Last month we reported on a new way to access U.S. Flight Information Services from Canada using the Telephone Information Briefing Service number 1-877-4-TIBS-WX (1-877-484-2799). We also reported there are some teething problems with the transition to centralized service provided by Lockheed-Martin and since that report we have been made aware of a significant issue that could affect search and rescue availability.
Several VFR flight plans for flights from the U.S. are being lost in the system. Despite pilots contacting the U.S. FSS to activate and confirm the flight plan has been passed on, when pilots contact Nav Canada to close the flight plan there is no record of the plan. In some cases, the flight plan does get activated in the U.S. but is not cancelled upon arrival in Canada, resulting in SAR initiation.
Apparently the problem does not occur with flights from Canada to the U.S. While Lockheed-Martin and the FAA find a solution, we have some recommendations to protect yourself.
Let someone know your itinerary before you take off and include them as your contact on the flight plan. Call them when you arrive. Remember to activate your flight plan with U.S. FSS by radio. They do not assume your take off time and activate it for you like they do in Canada. Plan to land in Canada at the first airport available to clear Customs. This will minimize the time you will be without SAR protection if the flight plan is not passed on. If landing at an airport near the border is not possible, contact a Canadian FIC by radio as soon as you are able as you enter Canada to ensure they have your flight plan and re-file if necessary. When you arrive at your destination, call both the Canadian FIC in the region in which you are landing and the U.S. TIBS service to ensure your flight plan is closed.
If you experience difficulties with flight plans, please take the time to let Lockheed-Martin know (you will have to register to get to the feedback site) and also let Nav Canada know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-800-876-4693.