let someone on the ground know when to expect to hear from me, and the route of flight if I am not returning to base.

    So no, I do not find them useless at all. Then again, I have never failed to cancel either. Wait...... No, never.

    Then there was the time as I was getting near the home airport, I called FSS in the air and cancelled my VFR flight plan. 15 minutes later I am sitting in the office when the phone rang. I answered, and it was FSS looking to see if N54321 had landed there. I told him yes, that plane is here safe and sound. He thanked me and went on.

    The irony.??

    The person that called was the same person I had talked to on the radio when I cancelled.....:rolleyes:
     
  15. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    They serve a useful purpose. If I'm flying to a destination, I'll file one.
    Not real useful if you are flying something that is going nowhere, fast.
    Most days, I have no idea what I am going to do until I get up in the air. Even then it's usually going to breakfast, or just sightseeing. If it's breakfast, I will call the FBO on the radio and tell them where I'm going, so they don't worry about their plane.
     
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  16. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It depends on the TFR. For the dreaded 30 mile TFR better be on an active flight plan of some sort.
     
  17. Skyrys62

    Skyrys62 Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    What's a flight plan?
     
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  18. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Flight plans are moderately helpful if you are overdue. They get the SAR process started faster, but the first part of that process is phone calls. If I recall correctly, it usually takes 24 hours to get a search started unless there's another big piece of evidence, like ATC losing radar contact unexpectedly.

    Since it's so easy to activate my flightplan through ForeFlight, I estimate my take off time and activate before leaving the FBO's Wi-Fi signal.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  19. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    In Colorado the searches get started as soon as the aircraft is reported overdue or the Air Force guys get a 406 ELT signal. It may vary a bit with each sheriff's office (sheriff's control SAR in Colorado) but in general the organizations train regularly and respond when called. CAP has to wait for daylight but ground teams have gone out in the dark. It may take them awhile to find you.
     
  20. NoHeat

    NoHeat En-Route

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    I don’t recall ever hearing of an actual rescue, of someone who filed a VFR flight plan. How often does such a rescue happen?
     
  21. bobmrg

    bobmrg En-Route

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    1-800wxbrief makes it so simple.
    Register with 1800wxbrief and you get a lot of services: warnings of adverse weather condition on your route; open/close by text message'; close flight plan reminder by text; monitoring so that if no motion is detected SAR will be alerted immediately, not after 30 minutes (don't ask me how they monitor). For the IFR folks, an email confirmation that a filed flight plan has been accepted. Use FF if you want to, but file with 1800wxbrief anyway. Hey, it's free!!!


    Bob
     
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  22. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    Here in the middle of nowhere SAR is activated after 30 mins, ask me how I know it
     
  23. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    SAR, or someone starts making calls? AFRCC has their procedures and regulations, and when I was last active (5 years ago) those procedures did not include starting a search until they'd called the pilot, their home, the destination airport, and the home airport. VFR flight plan gets a search started in about 24 hours vs. about 48-72 hours if there's no flight plan.

    I'm talking strictly about an overdue aircraft on a VFR flight plan. An active ELT or plane going off of radar unexpectedly are different triggers for a search.

    I say this as someone who's taken the AFRCC SAR course and run countless searches from my living and mission bases.


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  24. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    They’re extremely useful but I haven’t filed one in years.
     
  25. Cykoguy

    Cykoguy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have always debated it but never actually done it. Maybe I will one of these days.
     
  26. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach

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    I haven’t filed one since I was training for my private pilot. When I’m VFR I’m on flight following most of the time.
     
  27. wayne

    wayne Cleared for Takeoff

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    I file regularly, but IFR flight plans. I rarely fly IFR, just too many pesky clouds.

    A club years ago required a flight plan, over 50 nm or something like that, then a partnership and they wanted flight plans too. If I'm filing it might as well be IFR. Plus 40-60% (depending on the year) of my flights are Angel Flight.

    I've started to do an occasional VFR flight of it's really nice. I generally get FF when I do that. A second engine or a chute and I'm in pretty good shape where I fly, plus I'm typically in glide range of a public paved runway and will have cell coverage on the ground. If I flew out west then it would be different.



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  28. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    Is there any stats or info on the specific number of times a VFR flight plan being unclosed and expired resulted in a SAR that saved lives?
     
