International Flight Planning Feeling Like Unfamiliar Territory? These Nine Tips Will Help
As a flight planner or dispatcher, you’re no stranger to detail and change. Whether it’s routing, weather, NOTAMS, fuel, air traffic, regulations, etc. you’re used to creating one smooth flight from many moving parts. Planning regional or national flights—regardless of where you operate—have their own challenges. But if you rarely plan international trips, or are facing your first, the added level of complexity can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be. Just keep these nine tips in mind when planning your next international flight.
- Know the Regulations for Each Country—It seems obvious, but the number and cost of over-flight and landing permits can add up quickly, each with its own unique details, regulations, application lead times, etc. Get a handle on this early. Especially over Europe, a seemingly short flight can cross a number of different countries and controlling agencies, each with a different set of rules. This post will help you get more out of regulatory research time.
- The Shortest Path is Not Always a Straight Line—Now that you understand the permitting and regulatory impact on your preferred international flight path, take a quick peek into neighboring countries. Flying around a particular country or airspace, while adding miles to the trip, can save time and money. Sometimes a crooked line can be the best path forward.
- Look for Conflicts—It’s unlikely that your operation has had to worry about no fly zones (defined regions of the world where you won’t fly to or over due to safety concerns). Your first, or next international trip, is the best time to create one. But remember, geopolitical unrest can pop-up anywhere at any time. Add a trusted global news source and the State Department’s web site to your list of preferred global flight-planning resources.
- Plan Now. Don’t Wait.—We’ve noted in past posts that international flight planning today with a little information is better than waiting until you have all the details. With time, you give yourself the flexibility to run test flights, secure required permits, and reserve the fuel you need (see below). Get the foundational blocks of your flight plan in place now, and you can build on them as time goes on.
- Look into the Wind—If you read the point above and said, “Wait a minute, what about the weather?” Think climatology not meteorology when you forecast global weather well in advance of your trip. There are numerous resources like that will give you accurate weather projections based on years of historical data. Starting two weeks out, NOAA offers a great (and free) site for forecasting winds (select the GFS model, the region where you’re traveling and enter the flight parameters). The weather data in your early flight plans won’t be perfect, but it will be closer than you might think.
- Know Your Equipment—ADS-B are the letters on everyone’s mind these days, and with good reason. And, like ADS-B, many pieces of equipment may be required in one country, optional in the next. Or required at one flight level and not another. It’s not only important to know what equipment you need onboard to fly in certain parts of the world, but why you need it, the limitations of not having it, and the flight planning alternatives are available to you.
- Direct? Or Not Direct?—If you fly in the US or Canada, it doesn’t take long to get spoiled by flying direct. Many other parts of the world don’t offer that luxury. They need you to fly particular routes or use specific waypoints, so they can better control air traffic, more easily monitor your movement in or over their airspace, and/or more accurately charge the appropriate fees. Make sure you know which countries will allow you to go direct, which won’t, and plan accordingly.
- Study Airport Intricacies—Like the point above, we’re spoiled in North America. Except for nuisance inconveniences like noise abatement regulations or limited ATC hours, we can pretty much come and go when we want. Not in the rest of the world. Check published airport limitations such as hours of operations, fuel availability, noise and other local limitations. Go beyond an online search or consulting a manual by contacting someone on the ground to give context to the written rules, and ask about the unwritten rules as well.
- Assume Nothing When it Comes to Fuel—Start with these five questions to help make sure fuel is waiting for you at your destination. Just having fuel on site isn’t enough. Make sure fuel suppliers know when you’re coming, that they have enough fuel on reserve for your airplane, and that someone will be ready to uplift your fuel when you need it.
Just as we’ve published articles on finding fuel and global weather planning, we’ve also written a post that provides some compelling evidence why using a trip planning partner for international flights is an investment worth serious consideration. Our International Trip Planning Service is happy to help with your next flight because we deal with the issues above, and more, on behalf of hundreds of clients every day. Learn more by clicking here, contacting your trusted Customer Service representative directly, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (800) 353-2108.