Factors Considered When Planning a Plane’s Route

Just like Colonel Hannibal Smith says at the end of every “The A-Team” episode, “love it when a plan comes together,” pilots need to have an ingenious flight plan that comprises all the details needed to get an aviator from point A to B.

Flight planners are given a lot of information regarding the arrival and departure times which they use to work out the most effective flight plan, taking various factors into account. Seasoned instructors at Momentum Flight Training, an institute for aircraft simulator training programs, discuss some factors considered when planning the flight route.

Factor #1- Landing and Take Off Runways

A point of arrival is as important as the point of departure. While the runway is ultimately decided by the air traffic control, flight planners can predict which one it is based on the direction of the wind. Usually, runways with the most headwind are used.

Factor #2- Altitudes

Various altitudes are possible during each flight. The lighter an aviator, the higher it will be able to fly. And the higher you can fly, the less fuel will be consumed, lest there’s a stouter tailwind at lower altitudes. In that case, it can be more efficient to fly lower.

Factor #3- Weather

Most aviators attempt to minimize the amount of time over water, wind storms are an important consideration. Many times, aviators fly over the storm to avoid turbulence. The wind also impacts the flight duration and, ultimately, fuel consumption.

Flying over the ocean is a better option in this case, as water equally distributes heat, making turbulence less likely. Temperature also influences the speed, weight, and altitude of the plane.

Factor #4- Jet Streams

Airlines typically fly at the top of the troposphere, the lowest atmosphere level where most weather fluctuation occurs. The stratosphere and troposphere border, called the tropopause, fluctuates in altitude between 4 miles to 12 miles.

The altitude variance leads to rapid shifts in air temperature, which creates a wind tunnel capable of reaching high wind speeds.

Four main jet streams occur around the planet, flowing West to East because of the rotation. Subtropical and polar jet streams are the ones that impact air travel. Although flying with the jet stream saves fuel and time, flying into one will significantly slow down the plane, causing turbulence.

It’s almost impossible to predict the occurrence, and can be far more intense. While accidents caused are rare, many instances have been reported when the turbulence caused the planes to nearly crash.

Factor #5- Fuel Quantities

Aircraft can become superfluously heavy when the fuel carried is more than what’s required. Speed, weight, and many other factors impact how much fuel would be needed for the flight.

Air conditioning, aircraft type, and other factors also impact fuel consumption. Using the runway farthest from the terminals or increased taxi time also impacts operations and, therefore, fuel consumption.

Factor #6- Alternative Airports

If, for any reason, it’s impossible to land at the desired destination, an alternative option must be listed in the comprehensive flight plan. Consider that alternative aerodromes may mean longer flight times, resulting in extra fuel consumption.

Factor #7- Alternative Routes

For traveling to Rome, you can use many routes. Will the straight line be the best to reach from point A to point B? Wind, altitude, temperature, speed, fuel consumption, and other inextricably linked factors can impact routes.

Sometimes routes with favorable weather make it easier to reach the destination with less fuel consumption. So the right combination of all factors is needed to create an efficient flight plan.

When all the information is accurately summed up in the flight plan, it gets passed on to the ATC so the required fuel quantity can be ordered. Today, pilots can receive the entire flight plan on a smart device so they can prepare optimally to execute the flight.

Given the importance of effective flight plans, instructors at Momentum Flight Training focus on them, along with many other concepts, in their advanced flight training programs. Founded by Andy Profit, the training institute offers 1-day, 3-day, and 5-day aircraft simulator training options combined with instructor-led classes, enabling aspiring pilots to gain an edge as they transition to their new roles as first officers in regional airlines.

While all our programs have up-to-date curriculums and adhere to all FAA regulations, you can speak to our instructors to tailor your learning experience according to the unique specifications of your chosen regional airline.

Call [833] 427-5876 to learn how our simulators replicate the systems in the Canadair Regional Jet 200, 550, 700, and 900, helping pilots familiarize themselves with all the mechanisms and systems so they can navigate diverse flight situations confidently.

About the Author

Paul Smith’s career in the aviator industry spans over a decade. He has accumulated 31,000 hours of flight time before working as an FAA-approved examiner and instructor after completing captaincy at a renowned regional airline. During his free time, he likes to learn and write about the latest happenings in the aviation world.

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