International Flight Planning 301: 6 Tips for Routes, Permits, and Revisions
This aviation blog post is part of a series on international flight planning for business jet operators and continues from our last post “International Flight Planning 201: Random Routes and Route Restrictions.”
For business-aviation flights, your ability to revise routes and permits varies depending upon the region of the world and reasons for the revision. Requests for revised routes due to operational safety or severe-weather-related reasons are often not an issue. However, there are countries that may deny requested revisions to permits if you make too many schedule changes. Be particularly careful when routes are tied to permits, as revisions in such cases can result in long delays. We recommend you work with your 3rd-party provider in advance to understand the restrictions you may face in terms of route and permit revisions.
1. Avoid splitting permits and flight plans among different 3rd-party providers
It’s often problematic when one 3rd-party provider arranges the permits and another files flight plans. If the entity filing the flight plan is not aware of the permits you have for particular legs, for specific approved entry and exit points, and for restricted airways along your route, complications may occur. Best practice to avoid operational issues on day of flight is to have one 3rd-party provider provide all flight plans and permits.
For example, in one case an operator was faced with difficulties while overflying the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal without a permit for India. India does not require overflight permits for their airspace if you’re not crossing over their landmass. The operator had planned to route around the islands to avoid filing for an Indian overflight permit. Indian ATC, however, would not allow the aircraft to divert off airways to avoid the island. Fortunately, we were able to assist the client on short notice and obtain the required Indian overflight permit.
2. Routes may be directly correlated to permits
There are routings, such as transiting from Hong Kong or eastern China into Europe, that are directly correlated with permits. For this reason, it’s never recommended to utilize random routes when transitioning through such areas. Furthermore, the route utilized to request and confirm the permits needs to be the same one used for the flight plan itself, as the approving authorities granted the permit based on that particular routing. Also, be aware that, in many areas of the world, scheduled airlines can fly routings general aviation (GA) can’t. Direct routings across China, as well as polar routings departing China, are usually restricted to scheduled airline operations.
3. Route changes often require permit changes and additional lead time
Last-minute route changes can cause delays of up to two days in some regions. If too many changes are requested, Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) may deny revisions. For example, rebuilding a route from Hong Kong to Europe may require several new permits and a couple of days lead time. It’s easier to revise a permit based on the same entry and exit points than to apply for a new permit. So try to keep your schedule as firm as possible and avoid last-minute changes, especially in China, India, and Russia.
4. Regulations for weather related route changes vary by country
Regulations for weather related route changes vary by how each country classifies severe weather events. China, for example, is lenient in terms of route changes in the case of typhoons or other such severe weather phenomena. Re-route requests to avoid a thunderstorm, however, may not be entertained. In many regions, weather must be quite severe in order for last-minute route changes to be approved. If there is bad weather at your destination, we recommend using an alternate within the same country. If you’re flying to St Petersburg, Russia (ULLI), for example, and weather becomes severe, ATC wants you to use a Russian alternate. Using Helsinki, Finland (EFHK) as an alternate will cause issues based on Russian authorities’ requirements.
5. Know which countries have recently moved away from using a metric flight level environment
On November 17, 2011, Russia and all CIS states changed from meters to feet. However, China and Mongolia still require you to use the metric measurement.
6. Take extra steps when operating over remote areas
When operating over remote regions, it’s best to have additional Equal Time Points to provide crew with options. Alternates need to be vetted and should offer certain basic aircraft services. A good example would be operations from Hong Kong, Hong Kong (VHHH) to Australia over Borneo or New Guinea – places where you may not want to land. For example, there may be a Pacific Island alternate where posted ramp weight is only 12,000 pounds or they have a runway with palm trees on both sides and not much leeway off centerline. There may also be fuel availability and quality issues at remote alternates. Plan in advance, for problem free alternates you can utilize in case of an emergency.
When flight planning internationally, take the time to work with your licensed aircraft dispatcher (allowed by regulations to run your flight plans) or 3rd-party provider, in advance, to build trouble-free routes. There are a multitude of airway restrictions and operating limitations to take into account worldwide. Revisions, in some regions, can be time-consuming and, in some cases, troublesome. Problem potential, in terms of permit and route coordination, can be unnecessarily high when having different 3rd-party providers arrange permits and flight plans. Have alternate routes ready in case issues come up, such as weather or stronger than anticipated head winds on day of flight, and try to avoid changing routings when established permits are directly affected.
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