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SERA requires flight plans for all controlled aerodromes

SERA states in section SERA.4001:

A flight plan shall be submitted prior to operating:

a) any flight or portion thereof to be provided with air traffic control service;

This means that every VFR flight going to an aerodrome with ATC (i.e. a control zone) will require a flight plan to be filed. This has been the rule in e.g. Poland for some years now.

Some say that the flight plan can be filed implicitly (e.g. when contacting ATC and asking for landing) but the text doesn't say that. It does however mention air filing (which was not allowed in many/most EASA member states):

A flight plan shall be submitted, before departure, to an air traffic services reporting office or, during flight, trans­mitted to the appropriate air traffic services unit or air-ground control radio station, unless arrangements have been made for submission of repetitive flight plans.

Talking about SERA, its effective date is December 4th, 2012 but there is a 24 month opt-out period. Does anybody know of which countries have chosen the opt-out and which will start next month? Germany has (as always) chosen the maximum opt-out.

What you will probably see is a continuation of what happens today already.

Some countries will allow "air-filing" flight plans for any flight into, out of, or through controlled airspace, and other countries will be more strict. And this "air-filing" is not done explicity, but is implicit when you request your departure, transit or entry clearance.

In the Netherlands, for example, you need to formally file a flight plan for any flight that starts or terminates at a controlled airport, or that takes you through the Schiphol CTR. For other CTR transits you can air-file, which is done implicitly with your transit request.

Details are typically in the country AIP, and SERA seems to be worded so that all countries can implement their own rules. So much for standardization though...

Details are typically in the country AIP, and SERA seems to be worded so that all countries can implement their own rules. So much for standardization though...

SERA is directly applicable law in all member countries. Country specific deviations are only possible as far as SERA specifically allows for them (e.g. it allows member countries to only require 1.5km visibility instead of 5km for VFR in airspace G, which is the current German minimum).

The implicit filing is of course possible with the wording in SERA.4001. However, it also looks like Germany's ban on air-filing will no longer be possible under SERA.

I do not think that airborne flight plan filing will be prohibited.

If it was, one would never be able to get e.g. an IFR clearance on a VFR flight. - other than as a Mayday scenario.

There are already countries where a "non-airborne" flight plan has to be filed e.g. Spain for all flight in CAS. And of course the UK, where it is "de facto practically absolutely mandatory" to do that, to get access to the extensive Class A for anything resembling an enroute flight.

What would be really funny is if somebody set up a service, accessible via SMS, whereby an SMS transmitted from an aircraft would cause a "proper" flight plan to be filed, departure aerodrome ZZZZ (with lat/long equal to the location of the aircraft when the SMS was sent), the route being perhaps a DCT (OK for VFR) and the destination specified in the SMS. You would just need a web-connected machine with a GSM modem on it, and access to an online flight plan filing service which presents a website which can obviously be driven with a script.

What I am getting at is if the authorities made flying sufficiently hard due to a really stupid reason, it won't be long before somebody delivers a really provocative solution for it.

It's a bit like airfields which demand "PPR by phone". You can make a mockery of this with a €300 satellite phone from Ebay...

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

If it was, one would never be able to get e.g. an IFR clearance on a VFR flight. - other than as a Mayday scenario.

That has been the reality in Germany. If you try to file in-air, you can get prosecuted and there are cases where pilots got fined. Unexpected weather is not sufficient reason for air filing. So the SERA wording looks extremely attractive to German pilots.

What would be really funny is if somebody set up a service, accessible via SMS, whereby an SMS transmitted from an aircraft would cause a "proper" flight plan to be filed

If you have GSM, you can just use RocketRoute from your mobile phone. However, GSM in air is not reliable. Keep in mind the legal minimums for filing flight plans, IIRC 2h in advance. In reality it takes 30 seconds for a flight plan to show up in the system but if they wanted to stop you...

That has been the reality in Germany. If you try to file in-air, you can get prosecuted and there are cases where pilots got fined. Unexpected weather is not sufficient reason for air filing.

I don't doubt you Achimha but what you are saying is that if I have an IR but flying VFR in Germany, and the weather closes in around me, but I could climb up and continue IFR, then my only options are

  • a prosecution, or
  • death

Some of the stuff I read about Germany is virtually unbelievable...

I have read of cases in Germany where a pilot got prosecuted for flying in (alleged) IMC following a "VFR" departure. This can be expected in provocative cases (somebody "high up" sees it and wants to make a "policy statement") and has happened in the USA too.

But clearly this doesn't happen with all the business jets flying "VFR" into Egelsbach

If you have GSM, you can just use RocketRoute from your mobile phone

Sure, but the point is that is "hard" and you have to be low down to make it work. Whereas stuff which involves just one small packet like an SMS work much better. I have never been successful to make GSM voice, GPRS or 3G work airborne for long enough to be of any use.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

That has been the reality in Germany. If you try to file in-air, you can get prosecuted and there are cases where pilots got fined. Unexpected weather is not sufficient reason for air filing. So the SERA wording looks extremely attractive to German pilots.

Some of the stuff I read about Germany is virtually unbelievable...

Peter and Achima, I sympathise with both positions. I have found many things about flying in Germany very weird... and I am starting to develop a nervous worry about prosecution every time I fly here.

I was chatting to an instructor recently about the requirement to file a flight plan for VFR night in Germany, and I was told in no uncertain terms do not file on the air... I asked even if the headwinds are heavy and I will be late back after SS... he said it is best to land and then file, then depart;and I thought great, by the time I have done all of that the destination will be closed anyway. Not sure if he has been prosecuted or not. But he also told me that Germany can get annoyed if you file a flight plan where there is no reason to, despite the obvious Search and Rescue benefits etc...

