January 11, 2013

NBAA Air Traffic Services will soon unveil a new web-based educational initiative designed to improve the timeliness and accuracy of flight plans filed by aircraft operators. The new FileSmart campaign will highlight for operators the ways they can reduce the impact of air traffic delays to their operations by modifying their flight planning processes, while providing air traffic controllers with more timely and accurate flight plan “intent” information.

Anticipated to go live early this year, FileSmart will underscore the importance of filing accurate flight plans as early as is realistically possible, and will also offer advice to flight crews about how to reduce the likelihood of ground delays and last-minute re-routes.

“There’s a lack of information out there about what operators should be doing right now to improve their planning and filing, as well as about programs expected to come in the future that will impact how they conduct their pre-flight planning,” said Jim McClay of NBAA Air Traffic Services.

“Although general aviation isn’t a causal factor in aviation system delays, the business aviation community has always supported technologies and procedures that promote the optimal utilization of the aviation system for all stakeholders, including NBAA Members.” McClay added. “This initiative, which is part of that collaborative tradition, takes shape as a large-scale national educational effort to inform pilots, dispatchers, and other operational personnel about the urgent need to provide flight plan information to the FAA as early as possible before a flight, and to make sure that information is as accurate and detailed as possible,” he added.

The FileSmart initiative focuses on three key areas:

  • File Early: Filing as early as possible ensures that your flight plan is entered into the FAA’s traffic flow management system in sufficient time for FAA flight planning systems to offer you the optimal flight plan, taking into account known constraints in the National Airspace System (NAS). Filing as early as possible also decreases ground delays by reducing the number of “late-filer” flight plans submitted into existing traffic management initiatives (TMIs).
  • File Accurately: Filing an accurate departure time and appropriate route (preferred, recommended, required or CDRs), taking into account possible TMIs along the route, means less time spent negotiating with air traffic controllers. Filing accurately also means being aware of, and using, the new flight plan format from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), so that FAA computers can understand the crew’s abilities and aircraft’s equipage for all phases (departure, en route and arrival) of the flight.
  • Check the NAS: Do you check the status of the NAS prior to your flight? Pilots are encouraged to make this a standard operating procedure when planning a flight, much like checking Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and the forecasted weather. In fact, new programs under development by FAA will make an understanding of what is happening in the NAS even more critical in avoiding constraints and reducing the chance for significant delays.

“In order to help smooth the traffic flow in the nation’s aviation system for NBAA Members and all stakeholders, changes need to be made in the way that pilots and flight planners prepare for flights,” McClay concluded. “They must begin to take into account the prevailing air traffic issues affecting the airspace in which they will be operating.”

The FileSmart initiative is still being developed, but already has support from several other industry groups, including the National Air Transportation Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. For more information about this effort, contact McClay at jmcclay@nbaa.org.