  29. hish747

    hish747 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Several nautical miles before your destination over water/mountainous terrain etc., inevitably you'll hear on the radio:

    "N12345 radar services terminated, squawk VFR, frequency change approved"

    I know I would rather be on a flight plan.
     
  30. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    SAR can be initiated by friends and relatives calling in and saying 'he shoulda been here by now and he ain't.' Maybe that can get things rollin as fast as the INREQ's and ALNOT's started by being overdue on a Flight Plan. I dunno, but the voices in my head say maybe not. One thing I know for sure, I ain't relying on anyone who is a beneficiary of mine to make the call, lol.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  31. SToL

    SToL Pre-Flight

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    Here's food for thought. I wont say how old I am, but I'll tell I started flying with my dad in the early 70s. I've flown 135 fixed and rotor most of my life. During that time I've done a whole lot of 'contract' work, so I've flown for a lot of different operators, and I've flown a lot of different personnel, and I can probably count the number of times I've filed a flight plan on one finger.

    Many, if not most, especially in the helicopter world, who are 135 operators, self file. In other words, you tell someone, your boss, your base manager, your flight department, the Forest Circus heli manager, etc, where you're going and when you'll be back. We never file with the FAA.

    The purpose of filing a flight plan is so 'someone' knows where you're going, when you should arrive and/or when you should return. Even if you file a fight plan with the FAA, and you deviate, chances are, no one is going to know where you went. The only exception to that is if you ask for FF, and even then it's no guarantee they're watching you that closely.

    If you want to file, file. If you don't want to file, don't, but at least give someone your planned route, destination and expected times.
     
  32. Sundancer

    Sundancer Pattern Altitude

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    Gee, not useless, really, but not all that important, either. Don't know about now, but before I left CAP behind a few years ago, I did some night search missions, so waiting for daylight wasn't a factor in search delays. Maybe it is now? Or in some locales? They never exactly had their act together during my time with them, and getting the ball rolling then (2013 and earlier) could be really sloooow.

    GA wrecks are hard to find, hard to recognize - not just out west; a lot of the east coast is forest, farms, and hilly areas, with the roads and structures in the valleys. We had one within sight of a major state highway and a medium sized town; took more than a week to find, as the ELT was mangled/useless. No VFR flight plan, but his family knew where he was off to, and that's the area we searched. Spring, and those dog woods were blossoming - clumps of white flowers, like chunks of aluminum with white paint. . .
     
  33. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Varies by group/wing/whatever. My group was pretty gung-ho and most of us were always chomping at the bit to go on a search. There was a search in Vermont I participated in where a plane went off radar in icing condition s~6PM and Vermont didn't start organizing the base until the next morning. Three of us from our group (in NY) went "poaching" and drove over to start searching Friday night. We were the only CAP people involved before the next morning. When VT CAP people started showing up the next morning, they said things to me like "I got called at 10 PM, what were we supposed to do?" In a rare instance of discretion on my part, I did not respond.
     
  34. mtuomi

    mtuomi En-Route

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    24 hours? Thankfully not. The difference between flight plan and no flight plan SAR is 30 minutes. With flight plan, it starts at 30 minutes overdue, without, it's 1 hour assuming a "reliable source" gives a report about it. You realize "someone starts making calls" _IS_ part of SAR. Uncertainty starts after 30min. Uncertainty is when they start calling pilot, the airport FBO etc, and this is the first phase of SAR.

    The process starts at 30 minutes after ETA. It's all in ICAO Annex 12 too.
     
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  35. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    About all you’re ever going to see (back then or now) at night is an electronic search. Not going to see anything in the dark UNLESS the aircraft or survivors started a fire.

    Most Wings won’t launch things into mountainous terrain after dark either. Maybe just before dusk in good weather and well above the terrain, but air search is mostly closing down after sunset.

    Survivors starting a fire was important in a search here a number years ago in mountainous terrain though. Aerial photography shot by the Mission Observer of the area in failing light caught a small pinprick of light where it shouldn’t have been, and an hour or two after dark the photograph was being analyzed and it was found. It confirmed a general crash location and that there were survivors.

    Coordinates of the fire were relayed to local Mountain rescue groups capable of technical rescues (terrain was too rugged and the crash too far from roads for “normal” ground search methods, which is also common for us here in the mountains) and that the fire likely meant there were survivors. They got back in there on horseback and later ATVs and dragged the cold but alive survivors out around 4AM.