Just as I think it can't get any worse I read about an airport in Westphalia,which will prosecute for a 150 metre deviation from the publish circuit pattern to the tune of 500EUR...

I have an IR but flying VFR in Germany, and the weather closes in around me, but I could climb up and continue IFR, then my only options are

That's where in-air filing is permissible. However, jurisdiction considers weather to be in compliance with forecasts and given that aviation forecasts are always extremely pessimistic, you would very likely be guilty of improper preparation. In-air filing is considered to be an emergency facility in Germany. It is being used, usually nothing happens but you might not want to rely on it.

I have read of cases in Germany where a pilot got prosecuted for flying in (alleged) IMC following a "VFR" departure.

I would say that the UK is an exception there. VIFR happens all the time, it is illegal pretty much everywhere but you hardly ever hear about somebody getting prosecuted. I've witnessed it many times at our aerodrome. Only if somebody files a complaint, the state attorneys have to and will prosecute it.

I was chatting to an instructor recently about the requirement to file a flight plan for VFR night in Germany, and I was told in no uncertain terms do not file on the air.

At least we've had night VFR ever since whereas some European island where the pubs close at 10pm just recently started to allow it

However, you're right. Filing a VFR night plan because you're late comes with a certain risk. I've witnessed it several times on the frequency but it's not what you're supposed to do. If I have to do it, I would use my most charming voice and ask the controller whether he/she thinks I should land and file or he/she would be so nice as to submit my plan with AIS. Approaching SS+30, there is virtually no traffic on FIS so chances are very good that you don't have to land. Be prepared to give a good reason why you have to rely on it. Another option is RocketRoute on my phone, dead easy but requires GSM coverage.

I once heard a guy asking ATC whether they could call his wife at home and tell her he was late. ATC did it without blinking.

But he also told me that Germany can get annoyed if you file a flight plan where there is no reason to, despite the obvious Search and Rescue benefits etc...

That is untrue. A flight plan that you don't open will just disappear and if you open a flight plan, you just do so because it is your right. If ATC discourage you from doing it, you file a written complaint with ATC and you can be sure the controller will have an unpleasant discussion with this superior. Everything is on tape.

Just as I think it can't get any worse I read about an airport in Westphalia,which will prosecute for a 150 metre deviation from the publish circuit pattern to the tune of 500EUR...

Yes, that is an interesting matter. It's due to Germany's federalism. A large number of more or less competent local authorities deal with aviation and this particular one appears to be on a crusade. Court cases are ongoing and most likely judges will tear the regulation into pieces.

BTW: ATC in Germany is done by a private company called DFS GmbH. That company is fully state-owned (after our Superior Court ruled that fully privatizing ATC like the government planned is against our Consitution). DFS negotiates fees for its services and one attempt is to ask for the highest prices possible while another is to offer the least services possible. Air-filing is just one example where the DFS try to limit their costs by not proving a service they are not contractually obliged to provide. Providing VFR approach charts free of charge is also not part of their government contract so DFS sell those charts. DFS currently get 6m€ a year for FIS which is quite a bit of money. Not all is bleak, FIS in Germany is much more pilot friendly than in the UK for example. Still, SERA might be the best thing for aviation in Germany in a very long time.

However, jurisdiction considers weather to be in compliance with forecasts and given that aviation forecasts are always extremely pessimistic, you would very likely be guilty of improper preparation.

That is completely outrageous.

A pilot is entitled to request ATC to elevate his flight to an IFR clearance, for any operational reason. There could be loads of "summer cumulus" ahead, bases 1500ft AGL, tops 5000ft. Climbing above the stuff is a 100% legit operational reason. (Impossible in the UK if into Class A, IME, but 100% legal to ask).

I would say that the UK is an exception there. VIFR happens all the time, it is illegal pretty much everywhere but you hardly ever hear about somebody getting prosecuted. I've witnessed it many times at our aerodrome. Only if somebody files a complaint, the state attorneys have to and will prosecute it.

Maybe we got wires crossed on the UK being an exception. "IVFR" is common everywhere (perhaps less in the USA than most places, due to the much more accessible IR). But the UK doesn't prosecute it, even in the most obvious cases of e.g. a VFR arrival in OVC001 into an ATC airport (a departure from a Class D+ airport is however impossible in < OVC015 or so).

Westphalia,which will prosecute for a 150 metre deviation from the publish circuit pattern to the tune of 500EUR...

That is totally outrageous too, and cannot work, because the only way to track that accurately is with a GPS coupled autopilot, with the GPS set to 0.3nm full-scale

I wonder what German pilot forums are like

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

This discussion surprises me quite. I was always taught - as being ICAO ruling and thus agreed to by national authorities - -) that a flight plan must be filed for every flight partially or wholly through controlled airspace -) that a flight plan must be filed for every flight intended to cross FIR boundaries -) that filing a flight plan is never forbidden

I cannot understand how DFS could be annoyed at the filing of a flight plan, and still less how they could legally act upon such annoyance.

Neither do I see what is so very new in this SERA ruling.

FWIW I have never done it - as a microlight flier I am disallowed at controlled airports anyway - but I understand that implicitly filing the flight plan by announcing the flight to ATC at engine startup is common practice at Belgian regional airports Antwerp, Ostend, Liege, Charleroi. Perhaps even Kortrijk, too?

There's some logic to that: everybody finds it normal and even self-evident that ATC should close your flight plan, why shouldn't they open it?

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium
46 Posts
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