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Which countries don't require flight plans for VFR border crossing, and in which scenarios?

I have been taught that you need to be under a flight plan when crossing borders. This is VFR.

Last friday, I was flying between France and Switzerland. After take off I contacted ATC (Geneva information) to activate my flight plan. The operator told me that they could not find it. I asked if I could file one in the air and it was refused. At that moment I really hesitated. I was about to go back to my starting point when they called and said that they finally "found" my flight plan.

What would you do in this situation ? How much trouble can you get into when crossing border without a flight plan ?

I've had this quite a few times VFR. It's always a good idea to verify on departure that they have your plan and have activated it. This means that at least it's filed OK. When the next FIR deny having it, you've got a leg to stand on and can tell them that it's 'filed and activated with xxx'.

Personally I'd hesitate to cross a border in these circumstances, but I've found "request clearance to enter xxx airspace" seems to help no end with 'finding' the errant FPL. In Europe it's hard to image the consequences being very serious and I'd guess most controllers would just make one up. I'm sure that's happened in one or two of my experiences.

One sure fire way to get in this situation is to file the day before with a DOF field. I'd say 30-50% of those go astray. It's always a good idea to call up some distance from the boundary, rather than relying on being handed off which might only be a 5 min warning.

There are places, like along the Fresian Islands, where you cannot contact the next FIR due to radio range. The received wisdom here is to continue according to FPL and make contact when able, but again it's good to know that on departure your FPL is in place.

EGBW / KPRC, United Kingdom

Why did they refuse to file it in the air? In the UK, London Information would(probably begrudgingly) file one for you. I'd assumed that in other countries, FIS region controllers would do the same.

In your situation I probably would have returned. I dont know the terrain at all, but if there is no radio range, as you say, then you are somewhat underexposed should you encounter a problem enroute. When I do file flight plans, I try and do them on the day, if a sufficient window exists, in order to prevent them being lost, or discarded due to DOF entries or something.

  • DO NOT file VFR flight plan the night before, do it in the morning. VFR flight plans are not administrated by CFMU computer, but by local procedures involving humans and it´s not uncommon for them to get lost overnight
  • if submitted by FAX/internet verify the receiving authority has it. "I just fax you my flight plan to EGLL it everything OK with that?"
  • if ATC tells you they do not have the flight, stand on your own, it´s their problem, not yours - provided you are dead sure you submitted the flight plan correctly of course. It happened to me several times and I never turned backed, they get my flight plan sooner or later.
  • make sure you make you flight plan active as soon as you can. Some boundary areas might have poor coverage. Establishing a radio contact with before entering a country is not required - at least I am not aware of such requirements. Of course, make sure you are entering class E/G airspace only. There is no reason to send F-16/Grippens to intercept an VFR aircraft with an active flight plan just because the pilot didn´t call 5 minutes prior to crossing border.
  • I would not call for "clearance to enter XXX airspace". I am an aircraft on activated flight plan, following the flight plan, so if there is an issue or problem they need to tell me. Again, make sure you are not entering class C/D without clearance. But this has nothing to do with international flight.

Or you can activate your own flightplan by sending a departure message just before your departure. In some cases (Paris) area, the flightplans arrive in the IFPS system while the controllers use the Olivia system. They have to manually copy your flightplan and address them, so they sometimes don't feel like doing that. That is basically their problem, but if you want to be sure you call the ARO office of the field of departure to double check. Some flightplan apps provide you with this ARO office information.

EHRD, Netherlands

Correction: Whether it is required - upon crossing international FIR boundaries - to establish radio contact with ATC (VFR flights) depends entirely on the country you are flying into. Italy and France for example do mandate it. Germany does not. Check each country's AIP.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

A flight plan, plus a radio call to the next country's regional FIS, is the international default requirement for VFR flight.

This is especially as there is no joined-up flight tracking system for VFR. A VFR flight plan goes only to the dep and dest airports, probably to alternates (?), and the regional FIS units (depending on implementation, e.g. France distributes them all over France). So without the radio contact, you are totally unknown traffic (at the border crossing) which is bad news from the national security point of view.

In Europe there are concessions between some countries.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

My last experience of trying to file a flight plan after departure was that Langen Inf will not allow it for international flights - domestic only.

EHLE / Lelystad, Netherlands, Netherlands

A flight plan, plus a radio call to the next country's regional FIS, is the international default requirement for VFR flight.

Do you know a EU AIP that requires the FIS contact portion? I've never seen a requirement to contact FIS when crossing the border.

BTW: FIS and flight plans usually have nothing to do with each other. Flights are for SAR and are handled by AIS. At least in Germany, FIS do not see flight plans and in order to open/close or enquire about them, they pick up the telephone and call AIS. ATC on the other hand do have access to flight plans.

What one could do, with suitable technology, is to file the flight plan over a satellite phone internet connection. It's definitely possible, but would take a bit of time, due to the slow internet speeds.

From my table here, EuroFPL would appear to deliver the most compact website for doing it, but I had not tested Rocketroute at the time.

The choice of departure airport would be interesting in such a case

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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