As you can see there is a lot of detailed information packed into this
short message so what does it all mean?
you have used IVAO, FSNav or similar planning software you may be able
pick most of the above up but I'll provide a line by line decode below.
First Line -
1. Message type. FPL - means Flight
Plan. This is just one of many messages types used.
2. Aircraft callsign. Here JHB426E
3. Flight Rules and Type of flight. Flight Rules - I
for IFR, V for VFR.
Type of Flight -S (schedule),
N (charter), M
(Military), G (GA)
Second Line -
1. Type of aircraft. Here an A320.
ICAO code is used for aircraft types.
Wake Turbulence Category. M - Medium.
Choice is L, M or H
Item 2. COM and NAV equipment. I will leave this as it is not
essential to know these codes.
Third line -
ETD. 2150 GMT / UTC /
ZULU. Time is always UTC, never Local time. This applies
Fourth Line -
speed. N0459 means
459 kts. K
may be used for KPH in some countries.
Requested initial flight level. FL330.
F for flight level, A for Altitude (A030 =
3000ft), M for Metres (M015 = 1500m)
- full flight route in the form of point
- airway - point etc. More on this below.
Fifth Line -
-LTFE0349 LTBS LTBJ
En route flight time. Here it is 3hrs 49min.
Alternate airfields. LTBS and LTBJ are requested alternate
pertinent information for the flight.
Here we have the elapsed times to each
FIR boundary, aircraft reg (doctored), SELCAL code, operator name,
TCAS equipped, Date of flight, and some company data. There are
many other possibilities.
of this should be quite easy to understand (the important bits anyway)
so let us take a more detailed look at the route field. This was:
L975 OTR UY70 BLUFA UL603 PAM UL620 NARKA UL618 MOKRU UL606 EKI/N0459F370
VG80 OKESA VG80 AKBUK
we dive in I have to mention a little about airways routes in Europe because
you are going to get confused. It's not your fault - things are changing
rapidly in the real world and FS data is lagging behind..
in the European Airways System
the old days airways ran from navaid to navaid and it was uncommon for
any airway segment to exceed the range of the VOR at either end of the
leg. The flow of airways was therefore dictated by where each country
decided to place their navaids - logically arranged at a country level
but not so well designed for Europe as a whole.
airspace became more overcrowded it was realised that the system was inefficient
and that a new airways structure was necessary - one that produced a rational
flow throughout Europe. No progress was made for some time as each country
baulked at the expense of moving all their navaids!
the introduction of FMS/GPS systems the realignment of the airways system
became feasible at last - freeing the airways from the fixed navaids that
had dictated the structure for so long. It also meant that airways could
be any length as they were no longer limited by the transmission range
new European airways structure began implementation several years ago
and it will take some time to complete. Not only are new airways being
introduced but many old ones are being phased out or redesignated. As
will be apparent a lot of the new airways don't go anywhere near a navaid
and this has produced a rapid rise in the number of intersections/fixes
now found on current charts. These are always shown as a five letter group
so that WAL is obviously a navaid but BLUFA is a fix.
flight planning programs like FSNav are useful here as they contain most
of the fixes found in real life - and are mostly up to date. FSNav also
gives airways designations but here you do have to be more cautious as
they are not always current. It is probable that you will see the airway
you want but it may be under a completely different name.
final point. The airways structure is becoming very much a one way system
in Europe. That is why I include routes for both outbound and return flights
on the page. You will see that very few return flights follow the same
path as the outbound legs. This makes the flights all the more interesting!
Flight Plan Routes
to the flight plan now. The route field is a standard format in that it
will show a navaid (or fix) followed by the airway being flown. Only when
changing airways will the next navaid be put down - this then followed
by the new airway.
at the example plan from Liverpool to Bodrum the initial part of the route
is shown as
L975 OTR UY70 BLUFA UL603 PAM UL620 NARKA.
aircraft will fly the SID out of EGGP and end up at STOCK
- then take up airway L975
Although it will fly over fixes at UPTON and GOLES these do not have to
be put in the plan because the aircraft is known to be on L975 - and will
stay on it all the way to OTR.
appears on the plan because this a the point at which the aircraft changes
airway - on to UY70
- and so routes to BLUFA.
It then changes airway again onto UL603
VOR. Quite straightforward but watch the next bit.
PAM it takes up UL620
to the next fix at NARKA.
This is a nice brief entry on the plan but this leg is over 700nm!
Because the aircraft remains on UL620 all the way to NARKA the flight
plan does not have to show any points between PAM and NARKA - even though
the full route is PAM
ARNEM REKEN VAMKA LINSI LEG HDO HLV SLC LITKU KOVEK
Luckily UL620 shows
on my copy on FSNav and it was a simple matter to trace it through from
PAM to find the route above - faster than I could trace it on my charts!
So, beware - a short route field on a plan may not reflect a short overall
any of you are using real world charts you will find the same problem
with airways that plagues FSNav. Unless you have really up to date charts
they may not show the airways you may be looking for. The airway UY70
shown above is a very recent addition - I admit that it is not on the
charts I have here!
rest of the route is:
MOKRU UL606 EKI/N0459F370 VG80 OKESA VG80 AKBUK
will skip this bit as it follows the same pattern but you will notice
that very few navaids are used - it is mostly a FMS/GPS route.
you get to EKI you'll notice a different
grouping on the plan - showing
If you look back at the flight plan speed
and level group at the beginning of line 4 it showed N0459F330
- indicating that
the initial cruising level requested was FL330. By EKI the aircraft is
lighter and at this point the aircraft is requesting a climb to FL370.
You will see this on many of the plans, sometimes more than once, as aircraft
aim for the optimum height as fuel is used up.
further variation can be found on the flight plans to GCTS (Tenerife).
Here, at OMOKO
you will see
M077 shows that the
aircraft now intends to fly at Mach 0.77 rather than the 470kts TAS previously
shown. Mach cruise is a requirement when flying in certain regions of
the world, the Atlantic being one of them, and the change is shown on
the plan at the Oceanic entry point. The reverse happens when they leave
the area - speed will change back to TAS. The autopilot in FS does indeed
have a TAS/Mach option so it is quite a simple matter to imitate this
flight plan alteration..
you may sometimes come across the code DCT
in a flight plan. Don't start searching for a navaid by that code! DCT
simply means DIRECT and is used when an aircraft wants to route from one
point to another which is not along an airway - yes they can do this.
An example would be OTR
DCT NEW as no airway
exists between OTR VOR and NEW VOR.
wasn't so bad was it? If you spot any other oddities in the routes that
confuse you then drop me an email.
are other oddities.Any flights crossing Russian airspace get mighty odd
as they require speed in KPH and heights in metres! You may very well
see a flight plan start with N0420F330
and then change to K0779M100 as it
crosses into Russian airspace!