As the National Airspace System (NAS) becomes more congested and complex, it makes sense that directing flight traffic follows suit, with pilots often facing last-minute route changes for myriad reasons. To address these frustrations that flight crews face in these scenarios, a panel of aviation experts gathered virtually to discuss strategies for pre-flight planning and the tools the empower them to have as much visibility as possible into their planned routes.

The panel titled “NBAA News Hour: Flight Planning Tips and Tricks” featured John Kernaghan, Associate Chief Pilot for Johnson & Johnson, Rob MacLeod, Team Lead/Flight Operations for Foreflight, Ernie Stellings, Senior Manager, Air Traffic Services for NBAA, and Marek Siwiak, Flight Operations Specialist for ARINCDirect. Director, Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure for NBAA Heidi Williams moderated the discussion.

While these experts all come from different corners of the aviation ecosystem, the common thread among their advice for panel attendees was to avoid last-minute planning as much as possible and to “do your homework,” as MacLeod put it. Siwiak built on that, suggesting that pilots file their flight plans the day preceding their departure and leveraging insights from any experts you have at your disposal in that flight planning process – a meteorologist, for example, would help greatly in navigating around any adverse weather patterns.

“One advantage to filing early, especially the night before and especially if you are doing it through a vendor, is a lot of them are involved with collaborative decision making,” stated Siwiak. This helps provide a more holistic picture of the flight plan and allows for more visibility into the Expect Departure Clearance Time, or EDCT.

Stellings added to that, noting that from the air traffic side of the house, it’s best to file as soon as you know your plan is actually going to happen. “Especially when it’s going into high-density airports or airports with typical delays…the sooner you can get that information in, the better the FAA can make decisions…” With a more accurate picture of air traffic at any given time in an airport, the FAA can make more informed decisions about prioritization and ongoing initiatives.

The importance of filing for your actual departure time, as opposed to earlier, was emphasized by Kernaghan. He acknowledged while of course, it’s ideal for both the flight crew and passengers to leave as early as possible, the strategy for filing your flight plan earlier than the departure time on the ticket sets the crew up for a “late” departure, assuming most passengers arrive for their flights at their ticketed times. “It changes where you fall in the CDM [Collaborative Decision Making] program,” explained Kernaghan, causing confusion for all parties involved.

It’s safe to say that according to these experts, making your flight plans as far in advance as possible with as much intel and accuracy that’s available to you is ultimately how the aviation ecosystem as a whole can operate more smoothly.

You can hear more about these tips for flight planning by watching the full webinar on-demand here.

Chelsea Barone

About Chelsea Barone

Chelsea is an editor for Connected Aviation Today, managing the day-to-day editorial activities. Chelsea writes for other federal government and technology industry publications. Her background lies in B2B and enterprise technology, specifically cloud computing, SaaS, travel IT, and mobile devices.