Flight plans are among the lesser-known public records. Often confused with flight manifests, these seemingly random assortments of numbers and letters contain extensive information that could be useful in litigation or in verifying an individual’s claimed whereabouts.
Click on the PDF below for a phrase-by-phrase break-down of a flight plan for Virgin America Flight 473 on Airbus 320 on June 4, 2008, that departed from San Francisco at 7:45 a.m. and arrived in Washington, D.C. at 3:55 p.m.
To Request a Flight Plan
Flight plans are destroyed 15 days after a flight is completed, as there is no database big enough to maintain them. Thus, it is important to request the flight plan in advance or within about two weeks after the flight takes place.
The flight plans are filed regionally, so contact the appropriate regional FAA FOIA office with as much information about the flight as possible. See http://www.faa.gov/foia/foia_request/ for more information about submitting the written requests.
Daniel A. Freeman, a Support Specialist at the FAA’s Oakland Center, can be reached at 510.745.3807 to provide more information or answer further questions.