Flight Planning registered aircraft, with departures and arrivals at recognized airfields is easy. But filing a flight plan for an aircraft that isn’t even registered with the local aviation authority (or any authority the world over), and flying into and out of mere patches of land is something else.
When flying for the State Election Commission (Karnataka, India), the need to file plans for the powered paragliding activity stemmed from a document issued to us by the Indian Air Force that needed us to obtain a ADC (Air Defense Clearance) before flying. To obtain a ADC, one must file a plan, with a copy reaching the concerned Air Force Surveillance Unit. In the process, we also obtained a FIC (Flight Information Clearance).
Although AIP ENR 1.12-1 as issued by the Airport Authority of India states, “Except local flights conducted within 5NM radius centered at ARP (Airport Reference Point) and vertical limits of 1000ft AGL of aerodrome; aircraft when operating to, through or within the ADIZ shall obtain Air Defense Clearance before takeoff, through the ATC concerned”, our instructions from the Indian Air Force clearly mentioned that we obtain a ADC for every flight, irrespective of whether we used an aerodrome or not, and despite the fact that we never climbed above 300ft AGL, and never flew beyond a 5NM radius from our departure point. There were instances when we used the aerodrome, such as that at Belgaum.
During the fag end of our pan-Karnataka powered paragliding campaign, when filing the plan for a local flight at Tumkur, the gentleman (truly one) at the other end of the phone line at Bangalore Briefing, informed me of the right order of information to be filled in the “Other Information” field of a flight plan form. Sharing this may be of help to anyone wishing to file a non-standard flight plan.
Most of our fields, including type of aircraft departure aerodrome, destination aerodrome and alternates were marked “ZZZZ”. When such is the case, here is the order:
1. Departure. (Departure location coordinates. Filled as DEP/ AABBCDDDEEF, where AA=Latitude Degrees, BB= Latitude Minutes, C=N or S for hemisphere, DDD= Degrees Longitude, EE=Minutes Longitude, F= E or W for hemsphere. It is also advisable to follow the above field with the name of the departure location in brackets, if the field has a name. Example, “KMC CRICKET GROUNDS, MANIPAL, UDUPI DISTRICT”)
2. Destination. (Destination location coordinates. Filled as DEST/ AABBCDDDEEF, where AA=Latitude Degrees, BB= Latitude Minutes, C=N or S for hemisphere, DDD= Degrees Longitude, EE=Minutes Longitude, F= E or W for hemsphere. It is also advisable to follow the above field with the name of the destination location in brackets, if the field has a name. Example, “SSM COLLEGE GROUNDS, TUMKUR”)
3. Date of Flight. (Filled as DOF/AABBCC, where AA=last two digits of the present calendar year, BB= month of the calendar year, and CC= Day of the calendar month)
4. Registration. (Only if applicable. The powered para-glider, having a soft wing, needs no registration, and hence the field is left empty. Doubts raised will be answered by the next field: type of aircraft).
5. Type of Aircraft. (Filled as TYP/PARAMOTOR. Usually, the Type of Aircraft is a globally recognized 4 letter identifier, for example, B732 implying Boeing 737-200.)
6. Operator. (Pretty evident. To be mentioned as OPERATOR/XXXX, where XXXX (not limited to 4 characters) is the body / person flying the aircraft. We used OPERATOR/MEGHALAYA PARAGLIDING ASSOCIATION (MPA) (ON ELECTION COMMISSION DUTY) )
7. Alternate. (When you have no airfields, mention ALTN/ALL OPEN FIELDS. This means that the paraglider (very commonly) can land at any place deemed suitable.
8. Remarks. (Other essential information. We started filling this when the Air Force units kept asking of our nationality. So, we had, REMARKS/ NATIONALITY OF OPERATOR AND ALL CREW: INDIAN)
When calling up the Air Force Units to receive the ADC, be ready to be asked many questions. Sport Aviation is looked upon with suspicion in the country. Although we had mentioned the departure and destination coordinates, we were many times asked the departure and destination location in terms of radial and distance from the closest airfield. For example, when had determined from Google Earth that Tumkur was at BIA 280°/40NM (radial 280, 40 nautical miles out). This makes it easier for them to locate, at times.
With every shift, we landed up interacting with a varied set of people, who had unique demands. Following what we’ve mentioned should help you get through 99.9% of them. Attached is a sample flight plan (click on the flight plan image on top) for reference. Happy landings!