Business Aircraft Operations in the UK: Flight Planning, Weather & NOTAMs
This is a post by author Jason Hayward. Jason is general manager for Universal Aviation U.K. – London-Stansted. Jason is an expert on business aircraft operations in the U.K. and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in the UK and continues from our last article: "Business Aircraft Operations in the UK: Fuel, Additional Services, and Security."
While flight plan filing procedures are straightforward in the UK, it’s always best to work with a 3rd-party provider or ground handler when submitting flight plan requests. There may be short-notice, or pop-up, operating restrictions in place that will impact requested routings. Having a 3rd-party provider or ground handler involved in the process helps avoid unanticipated operational delays.
If you are a business aircraft operator planning a flight to the UK, the following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Consider ATC procedures
Eurocontrol regulations apply for all operations into/out of the UK. The earlier a flight plan is filed on Eurocontrol’s website, the better – in terms of achieving preferred departure time. Check Eurocontrol’s Network Manager website to view current flight planning restrictions. Airway slots are issued two hours prior to departure. Restrictions that may be in effect at that time may impact airway slots. Once your airway slot has been issued, your 3rd-party provider will be able to determine from the Network Manager website what issues may be causing delay and whether the flight plan can be changed to avoid such delays. These delays may be caused by weather, strikes, radar failures, or military activity.
2. Be aware of special or required aircraft equipment
Aircraft equipment required for operations into UK airspace is as per European Union (EU) regulations. Many airports in the UK, however, allow Stage 2 operations – unlike other countries in the EU with blanket Stage 2 restrictions.
3. Be aware of day-of-operation considerations
Your ground handler should ensure delivery of your flight plan. It’s important to have a printed copy of your International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) flight plan to show that it’s been filed. Operators usually use 3rd-party providers to assist with flight plans. If a crew puts together a hand-written flight plan, ground handlers will be able to assist in processing this. Your ground handler will provide latest weather updates, along with Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs), on the day of operation.
4. Ensure that your flight plan is validated and accepted
Typically, if there are issues with a flight plan request, the Eurocontrol system will not file it. Your ground handler will check to verify that the flight plan has been accepted and, when necessary, will contact the operator or 3rd-party provider to make changes so that the operator can depart on time. Flight plan corrections are fairly common – particularly when operators use self-help flight-planning tools – as routes and restrictions change frequently in the UK.
5. More information is available online
You’ll be able to view tactical charts on Eurocontrol’s website. However, to see your flight plan status, you’ll need to access central flow management unit (CFMU). To make changes, you’ll usually subscribe to a 3rd-party interface with transmission via aeronautical fixed telecommunication network (AFTN) or SITA.
6. Consider fog and related visibility reductions
Fog conditions are common in the UK. Most UK operational delays due to weather are fog-related. Fog is most prevalent February through early April and October-December. Ability to operate in fog conditions depends on the aircraft and onboard equipment, but it’s important to note that UK fog conditions can be quite thick. It’s best to include your runway visual range in the ICAO section of your flight plan to avoid having the flight plan unnecessarily suspended.
7. Wind and snow conditions can shut down UK airports
High wind conditions can happen quickly, so it’s important to be aware of latest weather data on the day of operation. While large international UK airports – such as Heathrow (EGLL) – have equipment to effectively deal with snow, smaller airfields – such as Biggin Hill (EGKB) – may take longer to reopen after a heavy snowfall. Deicing services are available at UK airports, but you may experience delays with short-notice requests. During inclement weather conditions, hangar space may be available for transient general aviation. There are, however, capacity issues, and local operators usually have first priority for hangar space.
8. Be aware of weather data options
Your 3rd-party provider will be able to provide a full range of weather resources and briefs – via in-house meteorology departments – in advance and on the day of operation. Local ground handlers, on the other hand, depend on Internet-based weather sources rather than in-house meteorology resources. Latest NOTAMs can be obtained from your ground handler.
9. Additional reading: "Business Aircraft Operations in the UK" series index
Links will be added as new articles are published.
- Part 1 – Ground Handling
- Part 2 – CIQ
- Part 3 – Airport Slots
- Part 4 – Permits and PPRs
- Part 5 – Fuel and Security
- Part 6 – Flight Planning, Weather, and NOTAMs
- Part 7 – Culture and Hotels
Eurocontrol regulations are applicable for all operations while in UK airspace. It’s recommended that your 3rd-party provider manage your flight plan and Eurocontrol messages to reduce the likelihood of delays. This will reduce delays for departure when trying to file on your own. Also, be aware of weather conditions while in the UK, especially during the winter months, when some airports may close from time to time due to the current conditions.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to the UK, contact me at email@example.com.
Later, we’ll discuss culture and hotels for the UK and its impact on your trip.