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Overkill
10-08-2008, 05:10 PM
Does every single plane, no matter how small, have to file a flight plan? And, if so, is said flight plan put into some sort of a computer system? If not but there is a flight plan, where is it filed?

What i am trying to find out is if there is a plane crash and someone investigating wants to find out where the plane took off from and where it was going how they would go about doing it.

Also, does every plane have a little black box?

petec
10-08-2008, 06:31 PM
Yes, all planes file a flight plan before take-off. If flying air lanes above 10,000 feet it would be logged into a computer. Otherwise, it would be filed with the control tower of the airfield where taking off.

All commercial planes carry two black boxes. A flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder. Light, non-commercial aircraft do not necessarily carry the boxes.

BTW, the "black" boxes are actually orange and positioned in the rear of the plane.

RJK
10-08-2008, 10:10 PM
It's been a while since I've flown in a private plane, but there are lots of unmanned airfields around the country. If a pilot is just going up for a recreational flight and returning to the same unmanned field, I don't think they file a flight plan. Some of these older, small planes don't even have radios.

If they are traveling from airfield A to Airfield B, they file a flightplan with the nearest airport.

Tsu Dho Nimh
10-08-2008, 11:25 PM
Flight plans between official airport A and B are filed with "A". Flights between private dirt strip Cand D are not required, neither is a flight plan if you are private plane and just looping out and back into "A".

You do not have to FOLLOW the flight plan you file ... smart pilots will radio changes, but not all of them do.

Steve Fosset didn't file a flight plan, and was not required to do so. That was part of the search problem.

Most planes will have an emergency beacon - Fosset's plane supposedly had it, but it malfunctioned or he forgot to turn it on. Commercial planes above a certain size are required to have IFRs (black boxes), but I don't remember the requirements. They would be rare in a private plane.

If you find a plane wreck, unless it's fresh and being searched for, you start with the engine number, or the registration numbers on the wings and tail if they are visible, and ask the FAA whose plane matches it. Many parts will have serial numbers tied to a plane through the maintenance logs.

Cory Emberson
12-21-2008, 12:08 AM
I'm heading out the door, but want to answer this. I write for several aviation magazines, and am a licensed private pilot.

1. **No**, every plane does not have to file a flight plan - that is, those planes flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Planes flying under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) have to file an instrument flight plan in order to get into the ATC system.

All a VFR flight plan legally does is let the search and rescue crews find you if you don't show up when and where you're supposed to (within a 30-minute window, I think). It is *not legally required for a VFR flight.

In addition, plenty of planes depart from uncontrolled airports, that is, there is no control tower with air traffic controllers. They use a CTAF (a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency, a radio frequency specific to the airport) to talk to each other on the ground and in the air. There are only a few frequencies that are used as CTAFs, such a 122.8 and 122.9, and you'll find numerous airports in an area using the same one. That's why the pilots need to identify themselves and the airport: "Tracy Airport, Cessna N12345 ... blah blah blah ... Tracy."

Small planes do not have black boxes as standard equipment, as an airliner would. I'd have to check the regs to see where they start beng used.

General aviation planes also use what's called Flight Following, where the en route controllers (Centers and Approach Control) will give VFR flight advisories, workload permitting. They're basically there to control and separate IFR traffic. VFR traffic is "see and avoid."

If you have more questions, please ask or PM me. I hate to see inaccurate aviation information propagated. :-)

Cory Emberson
12-21-2008, 08:02 AM
Flight plans between official airport A and B are filed with "A". Flights between private dirt strip Cand D are not required, neither is a flight plan if you are private plane and just looping out and back into "A".

You do not have to FOLLOW the flight plan you file ... smart pilots will radio changes, but not all of them do.

Steve Fosset didn't file a flight plan, and was not required to do so. That was part of the search problem.

Most planes will have an emergency beacon - Fosset's plane supposedly had it, but it malfunctioned or he forgot to turn it on. Commercial planes above a certain size are required to have IFRs (black boxes), but I don't remember the requirements. They would be rare in a private plane.

If you find a plane wreck, unless it's fresh and being searched for, you start with the engine number, or the registration numbers on the wings and tail if they are visible, and ask the FAA whose plane matches it. Many parts will have serial numbers tied to a plane through the maintenance logs.

Hi -

I'd like to correct a couple of things in your post, if I may.

First, the "emergency beacon" you refer to is actually called an ELT, or Emergency Locator Transmittor. They automatically transmit the emergency the distress signal when the plane reaches a certain G-load, usually when there's a sudden stop due to a crash, but they can also be triggered accidentally. They transmit on the frequency of 121.5 MHz (a analog signal) now, but as of February 1, 2009, the frequency of 406 MHz (digital signal) will be used, and the COPSAS-SARSAT satellites will no longer pick up the 121.5 signals after Feb. 1.

The black boxes are not called IFRs - that stands for Instrument Flight Rules. The black boxes are actually two devices: the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR).

Regarding identification of airplanes that have crashed: the chance of finding the engine number would be quite small - it's probably engraved on the engine, encased in a cowling, not easily reached or seen, and if the plane crashed nose-first, it will likely be inaccessible and/or crushed. The tail number (called the "N" number in the USA because all civil aircraft are identified with a unique number or number/letter combination that starts with an N, such as N12345 or N1234G) is the easiest identifying number to see, since it's normally painted on the fuselage, or body of the aircraft. Sometimes it's painted on the tail, or vertical stabilizer, but that's smaller. The N number on airliners is sometimes painted on the tail.

As far as numbers on the wings, that's not so common any more - older planes, probably 1940s and earlier, had the N number painted on the upper surface of the wings.

N numbers can be used to identify the plane and the owner through FAA.gov, but it will not necessarily ID the pilot.

Regarding flight plans, please see my previous post.

Thanks,
Cory