Menu Sign In Contact FAQ
Welcome to our forums

IFR Flight Plan Drama

The following apparently happened to a student training for their IR skills test. The student was flying via airways from Stapleford (EGSG) to Lydd (EGMD) where he did some practice approaches and then continued in uncontrolled airspace for general handling and a return to Stapleford. As the only portion of the flight requiring a flight plan was the portion in the airways, he filed from Stapleford to Lydd. After finishing the practice approaches, he asked the Lydd controller to close his flight plan. The controller refused as he said he had not landed at Lydd.

Some questions:
(1) Does the flight plan need to be closed?
According to this document from the UK CAA ( the new SERA 4020 regulations have led the UK CAA to conclude that: “The CAA will consider the need for further guidance regarding the circumstances and means by which a flight plan is closed.” I presume further guidance will come in the form of an updated CAP 694. Other reading suggest to me that you do need to close the flight pan, or at least amend it to cover the rest of the flight back to your final destination.

(2) Is the Lydd controller technically correct?
One would of course expect him to just file the arrival message and save everybody the hassle. My (inexpert) reading of SERA 4020 suggests that he is correct, but he is certainly also being unhelpful. (Others may wish to add more descriptive adjectives…)

(3) How else would you file the flight plan?
I suspect (but have found it hard to confirm) that the correct way to submit a flight plan for a portion of a flight is to enter the destination as ZZZZ and then put DEST/ in the the Other field, where DEST/ should not be an airfield with an official designator. So in this case, DEST/ would be the waypoint at the beginning of the approach. The disadvantage of this approach is that I doubt the Lydd controller will automatically get the flight plan and Lydd would need to be manually added to the addressing. I use AeroPlus’ excellent flight plan submission software, but have not figured out how to add manual addresses.

I also called the AFPEx helpline. (AFPEx is the UK system for electronic filing of ‘paper’ flight plans). The person did not know what to do, and also said he had never heard of SERA! (Not sure if he meant just the section of SERA I was referring to or SERA in general, although it sounded like the latter.)

(4) Can you cancel a flight plan whilst airborne?
This would seem like the easiest solution. File Stapleford to Lydd and if the controller refuses to close the flight plan, ask the controller to cancel the flight plan. While I know you can (or at least could) do this in Canada, I don’t know if it is possible in Europe. I guess alternatively, you could ask the controller to amend your flight plan to the last waypoint before the approach and then file the arrival message.

Any thoughts on the above most welcome.

Stapleford (EGSG), Denham (EGLD)

In France it poses no problem to close your IFR flight plan at destination and proceed VFR w/o FPL to another destination.

That said policies may vary from one country to another.


This is an interesting problem. One way to look at it is to say that the IR Exam is a based on a hypothetical flight in which you fly from your start point A to your destination B, then divert back to A. One could file a flight plan from A to B with A as the alternate, then explicitly divert after going missed at B.

On my IR Exam I actually filed A to A, via B:


On Friday I was flying to Oban, outside their opening hours, and asked Scottish Information to confirm the phone number to call to close the flight plan. To my surprise he offered to close it for me while I was still airborne – in the past I’ve always been asked to close it on the ground.

I don’t think cancelling is an option once airborne. You can cancel IFR, but I don’t think this helps you.

Overall, the A-A flight plan keeps things simple for everyone. You can put some free text in the remarks field to clarify it.


Both suggestions sound good. For you IR exam, I presume that Cardiff received your flight plan because they were listed as an alternate. What happened when you did the general handling? Did you have to amend the flight plan in the air?

Also, if you chose to file A to B with A as the alternate, do you need to amend the flight plan at the point you divert so that they know the new destination and the new ETA?

Stapleford (EGSG), Denham (EGLD)

German FIS will also close your flightplan after you cancel IFR. But I thinnk (or heard) that not all guys at FIS like to do that. Might be wriong though, I did it 3, 4 times … no problem.

Last Edited by at 06 Jun 18:07

I called Cardiff to book approaches and explained what we were doing – they weren’t really fussed about the flight plan. General handling was done on the leg between Cardiff and Gloucester, I think we were receiving a radar service from Cardiff and just explained that we would be doing some general handling outside controlled airspace.

AFAIK, the official procedure for a divert is that you tell ATC (any ATC) and they call your original destination and divert destination and sort it out. The couple of occasions I’ve done it in the past, nobody has been interested in amended flight plans.

In this case, I see the flight plan as a ticket into controlled airspace. Once you’re into controlled airspace its usefulness has passed and it can be ignored. This is different to flight in remote areas, where it serves a useful function for search and rescue if anything goes wrong.


Instead of trying to “close” the flightplan, he should have just “cancelled IFR”….job done.

YPJT, United Arab Emirates

I can’t say anything about the refusal to close the FP. One doesn’t close flight plans in the UK anyway, normally. VFR ones are assumed “arrived OK”. IFR ones, Eurocontrol, are closed when you drop off London Control, I think. IFR ones which are “mostly sort of OCAS” and are thus dumped by London Control are treated as VFR.

If I was doing that flight, I would have filed it as Y and flown IFR Stapleford to say LYD, then the filed route would continue as VFR to wherever… nobody gives a damn what you do or where you are once you cancel IFR and get dropped off London Control.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Cancelling IFR does not close the flight plan. That’s two things, You can cancel IFR on a Y flight, but after landing you have to close the FPL. At least that is what it’s like in Germany.

Last Edited by at 06 Jun 18:06

This flight took place in the UK.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
27 Posts
Sign in to add your message

Back to Top