Flight Planning Revolution?

Good evening Vatsim volunteers,

I thank you in advance for reading!

Currently, Vatsim offers live flying opportunities with realistic Air traffic control features. But surely, we need easier and more efficient ways to file a flight plan?

According to online sources ,last year, around 1 in 3 flight plans filed required a change to be made by the controller, and during a busy time , standing by can be for ages -which ruins the fun of flying. Don’t you think we need a solution? 

I am calling upon Vatsim to support me as I foster a new idea. I believe that if we had a voluntary phone / call app line that could offer support to file a flight plan, so that the controllers can control their airspace and aircraft can keep moving! At JFK or London Gatwick, one person has trouble with their flight plan , and it sends everything out of place! By implementing a vocal flight planning line we can increase the time flying rather than filing boring paperwork!

Many thanks to you for reading about my tremendous idea, and I believe that with some funding this will work really well, so I look forward to seeing what you think!


Seems like a solution looking for a problem. I’m a data/science guy. I am a tiny bit curious about a few things you’ve stated…

  • What is your official data source for one out of three flight plans requiring a change by ATC? Please share the source, data, and analysis.
  • What is your definition of “ages”, and what is it based upon?
  • What is your source for when one person has a problem, it sends “everything out of place”? Can you define “everything out of place”?
  • What is your source for your assertion that ATC, during busy periods, does not prioritize air traffic that are airborne, moving and/or competent first, and then assist members that need assistance with flight planning on a workload permitting basis?
  • Why do you feel that it is less valuable for pilots to actually learn how to file flight plans correctly, like millions of others have learned through education and experience?
  • I’m really perplexed about your comment about funding. But in the interest of being a good sport, how much funding do you plan to provide VATSIM while providing this unpaid, free service to our community 24/7/365?

I look forward to your responses.


I understand what your premise is with this, but to be honest, the one thing that will change this to attain the goal you are looking for, is knowledge. Most pilots are unaware of SOPs that a controller in a given sector has to follow. For example in my home sector of ZLA, you as a pilot would not be aware of the 4 runway configurations we have at KLAS and when we would change those configurations, or Noise abatement procedures that start at 9pm at KLAX, or suicide operations we have at KLAX starting at midnight local time, ending at 7am local time.

Some flight plans also need to conform to LOAs that each sector has with their adjacent sector that the pilot may not know as well, so the pilot would need to know about that information. All of those should be contained at facility where that airport resides. Having a phone line to call for filing flight plans (like a Flight Service Station, perhaps!?) would still have a pilot incur those delays because those flight plans would still have to be updated, the pilot’s FMS reprogrammed, and still resulting with the same issue you are posting about.

Prime example. If a RNAV-capable pilot flies the KLAX-KOAK run, and files LADYJ4.COREZ RGOOD.EMZOH3, and doesn’t read the chart description, which states that the SID can’t be used after 9pm, and instead should file either SUMMR4 or DARRK3, regardless of if he files it, or phones up someone and files it, he is still going to have the same issue, which is lack of knowledge on what to file because of time of the day. For that example, a valid plan would be DARRK3.RIZIN FLW EMZOH.EMZOH3 or SUMMR4.RIZIN FLW EMZOH.EMZOH3.

Pilot’s knowledge will definitely need to be improved to fix a lot of the issue, because while the controller knows what needs to be done for that flight plan to be valid, the pilot doesn’t.


In my experience, VATSIM controllers rarely worry about noise abatement. Including allowing Concorde to fly supersonic over land when it doesn’t affect other traffic and sometimes providing ATC at airports which in the real world have night curfews. There are no virtual people on the ground to annoy.

Almost every division already has a Discord where you can get help if you ask.

And the situation you describe is not universal. In most countries you don’t file a SID or STAR in your flight plan, the SID is assigned when you get your clearance and the STAR is given en route.


That may be true, but the point here is that we have certain procedures to deal with and LOAs to worry about that would cause that flight plan to change that the pilot is unaware of. The best way for that to be avoided would be for the pilot to know what those details are, prior to filing their flight plan. If it is handled at that point, there would be nothing that would cause those delays.


I agree this is a solution looking for a problem. The motto of VATSIM is AVIATE EDUCATE COMMUNICATE. Help is already available to anyone who asks. Between Navigraph, Discords, vACC websites and multiple other forums (including this one) there is already such help available.


The real issue that I have witnessed repeatedly is when ATCOs only tell pilots that their filed route is “invalid”, but without providing them with a “valid” one or the reason why it is not “valid”. If ATC knows that a certain route is “invalid”, then they sure know what would be “valid”. For ATCOs it is no problem to quickly search the well known database(s) for a valid route and assist those pilots. And if an ATCO is really maxed out, they could at least tell affected pilots what SID/DP would be acceptable so they have a clue of what is wrong with their flightplan and they can make the research themselves.

If not, you risk making those guys disconnect and not come back and this cannot be the goal.

Only if you give them a little bit of help, will they be able to learn something and do it better next time. That’s the goal: educate.


A confident pitch from an aspiring entrepreneur (OP), but experienced dragons aren’t convinced by the numbers, will Thomas’ numbers stack up against the interrogation of the dragons?


I agree with this. ATC shouldn’t be telling them that their flight plan is invalid, especially if it may be valid, but not in compliance with what the pilot doesn’t know (aforementioned LOAs, SOPs, etc.).

