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Training Tip: The buzz about flight plansTraining Tip: The buzz about flight plans

It was a great training flight and your exhilarating first time heading out for some local practice on an unsupervised solo. Now as you tie down the aircraft, the urge is strong to share every thrilling detail with the fuel truck driver, who is a fellow student pilot.
Flight service can send you a text message to help you remember to close your VFR flight plan.

During your conversation a text message arrives, but you delay looking at it because you are describing a highlight of the flight to the fueler, and the tale must not be interrupted.

Then you remember that the text message may have been the reminder message sent by flight service to close your VFR flight plan through a service for which you registered. So with only a few minutes to go before your estimated time of arrival plus 30 minutes grace period is up, you break off the conversation and attend to this important task, resolving not to become distracted before you close your flight plan next time.

Getting a reminder to close a VFR flight plan that has not been closed by 20 minutes after the estimated time of arrival is possible if you register for reminders.  This service can include receiving a link to facilitate closing your flight plan. The service was just one of the methods pilots recommended using to keep from forgetting to close their flight plans during a social media discussion after publication of the Aug. 15 “Training Tip: An experiment to remember.”

Pilots have long been torn between using VFR flight plans for the safety they can provide, and avoiding VFR flight plans out of concern for forgetting to close them after landing before search-and-rescue inquiries, and a possible ALNOT (alert notification), are initiated.

Perhaps digital-age technology is shifting the balance more toward VFR flight plan use, as pilots share their methods and discuss the issue online in a dialog that prompted this comment from a student pilot: “OMG, I love it. In the beginning with my flight lessons, I was always forgetting to close my flight plan.”

Remember, even if you get “one of those calls” from flight service, the specialist will much prefer to hear that you are safely on the road home, or even nicely tucked in bed, than down somewhere en route.

And as one pilot noted after receiving such a call, the experience makes one “more cognizant in the future.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Pilot Training and Certification, Pilot Weather Briefing Services, Student
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