    The ELT was not activated or they may have been rescued about 3AM. They went down early afternoon. Wouldn’t have made much difference. Later views of the crash site indicated that it was just above treeline so it probably would have been spotted the next day. Below treeline, good luck.

    Seeing that fire in a photo at dusk just before the crew had to RTB from mountainous terain is rare. In fact that’s the only time in 20 years or so I recall it going that way and the photographer with personal photo gear WAY better than the crap CAP could provide was part of it.

    Go down in the mountains here, you’re likely in for an overnight at a minimum. Electronic emissions are the best possible way to be found. Visual — the crash or something had better be visible in the forest. Usually isn’t.

    Many (including me) joke we’ll simply set the forest on fire for the quickest find possible. Of course, YMMV. Start a big fire, you’ll still be liable for damages. But you won’t be frozen to death. So you make your own call.

    Ad far as ground searches at night go, seen plenty of that. Again usually fruitless unless electronic emissions are happening. One was in crappy weather and the ELT was activated. Crews went nearly straight to it and it still took hours.

    Twin that got caught in bad weather and attempted a belly landing in one of the flattest places in the state. Aircraft dug into the mud created by the bad weather and stopped abruptly. Both occupants killed by hitting their heads on the glare shield and instrument panel because the aircraft didn’t have shoulder harnesses.

    Survivable with shoulder harnesses on or if the ground wasn’t muddy and saturated. They’d have just skidded to a stop. Or climbed out just fine into the mud, with shoulder harnesses.

    First ground searcher at the scene wasn’t prepared to find dead bodies and never participated in a search ever again.
     
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  36. DavidWhite

    DavidWhite Final Approach

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    At the company I work for we are required to file either an IFR or VFR flight plan. If I go down it is nice to know the coast guard will be out in their jayhawks in 45 minutes and it is even nicer to know the closest CAP squadron is 700 miles away.
     
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  37. mtuomi

    mtuomi En-Route

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    Exactly Dave. If I'm going to crash, I want to crash as far from CAP as ever possible to maximize the chance of being found.
     
  38. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    You route your flights to avoid Civil Air Patrol squadrons by 700 miles? I'm impressed.

    We know that the reason for filing a flight plan is to increase the chances of being found. What I don't think we think about is the inverse of that - not having a flight decreases the chances of being found by an extreme degree. And I don't just mean by CAP, I mean by any SAR component. It's a very different event to say that someone was flying to Great Falls vs that they were flying to Great Falls via V-536. The area being searched goes way up when a flight plan is not known.

    Yes, having FF helps and you can usually get it. Yes, having a 406 ELT helps. And having a flight plan helps. All three together are tools that you use to help rescuers find you if it ever happens to you.

    BTW, a 2009 Canadian study of 406 ELTs indicate that only 74% of them worked properly when activated, mostly due to the environment. Less than 1/3 activated based on g-forces. It's true that when they work, they are fabulous - an average of about 2 hours to be found vs 14 hours with a 121.5 ELT and 17 hours with a VFR flight plan, but that's about a 50/50 shot.

    You can rely on either an ELT or Flight Following - but a flight plan adds to the chance of being found. If you have a flight plan, then 15 minutes after you're missing, Flight Services starts looking for you and escalates it to the CG/AF. If you tell a relative that you'll be in around 6, it might be 6:30 or later before they call 911 to say that you're missing and the dispatcher isn't tied into the AFRCC. I know from personal experience that when the 911 route is used, it might be the next day before any SAR component is even activated to start a search. Tragically, that story does not have a happy ending.

    It's your call. This isn't Canada, nobody forces you to do this. But it is another tool in your toolbox and not using it will mean that searchers take longer to find you.
     
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  39. EdFred

    EdFred Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If you're telling someone that's not FSS your should be to Great Falls by 6:30, why would you only say "I'm flying to Great Falls", and not say "I'm flying to Great Falls via V536, but I'm going to bounce over to Middle Creek Lake and follow Middle Creek the rest of the way in"

    I don't know how the rest of the 406's are set up, but I can turn mine on before going down.
    A, B, C, D
    Airspeed, Best Glide, Checklist, Distress (7700/121.5/ELT switched to on)

    Plusm If I'm VFR I should have plenty of time to turn it on prior to land out since I shouldn't be CFIT.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
  40. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    With adsb won’t they know almost exactly where u are? Someone doesn’t show up when they were supposed to.....punch their tail # into flightaware and look for the end of the green line.