FAQs on Flight Plan Format Changes for ICAO 2012

PT 4 M minute read

In 2012, the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) Model Flight Plan Form and filed ICAO flight-plan messages will incorporate some modifications to the PRESENT format. The PRESENT ICAO flight-plan format will not be supported after November 15, 2012 at 0001z. ICAO 2012 will have a major impact on all Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), aircraft operators, and flight plan service providers who create or receive flight plan messages. It’s best to take the time to understand the process now, and work with your 3rd-party providers, before changes go live later this year.

1. What is ICAO 2012?

Amendments to flight plan content announced by ICAO in 2008 for worldwide implementation by November 15th, 2012, go to the core of flight plan processing. Significant changes to data structures will affect all systems and some operational procedures. Changes affect format and information in the filed ICAO flight plan messages. These changes include ability to file 120 hours in advance, Item 10 changes, and Item 18 changes.

2. When are these changes going into effect?

ANSPs are currently making changes to their systems. As they go active, the new format can be filed. Everyone must use the new data and format by November 15th, 2012.

3. Is there an official Web site with all the information needed for this change?

Right now, the FAA is the best source. An ICAO website is also available for monitoring ANSP changes.

UPDATED AUG 12, 2012: Eurocontrol Training Zone has just launched its ICAO 2012 Flight Planning modifications E-Learning Module and its ICAO 2012 Flight Plan Guide. For the e-learning module, you’ll need to allow pop-ups in your browser.

4. How will these changes impact operators?

New Item 10 and Item 18 descriptors and data represent major changes that operators need to understand. In addition, as of November 15th, 2012, your 3rd-party provider will be unable to file a flight plan without this new required data. Item 10 will have some equipment removed and some additional equipment added. Item 18 will now include Performance Based Navigation (PBN), and the use of Nav/, DAT/, and STS/ all change.

5. What are the specific changes?

Item 10a

  1. Item 10 descriptors (J) and (M) were modified and (P) was removed
  2. Standard equipment definition changed. ADF removed from standard equipment.
  3. Added descriptors (A), (B), (E1-E3), (J1-J7), (M1-M3)
  4. (P) Reserved for future use of indicating Required Communication Performance (RCP)
  5. Multiple dependencies between Item 10a and Item 18 data

Item 10b

  1. Only one descriptor was removed (D)
  2. New descriptors: (E), (H), (L)
  3. New descriptors for ADS-B: B1, B2, U1, U2, V1, V2
  4. New descriptors for ADS-C: D1 and G1
  5. Multiple dependencies between Item 10b and Item 18 data

Item 18

  1. STS/ = Status (No longer free text. Only structured data.)
  2. NAV/ = Navigational that can’t be identified in Item 10a: Used to display GPS Augmentation and US RNAV descriptors
  3. PBN/ = Performanced Based Navigation
  4. SUR/ = Surveillance that can’t be identified in Item 10a
  5. DAT/ = Data information that can’t be identified in item 10a
  6. PER/ = Aircraft Performance data
  7. COM/ = Communications information that can’t be identified in Item 10a
  8. CODE/ = Aircraft address (6 hexadecimal characters)
  9. Multiple dependencies between Item 18 and Items 10a/b

6. How will these changes affect operators’ or 3rd-party providers’ flight plan filing?

Operators will have to be up on new Item 10 descriptors and Item 18 sub-fields (and applicable data) so they understand what information can be provided to various ANSPs via the ICAO Flight Plan. Many 3rd-party providers will flight plan and file based on stored client information, so without the updated data, they may be unable to continue to do so for your operations.

7. When will these changes take place, and will changes be made in different stages?

The first phase is already in motion. All ANSPs and filers are updating their systems and can implement them at any time. The new format may be filed only if the ANSP will accept the new format.

8. Do any countries already require these changes in order to file a flight plan?

Brazil already requires use of Item 18 PBN/ descriptors. They require all flights into, out of, and over Brazil to include PBN/ descriptors in Item 18 of the flight plan.

9. What steps should operators or 3rd-party providers take when filing flight plans for Brazil?

Many 3rd-party providers are not filing flight plans for operators that have not provided their PBN/ descriptors. Contact your 3rd-party provider to request appropriate forms. Review a copy of ICAO DOC 9613 on the FAA website. This will help steer you in the right direction for determining specific PBN/ descriptors.

10. Are there any tips to assist operators with these changes?

Read through ICAO DOC 4444, Edition 15 – Amendment 1 to become familiar with data required in the new format. If you’re unclear about how to apply your current RNAV/RNP performance level LOA or Ops Specs to the new PBN/ descriptors, contact your local governing office that issues such approvals to discuss. Also, ICAO also has a training document available.

UPDATED AUG 12, 2012: Eurocontrol Training Zone has just launched its ICAO 2012 Flight Planning modifications E-Learning Module and its ICAO 2012 Flight Plan Guide. For the e-learning module, you’ll need to allow pop-ups in your browser.


Begin planning now for ICAO 2012 requirements, as old-format ICAO flight plans will no longer be accepted later this year. Guidance on new requirements is available online from both FAA and ICAO websites. Your 3rd-party provider will be a valuable resource in helping your operation adapt to upcoming regulatory changes, so we recommend contacting them about updating your profile for the ICAO 2012 changes.

Special thanks to Wayne Farley for letting us use his awesome picture of the ICAO flag.


If you have any questions about this article, contact me at jasondavidson@univ-wea.com.

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