How long does it take ATC to close a flight plan


#1

I searched for this but couldn’t find it.

When is a flight plan closed at an airport with a tower? I’m thinking it might be closed upon the aircraft reaching its gate (for an airliner) or parking space at a FBO (for a general aviation aircraft).

I’m not talking about flight plans that are closed in the air (i.e. switching from IFR to VFR).


#2

When the aircraft turns off the runway.


#3

An active VFR flight plan should be closed by the pilot with the local flight service station. A pilot can ask the tower if they will call to close their VFR flight plan, and, as long a workload permits, the tower controller should be able to do this for the pilot.

But, ATC really does nothing IFR “flight plan” when you land. Its not like someone takes it off a list or stamps it “closed” or anything like that. The radar tracking data disappears and that is it.


#4

This is not accurate at all; it is the opposite.

An IFR plan must be activated when you depart (this is when FlightAware lists the flight as departed) and cancelled when the aircraft has ended the flight (this is when FlightAware says the flight arrived).

At uncontrolled airports, the pilots must advise ATC or a FSS of an arrival or the airport will remain closed to IFR traffic and either the aircraft will be presumed to have executed a missed approach and is out of radio communication or SAR will be launched to see if the aircraft had an accident. Unlike VFR flight plans, a lingering open IFR flight plan has significant and immediate consequences.


#5

If a flight lands at a tower controlled airport, the tower controller does nothing to “close” the flight plan wheter IFR or VFR. After the plane goes below radar it goes into the coast list on the radar display and after about 3 minutes it drops off the list or the controller can clear it themselves. As far as the flight plan being closed it occurs automatically when the plane is off the coast list. So pthomas745 was correct, ATC does not directly cloase the flight plan.

As far as VFR goes, yes, it is the pilot who is supposed to close their flight plan not ATC. If the pilot requests ATC to do it then we call FSS and close it for them. If neither the pilot or ATC close it FSS calls the tower that the plane was due to arrive at and asks the controller if they talked to them, then the controller has to page all the other controllers in the building and ask them if any of them remember talking to that plane. Being a VFR flight we do not keep the strips on file so there is no paper trail, just memmory.


#6

I’ll take your word for it although it’s in striking contrast with my experiences both as far as arrival data that FlightAware processes as well as conducting IFR flights which is bizarre.


#7

To answer the original question, NOT VERY LONG.


#8

I have many flight ratings and have been flying since i was 15 and never heard of a “Coast List” What is that? Also your information does not seem accurate. I have flown in some areas where i have dropped below radar for 10 minutes or so and the controller picks me up on the other side. My flight plan was not cancelled. Are you a controller, pilot, or spotter? And where did you get your information from? From what i have read on this post, dbaker, is the only one who has the closest accurate information to what really happens.

Rich


#9

I have many flight ratings and have been flying since i was 15 and never heard of a “Coast List” What is that? Also your information does not seem accurate. I have flown in some areas where i have dropped below radar for 10 minutes or so and the controller picks me up on the other side. My flight plan was not cancelled. Are you a controller, pilot, or spotter? And where did you get your information from? From what i have read on this post, dbaker, is the only one who has the closest accurate information to what really happens.

Rich

To answer your question I am a controller and have a Commercial Multi-Engine Instrument rating as well. The coast list is just that it is a list of aircraft that were on your tag (each sector and or tower has a letter or number that the radar tag is labeled with after accepting a handoff) and have dropped off radar. When you enter the coast list you get a number starting with 0 and if the controller wants to erase your flight immediately they would hit ‘Track Drop’ and the number related to your flight. If they want to suspend (keep active) your flight they can ‘Track Suspend’ your flight and then when you get re-acquired by radar they can ‘track start’ your flight and it will continue. However if the controller does not suspend your flight plan then yes after a few (I believe 3, but no more than 5) minutes your flight plan will be erased from the system (which for all purposes closes the flight plan.)


#10

I just retired after 34 years as an ATC. 10 years in the Navy (two towers, one approach control, 2 Aircraft Carriers). One year at an FAA approach control. 10 years at FAA flight service stations. 14 years at two FAA towers.

I knew as soon as I submitted the earlier response that the worms were clamoring to get out of the bucket.

If there is any subject that pilots continually are confused about ( and for good reason) its flight plan handling.

An IFR plan must be activated when you depart (this is when FlightAware lists the flight as departed) and cancelled when the aircraft has ended the flight (this is when FlightAware says the flight arrived).

The only thing that happens (in the ATC world) when you depart is your beacon code is detected by the radar software and your call sign, etc. is displayed on the departure controller’s radar screen. When the aircraft is displayed, a departure message ( a DM message) is automatically sent to the Host computer in the associated ARTCC. The time of the DM message then becomes the time used to compute the times for the rest of the flight.

There are several different Lists used by ATC in radar environments. I’ll leave the discussion of those to a higher skill set radar guy.

But let me say it again: this subject confuses pilots endlessly.


#11

I was conducting a practice approach recently that was supposed to terminate with a stop & go followed by a missed approach/departure. It was the 4th in a series of these and all was well until remaining runway distance during one of these necessitated a turn-off rather than taking off again. I asked the tower if I could taxi back for departure but was told that the flight plan was cancelled as soon as I turned off and that I’d have to call clearance for a new flight plan. Obviously at an uncontrolled airport, I could’ve just taxied back and departed.


#12

pthomas745 wrote:

I knew as soon as I submitted the earlier response that the worms were clamoring to get out of the bucket.

I just had to say this…I love your way with words!!!


#13

I was conducting a practice approach recently that was supposed to terminate with a stop & go followed by a missed approach/departure.

Most likely, the radar controllers in this case put your “track” in the Coast/Suspend list while you were doing your stop and go. Since they had a reasonable expectation that you would be airborne shortly, they could work this out. When you were in the air and the radar acquired your track, they started it up again and you were on your way.

I was conducting a practice approach recently that was supposed to terminate with a stop & go followed by a missed approach/departure. It was the 4th in a series of these and all was well until remaining runway distance during one of these necessitated a turn-off rather than taking off again. I asked the tower if I could taxi back for departure but was told that the flight plan was cancelled as soon as I turned off and that I’d have to call clearance for a new flight plan.

Now, this is completely different than the stop and go manuever for the radar controller, and the tower controller, too. How long will it take you to taxi back and depart? If the controllers involved all knew that you would be out with no delay and no other traffic conflicts, they could have kept you on the Coast/Suspend list and then launched you on your merry way. But, for some reason, (workload, traffic etc) they felt that they no longer could run the operation, and they wanted to work you back into the IFR system with a new clearance.

Obviously at an uncontrolled airport, I could’ve just taxied back and departed.

VFR or IFR?


#14

To All: I’ve noticed that there is a very wide range of aviation knowledge on these forums. There are people who don’t yet know what VFR means all the way through years and years in ATC or piloting.

Might I suggest that when you answer a question based on expert knowledge, especially if its something not generally known or understood by most others, that you mention your credentials or source of information or background or something to lend credibility. It would be helpful and minimize readers wondering if you’ve flipped your lid or really know what your are talking about. Not for every post, mind you, but sometimes if you’re correcting something someone else was mistaken on, it would be helpful to know more about why you think you’re right.

I’m sure most of us flip-flopped on the corrections above wondering who was correct. I, for one, really appreciate the information from advanced aviation experts, but it’s sometimes really hard to figure out who they are.

Just a thought,
BTaylor, CSEL/IA, AGI-A and soon CFI-A
(those who know that those letters mean will understand what I’m talking about [and probably that you out-rank me], and those who don’t will think I’m one of the crack-pots anyway :slight_smile: )


#15

BTaylor, Good idea!
BTW, Glad to see there is another I/A in the group.

age 73, Still fly 2000 Saratoga 301 TC with all the bells and whistles avg 10 hrs /Wk
CSMEL, Helicopter,A&P, IA :smiley:


#16

Well, I guess that can be misleading, too. /IA as in Instrument (CSEL/IA), not I/A as in Inspector (A&P,IA), which is how I think you meant it. Oh well, guess my idea needs a little refinement. :slight_smile:


#17

Thank you for the response. I learn something new every day. As to what pthomas745, said earlier this subject does seems to confuse most pilots. In my opinion its because we dont get to see enough of that side of the aviation industry. We are taught how to file a flight plan and talk to controllers, thats pretty much it.


#18

If you live near an airport with a tower (slower ones are easier) I highly suggest calling and speaking to the manager and try to arrange a tour, if it’s not too busy of a tower you can easily arrange one. Most towers like a 24 hour notice and some even have a requirement for it, but if they’re not busy you shouldn’t have a problem getting one. Good luck and have fun!


#19

Unfortunately, not all towers allow visitors any more! Before 9/11 it was no trouble, even on short notice. But although the FAA says the program still exists, some of the tower managers don’t know it and just say “NO”. Doesn’t even matter if you are a based pilot.

But don’t let that discourage you, some will say yes and it’s definately worth the time. Just don’t be surprised if you run into one of the less accomoding ones.


#20

I’ve found if you call the number in the AFD for the tower, and mention you’re a pilot they’ll usually try to arrange one for you. I just did a tower tour at Dulles (KIAD) 2 weeks ago on the way to a cruise… and if I can get one there, you should be able to get one almost anywhere. No, I didn’t try for one at National (KDCA), but it doesn’t have as much traffic either. However, if you’re < 31, expect them to try to hard sell an ATC career to you. They need controllers bad.