When planes land, do they receive a hardline connection to ATC in order to receive the next flight plan, or do they receive their flight planes wirelessly from ATC?

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    $\begingroup$ Planes receive flight plans? Or their pilots do? $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ I'm guessing you are talking about route schedules and not "flight plans" per se. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ Flight crew (pilots) receive flight clearances by one several means including by phone, radio, or electronic text. Unless a dispatcher is involved, the flight plan is not received by the flight crew; rather the flight crew gives the flight plan to ATC before receiving their clearance. If a dispatcher creates the flight plan, then the crew must get the flight plan from the company dispatcher, not from ATC. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about airline operations? Flight plan submission and handling can be very different between airlines, charters and individual flights. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 2:12
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    $\begingroup$ You don't "receive" a flight plan, you file a flight plans and later receive a an IFR clearance based on it. $\endgroup$
    – Steve Kuo
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


The airline files the flight plan to the air traffic control (ATC) on behalf of the crew. The crew receive the print out before the flight.

The airplane "receiving" the flight plan can then mean one of two things:

Flight plan programming

The crew will use this printed flight plan to setup/program the FMS in the cockpit.

Alternatively, the airline can send the flight plan to the crew wirelessly via ACARS, the crew then prints it out in the cockpit.

If the route flown is frequent and rarely changes, the airline can have it saved on the plane, the crew will then load the saved plan, and revise it—making sure it matches the print out.

It's time to get on with the flight

The crew will call ATC on radio requesting clearance to their destination as filed.

If everything matches, they get the go-ahead. If not, amendments will be relayed, and changed accordingly in the FMS.

Alternatively, the clearance can be requested digitally using the ACARS, CPDLC-DCL, or in the near future, SWIM.

Any digital communication is subject to airport, airline, and airplane equipment.

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    $\begingroup$ And to add on, at the boarding gates of some airlines, a little before the boarding starts, the pilots will go to a printer at the gate and print out the dispatch and flightplan. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 1:39
  • $\begingroup$ You give this answer in the context of airline operations using dispatchers, but it is worth mentioning that in other contexts it will be a member of the actual flight crew that files the flight plan. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that we are understanding each other. My meaning is that in many cases there is no dispatcher or "airline" involved, rather it is the flight crew that files the flight plan. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 15:06

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