Operations to Ireland – Flight Planning, Weather & NOTAMS

> | August 1, 2013 | 2 Comments
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Operations to Ireland – Flight Planning, Weather & NOTAMS

This is a post by author Derek Collins. Derek is general manager for Universal Aviation Ireland – Shannon, which has an aircraft ground handling facility in Shannon, Ireland. Derek is an expert on business aircraft operations in Ireland and can be contacted at derekcollins@universalaviation.aero.

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Ireland and continues from our last article: "Operations to Shannon, Ireland – Airport Operations & Security."

For business aircraft operators, flight planning in Ireland is a relatively straightforward process, as you long as you plan in advance and understand the operating environment. However, it’s important to be aware that any changes or delays to your flight plan may impact Eurocontrol-issued airway slots.

Below is an overview of what you should know:

1. Know required aircraft equipment when operating to Ireland

All European Union (EU) regulations apply when flying to this region. At all airports in Ireland, operators must be compliant with directives of Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), a body of the EU regulating authority. Aircraft must be reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM) compliant when operating above FL280, must be equipped for minimum navigation performance specification (MNPS) and, for operations above FL195, have 8.33 kHz radio channel spacing.

2. Email is preferred method of flight planning communication

Aviation authorities, local airports and ground handlers in Ireland prefer to communicate via email. SITA and phone are seldom used for flight planning purposes, but flight plan requests may be submitted via fax.

3. Be aware of day of operation procedures

About one hour prior to the crew’s arrival at the airport, the ground handler will ensure your flight plan is filed and registered on Eurocontrol’s Network Manager website. When you arrive at the airport, the ground handler will provide crew with flight plans and weather, when needed, and will escort crew to the aircraft. In the event that the flight plan has not yet been filed, your local ground handler will have blank flight plans that can be filled out and filed with the local Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) unit. It’s recommended that flight plans be submitted at least one hour prior to departure. You may encounter delays with less notice. Flight plans normally remain on file, in active status, for 30 minutes before falling out of the system. In the event that departure is delayed, the captain may contact the tower directly if the delay is within 15 minutes. To manage delays beyond 15 minutes, it may be best to have your ground handler assist. Be aware that it’s more difficult to leave earlier than flight planned rather than later. For an earlier departure, you’ll need to cancel the original flight plan and re-file. In such cases, you may experience delays, especially if a corresponding Eurocontrol airway slot is not available.

4. Consider best practice tips when filing flight plans

If the AIS unit finds errors in a filed flight plan, they’ll contact the ground handler, or whoever filed the flight plan. The person who filed the flight plan (usually the Pilot in Command [PIC]) will then need to make the necessary corrections. If the crew states on the original flight plan request that they’ll accept changes, the AIS unit will make the corrections, assuming they’re small changes. Otherwise, the crew may need to re-submit the flight plan via fax to them for filing.

5. Know pre-departure procedures

The PIC must communicate with the tower, prior to leaving, and request engine start-up approval.

6. Be aware of procedures on tech stops

It’s best to plan on having one hour on the ground when tech stopping in Ireland. Your ground handler will check the Eurocontrol system to ensure that you have sufficient time on the ground and will re-file your departure time if needed. If fuel uplift is taking longer than anticipated, the crew may contact ATC directly to delay a flight plan. If ATC is unable to accommodate a delay request, it’s best to work with your 3rd-party provider. Keep in mind that for any oceanic clearance, it’s best to apply for and obtain it 30 minutes prior to departure. Medevac flights will have corresponding remarks in the flight plan and are permitted more leeway in flight plan changes.

7. Confirm flight plans when making overnight stops

If an aircraft is overnighting, your ground handler will check and confirm that the flight plan is on file for the next day. If the flight plan is not on file, the ground handler will work directly with the crew or will communicate with the 3rd-party provider to avoid disturbing the crew during the night.

8. Weather issues are rare in Ireland

Weather issues seldom impact operations at airports in Ireland. In fact, Shannon (EINN) has one of the best records in Europe for the least weather-related airport closures. The climate is generally moderate in Ireland, with very rare incidences of airport snow or ice buildup. De-icing may be required during the period from late November to early February. Cross winds at EINN are seldom problematic, and it’s rare that an aircraft will have to circle due to local weather or wind issues. When operating to Cork (EICK), be aware that fog may be experienced during certain times of year.

9. Know procedures for day of operation weather updates

Your ground handler will provide you with a weather package if one has not already been provided. The latest weather updates will be available either from your ground handler or 3rd-party provider. There’s also a self-service website that crew can use to obtain the latest weather reports. The website provides weather for all airports in Ireland and has a link to Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) information. This site requires a login and password, which your ground handler is able to provide. Any local issues, including airport closures, will be advised via NOTAM.

Conclusion

Ireland is an accommodating operating environment both in terms of flight planning and weather issues. While local weather at airports in Ireland will very rarely impact flight operations, it’s always best to know all available sources for last-minute weather updates. For best flight planning results in Ireland, work with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler and know your best options in the event that a flight plan needs to be modified at the last minute.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this article or need help with an upcoming trip to Ireland, contact me at derekcollins@universalaviation.aero.

Later we’ll discuss permits, airport slots and prior permissions required for Ireland and their impact on your trip.

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About

Derek Collins has more than a decade’s experience working in ground support in Ireland. He is an expert at providing ground handling services to business aircraft throughout Ireland. Based in Shannon, Ireland, Derek has unique expertise in the United States Customs and Border Protection’s pre-clearance facility at Shannon, which allows operators to pre-clear all U.S. Customs and proceed directly to a number of destinations within the U.S. A member of the Shannon Airport Operations Committee, Derek works closely with airport authorities and CBP as an advocate on behalf of business aviation operators traveling to Shannon or using Shannon as a tech stop.

Derek, who has a degree from the University of Limerick, can be reached at derekcollins@universalaviation.aero.

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