Some pilots flying IFR experienced multi-hour delays getting departure clearances over the Christmas weekend, and the FAA expects similar traffic volumes for the New Year’s weekend, officials told AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association.
Although airline operations were down 20 percent along the Northeast and Florida corridors last weekend compared to the same period last year, general aviation traffic spiked to 152 percent on December 26 and to 193 percent on December 27 compared to the 2019 Christmas period, they said.
Pilots can beat the rush and help streamline operations by filing IFR flight plans at least 24 hours in advance and by leaving Florida as early or late in the weekend as possible or on Monday, January 4.
“This Sunday will be a bad day getting out of South Florida,” one FAA official said.
Pilots should not count on being able to air-file IFR flight plans or receive clearances along the East Coast, especially for those flights in the flight levels and into congested areas.
“We care about all pilots and passengers,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “Please follow these guidelines to make your holiday flying safe and memorable.”
Specifically, AOPA and NBAA strongly encourage everyone to:
- Plan ahead as much as possible.
- File flight plans early and accurately.
- Avoid launching VFR to pick up an IFR clearance.
- Check for the latest status updates on the national airspace system, which can be found here.
These practical, highly effective measures are among the tenets of the FileSmart initiative, supported by AOPA and NBAA.
NBAA staff contributed to this article.