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Safety Publications/Articles

Closing the VFR flight plan

Who among us hasn't forgotten to close a VFR flight plan, or at least worried about remembering to close the flight plan when training primary students? We have enough to worry about during dual cross-country flights, and Post-It reminders don't always do the trick. So, here's a suggestion.

The next time you and a student head off on a cross-country flight, take out your cell phone, call your cell number, and leave yourself a voice-mail message. Remind yourself to close your flight plan. Obviously, you'll deactivate your phone while aloft. When you return to Earth, reactivate your phone and check for messages; you'll receive the one you sent earlier. This is an easy way to help remember to close your flight plan.

It's also a good idea to have students leave similar reminders on their cell phones' voice mail. That doubles the chances that you'll remember to close the VFR flight plan.

Some people add another layer of insurance by providing their cell phone number on the flight plan, instead of their home phone number. Makes sense. When you get where you're going, you're wherever you are--and it's only "home" half the time! A CFI might take hours to get home after a flight given the required stops for burgers, ice cream, and chips and dip. By that time, the FAA would probably have long since begun the initial stages of the search-and-rescue process.

Of course, this advice assumes that a CFI has a cell phone. If he's just been released by the alien ship that abducted him 20 years ago and hasn't heard of this novel device, then it's back to sticky notes, rubber bands, and alarm clocks as memory aids, which really wasn't so bad.

By Rod Machado

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