ICAO Flight Planning 2012

EUROCONTROL was mandated by ICAO to coordinate the implementation of the Flight Planning changes which took place in November 2012 in all of the 56 EUR/NAT region States.

A EUROCONTROL/ICAO EUR Task Force developed the European implementation policy and its related specifications.  The task force collaborated with task forces in other regions to ensure a consistent approach.

The project required a unique level of coordination and collaboration with the ICAO Regional Office, all EUR States, aircraft operators, service providers and all representative organisations (IATA, IACA, CANSO, etc.) as well as other States and regions around the world. A smooth implementation was crucial to ensure a successful transition with a minimum negative effect on current operations.

What has changed

Data Structure

ICAO Flight Planning 2012 brought changes to the Flight planning data structure, in particular to:

  • the syntax of flight planning messages;
  • the use of new indications in Europe;
  • the update of Air Traffic Services Data EXchange Presentation (ADEXP) specification;
  • the On-Line Data Interchange (OLDI) Specification (see Detailed Specifications and EUR & IFPS Deployment Policy)

Flight Plan Fields

The basic flight plan form and the field composition within the FPL message remained unchanged, but the content of some fields changed: 

  • indications in Items 10 and 18 (including the use of digits) describing the precise NAV/COM/SUR capabilities of the flight;
  • the ability to file a FPL up to 5 days (120 hours) before the flight, using the Date of Flight (DOF/) in Item 18;
  • addition of new Item 18 indicators and changes to the contents of several existing indicators;
  • a change to the description of a significant point which may now be described by range and bearing.
  • the field composition within associated messages (CHG, DEP, CNL, ARR, RQP) changed to include the EOBT and Item 18 DOF/ thus ensuring association to the correct FPL. 

example showing new/modified elements


With the introduction of the ICAO FPL 2012, the changes made to the IFPS system provided all Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) with mitigation against failure by allowing them to revert, at any time, to the old format. This was, and remains, an important feature which contributed significantly to the safety case for States served by the IFPS.  The IFPS service also provided ANSPs with the flexibility to migrate their systems in their preferred timeframe, allowing them to make significant savings.

The Network Manager’s operational units managed the ICAO FPL 2012 switchover in the planned four-day transition period. 43 States successfully migrated to the new 2012 format. Aircraft operators managed to switch over to the new format with minimal or no disruptions to their operations.  Coordinated modification to all ATC and aircraft operator systems had to be deployed globally and simultaneously.  The implementation of Amendment 1 to PANS-ATM – better known as ICAO FPL 2012 - was arguably the most significant ATM change in recent times.

Testing & switchover

A System Acceptance Test Team organised seven external Operational Testing Sessions from January to October 2012.

156 participating units took part in these sessions, including representatives from AOs, States (among which India, Vietnam, Uganda, Belarus, Kenya, Iran, Hong Kong, Israel, Jordan, Mauritius, to name a few) and CFSPs.

On switchover day - 15 November 2012 - the IFPU Units manually processed over 8,400 flight plan and associated messages, almost three times the normal level of (invalid) message processing.

The IFPU Units analyse the compatibility of requests before the flight plan can be accepted. In normal situations, inconsistencies need to be resolved by manual interventions in about 5% of cases.

The ability to perform these essential preparatory activities in a well coordinated, efficient and cost effective manner was entirely due to the economies of scale, the infrastructure and experience available within the service.