Pilots as well as ATC need to keep in mind that clearances are basically a contract, and both sides are basically bartering/negotiating until they reach an agreement. And if they don’t come to that agreement, it needs to be stated why that agreement hasn’t been made.

*ABC123, due to noise abatement, the LADYJ4 departure can’t be used. cleared to KOAK, SUMMR4 departure, RIZIN transition, direct Fellows, EMZOH, EMZOH3 Arrival."

Then it would be up to the pilot to accept that, or offer another plan to see if ATC can accept that. However again, a lot of that would be alleviated if pilots also were aware of some of the SOPs that ATC has. IRL, Operation Raincheck would allow such a thing, especially as pilots could visit the facility to get a grasp of what those SOPs/LOAs are. Pilots should also be encouraged to do the same here, especially by whatever organization they are getting their ratings from, if at all. Unfortunately, most pilots just log on, file whatever they think is right, and think that their way is right or no way at all, leading us to the issue we’re discussing.


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I do agree, except for the last part. I don’t think that we should expect pilots to be aware of local procedures. Even IRL we are not. We have experts for this in the office who produce valid and compliant flightplans and briefing packages for us. Otherwise it wouldn’t be feasible to perform 3 or 4 flights a day without running out of duty time.

99% of pilots will not have a problem with receiving an amended clearance! But 99% will not appreciate if ATC tells them that their flightplan is invalid/non-compliant and that they should re-file. No further information given. I mean, WTF!
If ATC has time for it, amend their flightplans, inform pilots of changes made and clear them accordingly. If not time is on hand, tell pilots briefly what broke the flightplan and what SID will have to be used, for example.

Just telling pilots that their plan is not okay and that they should re-file, without providing them with further information, is not just non-educational, but it simply is rude and it does not reflect the spirit of VATSIM.


in the klax example mentioned. the pilot should absolutely know in advance. its written on the chart


But how would a pilot know that VATSIM was simulating noise abatement when you actually do not produce any noise? Just playing devil’s advocate!

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in that example it doesnt matter what the reason. its on the chart.

if you’re flying ifr and cant be bothered to actually read the charts then you’re going to be a problem.

in the us, atc preferred routes are also published in the chart supplement. or visible on skyvector, etc.

this stuff is widely available you just have to use it.

Look, I do agree with you, I am just looking at it from the point of view of an inexperienced virtual pilot. So, if you were responsible for handing out IFR clearances in KLAX, what would you tell a pilot who had filed LADYJ4 at 2200LT? To read the fine print on the SID chart? Or just provide them with the more correct DP?

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Making a valid plan through the Europe is sometimes a bit of a challenge.

If someone really has all this time to help others validate their plans, they should start combing through the Simbrief database and discard the bad ones.

Filing an invalid SID or STAR is not a big problem and easily corrected by the ATC, and luckily not an issue in (all? of) Europe. To validate 5 hour enroute data might take longer. Unless a tool is used.

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Hi Lauri,

terminal controllers usually care about the SID and terminal portion of a route only. They got plugins in Euroscope that will flag “invalid” routes or rather SIDs. You may be using something like this, too?

And no, I am not requiring ATCOs to always look for entire “correct” routes, but at least provide a valid SID and then a suggestion either how to connect it to the existing flightplan or - if possible - copy-paste a good route from Simbrief, vroute or other sources. The majority of our customers here in Central Europe fly standard routes between capital cities/large airports that can be found easily.

It’s all about finding the right balance: educate and assist. After all, we are providing a service, too. Within limits.

Hi All, thanks for your responses - interesting to see some opinions . Almost all Vatsim
Controllers do not follow the EDUCATE not mentioning anyone in particular (MOD - Removed, do not call out individual members) and it is terrible when no one says why the flight plan is wrong and you are left wondering. It’s tricky for them to manage traffic and I get that but they chose the role and they have to play that role correctly.

That’s my opinion anyways.

Thanks !!

For me controlling LAX, I would state that due to noise abatement, the LADYJ4 can’t be used. Cleared to KOAK, SUMMR4 Departure…

Then explain why the change was made, especially relative to the local time relevant to the field, then kindly state that they should keep the time in mind.

But as we also say here: If a pilot files a SID, we expect them to know how to fly it; additionally, if they file that given SID, and instructions on its use are depicted on the chart, especially regarding when NOT to use it, we expect them to know when to NOT use it.


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Again you’re describing a situation that is not universal. In most countries you don’t file a SID or STAR.

Okay, sounds good and reasonable and a very good solution. If t here’s a note on the chart, it might already be enough to point pilots to this note and they will find out themselves.

The question is: do pilots consciously file SIDs? I don’t think so. If I want to fly from A to B in the US, I visit IFR Route Analyzer - FlightAware and research airlines that serve this city-pair and then choose a route that has been used IRL already. I assume that all routes must be valid since they had been used IRL very recently. Will I take a look at the respective SID-chart(s) before planning and filing the FPL? No, I will not. I will check the chart when performing my departure briefing and if ATC has a reason to change my SID/DP, so be it.

The thing is that local ATCOs are the experts of their airspace, they know all the regulations. Pilots who usually greatly vary their city-pairs, are not exerts and most - me included - do not want to spend too much time planning and filing their FPLs. The criteria “FPL was very recently used IRL” is already something that we should honour and be thankful that we do not have droves of pilots turning up with what their FSX-flightplanner produced with an AIRAC from 2008 :slight_smile: