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Charting the Course (Part One)

in Navigation

Once the weather has been checked and some preliminary planning done, it is time to chart the course and determine the data needed to accomplish the flight. The following sections provide a logical sequence to follow in charting the course, filling out a flight log, and filing a flight plan. In the following example, a trip is planned based on the following data and the sectional chart excerpt in Figure 15-25.


Route of flight: Chickasha Airport direct to Guthrie Airport

True airspeed (TAS)………………………………….115 knots
Winds aloft…………………………………….360° at 10 knots
Usable fuel……………………………………………..38 gallons
Fuel rate………………………………………………………8 GPH
Deviation…………………………………………………………+2°

Figure 15-25. Sectional chart excerpt.

Figure 15-25. Sectional chart excerpt.

Steps in Charting the Course

The following is a suggested sequence for arriving at the pertinent information for the trip. As information is determined, it may be noted as illustrated in the example of a flight log in Figure 15-26. Where calculations are required, the pilot may use a mathematical formula or a manual or electronic flight computer. If unfamiliar with the use of a manual or electronic computer, it would be advantageous to read the operation manual and work several practice problems at this point.

Figure 15-26. Pilot’s planning sheet and visual flight log.

Figure 15-26. Pilot’s planning sheet and visual flight log.

First draw a line from Chickasha Airport (point A) directly to Guthrie Airport (point F). The course line should begin at the center of the airport of departure and end at the center of the destination airport. If the route is direct, the course line consists of a single straight line. If the route is not direct, it consists of two or more straight line segments. For example, a VOR station which is off the direct route, but which makes navigating easier, may be chosen (radio navigation is discussed later in this chapter).

Appropriate checkpoints should be selected along the route and noted in some way. These should be easy-to-locate points such as large towns, large lakes and rivers, or combinations of recognizable points such as towns with an airport, towns with a network of highways, and railroads entering and departing. Normally, choose only towns indicated by splashes of yellow on the chart. Do not choose towns represented by a small circle—these may turn out to be only a half-dozen houses. (In isolated areas, however, towns represented by a small circle can be prominent checkpoints.) For this trip, four checkpoints have been selected.


Checkpoint 1 consists of a tower located east of the course and can be further identified by the highway and railroad track, which almost parallels the course at this point. Checkpoint 2 is the obstruction just to the west of the course and can be further identified by Will Rogers World Airport which is directly to the east. Checkpoint 3 is Wiley Post Airport, which the aircraft should fly directly over. Checkpoint 4 is a private, non-surfaced airport to the west of the course and can be further identified by the railroad track and highway to the east of the course.

The course and areas on either side of the planned route should be checked to determine if there is any type of airspace with which the pilot should be concerned or which has special operational requirements. For this trip, it should be noted that the course passes through a segment of the Class C airspace surrounding Will Rogers World Airport where the floor of the airspace is 2,500 feet mean sea level (MSL) and the ceiling is 5,300 feet MSL (point B). Also, there is Class D airspace from the surface to 3,800 feet MSL surrounding Wiley Post Airport (point C) during the time the control tower is in operation.

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