Navigation Calculations

Preparing the Chart

Find the origin and the destination on your map (properly called a "chart" for aviation, but it looks like a map to me). If part of your route is on a smaller 1:250,000 chart, called a VTA, then use the VTA for that portion of the route. If your route covers more than one chart, make sure you have them all. A big table or uncarpeted floor is useful, too.

Choosing a Set Heading Point

For each leg of your trip, you must choose a set heading point, a point that you are sure you can reach regardless of which runway is in use, and without getting lost on the way there. The point should be something you can definitely identify on the ground while you are flying, and something that is localized. A highway junction, a bridge, a distinctive small lake, or an island all mighr be good set heading points. "The highway" is not a good set heading point, because the highway is long, therefore you could be over the highway yet be miles off course. The best set heading point is in the direction of your destination and far enough from your airport that you will be at cruising altitude by the time you reach it.

Mark your set heading point (SHP) on the chart and draw a line from the starting airport to the SHP and from the SHP to your destination airport.

Yes, you need to write on your maps. Most people use pencil. It's also possible to laminate the chart and then use fine tipped markers. Use the permanent kind, and then use windex or nail polish remover to take the ink off. (If you use the water-soluble kind, the lines rub off on your hands while you are flying).

Selecting an Altitude

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Converting to pressure altitude.

Measuring the Heading

Measuring Track Distances

Magnetic Variation

Top of Descent

Reading the Climb Chart

Reading the Cruise Chart

Decoding the Upper Winds

Calculating WCA and Groundspeed

Heading two


Robyn's Flying Start Home

This page in progress as of 12 June 2004 by Robyn Stewart.
Copyright 2004 Flying Start Initiatives