Safety topic from Episode 9

Flight plans and SARTIME

Lodging a flight plan

Remote areas often don’t offer the luxury of an internet connection. If accessing the NAIPS website is how you normally lodge your flight plans, then you’d better have a plan B up your sleeve. Phoning through your flight plan to the Briefing Office (1800 805 150) is perfectly acceptable. However, do some homework before your trip and get yourself up to speed with reading off your plan from the official ICAO Flight Notification form. 

Remember to pack a couple of blank forms and a pencil; it’s pretty hard to remember the order of all those boxes and the required phonetic alphabet as you reel off your flight plan over the phone.

If you don’t feel confident with this, then grab an instructor before you go and ask for a refresher. Lodging your plan over the phone is a viable option when you don’t have an internet connection and there’s just something reassuring about hearing that confirmation from an actual person!

If you are flying alone, then it is absolutely recommended that you file a flight plan with Airservices, including the nomination of a SARTIME. Otherwise, at the very least, inform a responsible person of your flight route and expected ETA, a description of your aircraft and your contact details, with specific instructions as to who to contact if that time passes without acknowledgment of your safe arrival.  

Cancelling SARTIME 

At the end of your flight, use the phrase “cancel SARTIME”. Other phrases such as “cancel SAR” do not clearly distinguish between VFR and IFR flights and may confuse air traffic services operators.

Do you remember the different rules regarding cancelling your SARTIME:

  • VFR at a controlled aerodrome?
    • You cannot cancel your SARTIME with the tower; you must call CENSAR on 1800 814 931 to cancel.
  • VFR at a non-controlled aerodrome?
    • Call CENSAR to cancel.
  • IFR at a controlled aerodrome?
    • Your SARWATCH is terminated via ATC at your destination. No need to call CENSAR. 
  • IFR at a non-controlled aerodrome?
    • It is your responsibility to cancel SARWATCH by phone, radio or online.   

So, for VFR flights, the ideal method of cancelling your SARTIME is by contacting CENSAR on 1800 814 931. 

But you may well come across a destination without phone coverage and therefore can’t cancel your SARTIME when you land. By the time you figure out that you’ll have to get yourself into “town” (if there is one) and find a landline (if there is one) or some mobile coverage (which there isn’t), it is most probably going to be about the time the engine on the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) aircraft is ticking over to come looking for you. 

If you’ve actually forgotten to cancel your SARTIME, are not contactable by CENSAR, and are now exchanging pool shots with the locals at the public bar, this is probably not going to end well for you. Set an alarm on your phone or whatever reminder system works for you for cancelling your SARTIME and make it part of your routine. 

Bottom line – research phone coverage at EVERY place you plan to land and know the answer before you lose contact with ATC whilst still airborne. 


Resources

For when you CAN access the internet, Airservices has recently released a range of instructional videos to help pilots plan their flights via the NAIPS Internet Services (NIS). Take some time to watch these videos below and refresh your memory on the correct method to:

These videos are accessible at working with air traffic control

Have a read through it, and check out the extra links on “How air traffic control works” and “Communication with ATC fact sheet”. 

Airservices Safety Net on SARTIME Management