Detailed guide: how to plot the route in flight planning

Planning a flight goes beyond simply connecting two points on the map; it is a meticulous task that requires deep analysis and precise calculations. Airlines do not leave this task to chance; they have specialized teams and resources dedicated to this task. From considering weather conditions to evaluating operational restrictions and no-fly zones, every detail must be meticulously analyzed to ensure flight safety and efficiency. In this sense, flight planning becomes an art that combines science, technology, and experience to chart the most optimal and safe route between two points in the sky. We explain everything in today’s article.

Key aspects in flight planning

1. Point of equal time (PET)

The PET, also known as Point of Equal Time, is a critical factor in flight planning. This point represents the balance between the time required to reach the destination and the time needed to return to the departure airport in case of an emergency. To calculate the PET, the aircraft’s speed and the direction and speed of the wind along the route are considered. This calculation allows pilots to make informed decisions about the best route to take and ensures flight safety at all times.

2. Point of Safe Return (PSR)

The PSR, or Point of Safe Return, is another fundamental aspect in flight planning. This point indicates the maximum distance an aircraft can fly from its departure airport and still have enough fuel to return safely. The calculation of the PSR takes into account the aircraft’s autonomy, weather conditions, and the distance to the destination airport. Identifying the PSR helps pilots effectively manage resources during the flight and make strategic decisions in case of an emergency.

3. Point of no return

The point of no return is the critical point at which an aircraft can no longer return to the departure airport and must continue to its destination. This point is often relevant on flights to remote destinations or in adverse weather conditions, where fuel and other resources are limited. Pilots must carefully calculate the point of no return and plan accordingly to ensure a safe and smooth flight.

4. Top of Climb (TOC)

The TOC, or Top of Climb, is the point at which an aircraft reaches its planned cruise altitude. This point marks the end of the climb phase and the beginning of the cruise phase of the flight. To calculate the TOC, pilots must consider the aircraft’s speed and altitude, as well as weather conditions and the flight route. Identifying the TOC correctly is essential to optimize fuel consumption and ensure an efficient and comfortable flight for passengers.

5. Top of Descent (TOD)

The TOD, or Top of Descent, is the point at which an aircraft must begin its descent towards the destination airport. Calculating the TOD accurately is crucial to ensure a timely and smooth arrival at the airport. Pilots must consider cruise altitude, aircraft speed, weather conditions, and the distance to the airport when calculating the TOD. Early or late descent can negatively affect fuel consumption and flight punctuality.

Innovation in Flight Planning: Green Approaches

The concept of “green approaches” is revolutionizing the aviation industry by introducing a more efficient and sustainable approach to aircraft descent. Instead of staggered descents, green approaches allow for continuous descent from cruise altitude to the destination airport. This significantly reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions, benefiting both the environment and airlines. Spain is a pioneer in implementing this concept, demonstrating its commitment to sustainable aviation and operational efficiency.