We're planning a flight (under IFR) to an airport where the runway is notamed closed until 1900L. The airport authority has said it will likely be open much earlier, so we're hoping to to take off and have the runway open by the time we arrive.

Is it acceptable under part 91 or 135 to file a flight plan to an airport whose runway is NOTAMed closed?
I can't find anything relevant in the FARs or the AIM.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't see why not, although you can't land there, so why would you? Are you talking VFR or IFR? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 17 '16 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ At least in the military world, you could file to a point in space, so I can't see why not. Why do that? Get out of town IFR, fly to the point where you descend into your low-level route, cancel IFR, descend & fly the route, and then pick up a whole 'nuther flight plan at the exit point. In that world, it worked fine. For Part 91, it seems like you ought to be able to file to "the point in space formerly known as KXYZ". Maybe a place to fly practice GPS approaches, with little/no traffic conflicts? For Part 135, that seems more iffy, but I wouldn't be shocked either way. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Aug 17 '16 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ If you can tell us why you want to do that, it might help to get a better answer. And do you mean the airport is closed, or the runway is closed? I ask because some airports allow flight operations from taxiways or grass areas if the runway is closed. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 17 '16 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Could the airport be NOTAMed closed at the time of filing, but with an effectiveness that ends before the ETA? $\endgroup$ Aug 17 '16 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ IFR. Runway is notamed closed until 1900L(our ops don't allow landing on taxiways if there are other options and grass is no good for a jet). Airport authority has said it will likely be open much earlier. Wanting to take off and hopefully it will be open by the time we get there. $\endgroup$
    – user16461
    Aug 17 '16 at 15:59

With the added info in the comment, I'm going to say that it should be okay.

IFR. Runway is notamed closed until 1900L(our ops don't allow landing on taxiways if there are other options and grass is no good for a jet). Airport authority has said it will likely be open much earlier. Wanting to take off and hopefully it will be open by the time we get there.

My reasoning is: you can file to airport (A) that has an instrument approach that will get you down below the weather (say a 3000' overcast), fly the approach until you're in VMC, cancel IFR, and proceed VFR to airport (B), which is where you actually intend to land (but which has no instrument approach to get you below the weather -- and no radar coverage). This plan works even if airport (A) couldn't accommodate your aircraft for some reason -- runway closed/shortened, weight bearing capacity, whatever. (Obviously you'd need alternate plans if the weather didn't cooperate with going VFR from A to B, but let's assume that you have a place to go land and plenty of gas to get there for a case like that.) What matters is that you have an approach you can fly at Airport A, not that you can actually land there.

Worst case, perhaps you could file to airport A where you want to land, and then after that file routing to airport B which is where you'll go if the runway doesn't open up in time. Thus your filed flightplan is simply "I'll fly an approach at A then go land at B" and that's a perfectly workable plan even with the NOTAM as written. Then, in flight, if the runway opens early as expected, you tell ATC to amend your destination to airport A and you're all set.

Disclaimer, IANAL (I am not a lawyer), but this seems entirely workable to me. I know in the 121 world, we explicitly ARE allowed to file to an airport below our mins, with the hope that it comes up (better than forecast) above mins by the time we get there. It requires extra alternates and such, but just because we "won't" be able to land there based on things as we see them at this moment doesn't mean we can't be dispatched to go there. And if things get better (weather comes up better than forecast, runway reopens sooner than NOTAM'd), you get to do what you'd hoped for all along. Just have a sound plan for what you'll do in the scenario where things don't.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Does ATC have no problem with flying an approach to a different airport than you intend to land at? And should you inform them ahead of time that's what you are intending to do, maybe in comments on your plan? $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Aug 17 '16 at 17:05

I don't know about Part 135/121 ops, but for Part 91 much like in the military you can file a flight plan to a point in space if you so desire (pilots do this for private airfields without identifiers, and helicopter pilots sometimes do it because they can land pretty much anywhere they want so if their flight terminates in the middle of a park that's their destination).

As far as the flight plan system is concerned there is no issue here: It's just noting your point of departure, route, and intended point of landing.
It doesn't really care if you can't land there, only that you intend to.

You may encounter some pushback here from Flight Service if you file by telephone ("That airport's runway is NOTAM'd closed during your arrival time, are you sure you want to file this?"), and they'll certainly mention it to you if you call for a briefing.
ATC may also mention it to you while you're enroute, but ultimately checking the NOTAM and complying with the closure is your responsibility as a pilot.

Obviously it goes without saying you should have a suitable alternate airport planned in case the runway doesn't reopen early, but I'm sure you've already plugged that in to the "alternate airport" box on your flight plan.


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