VFR Airport Enroute Planning
Preflight planning is a very important element of any flight and, especially cross country flights. There are a number of items to be done in preparation for a VFR cross country flight so that nothing is overlooked and the intended flight is done as safely as possible.
The important parts of preflight planning involve checking flight information publications, aviation weather reports and determining airplane performance, including the computation of weight (or mass) and balance and fuel requirements. The influence of altitude, temperature and wind should not be ignored and you should be familiar with the pressure and density altitudes and the effect that they have on aircraft performance. Check the runway length and compare that to your takeoff requirements and the rotational and initial climb speeds recommended in your airplane's flight manual (or POH).
Airport and enroute planning is part of the preflight phase and this can be done at any time. Just make sure to use the latest publications as a number of those are published on a monthly basis should you plan flights ahead of the actual date.
Airport, Enroute Information
In the preflight planning phase aeronautical information must be gathered about intended route, the departure-, destination- and alternate airports. Make sure to bring along the complete VFR guide or Bottlang (either on paper of electronically) as diverting to another airport could be a different one than planned for if the weather turns bad sooner than expected.
Below you will find a checklist of items that can be helpful as a reminder when obtaining this information.
Things you may want to look for are:
- Current enroute charts and maps (be sure to get the latest!)
- Runway lengths, layout and taxiway diagrams (so we're not getting lost at the airport)
- Elevation of the airport (density altitude)
- Weather minimums for the airport you plan to use
- Communication: airport frequencies: approach, tower and ground, ATIS for local weather, VOLMET for area weather, Flight Service Stations (FSS/AIS) for enroute traffic and updated weather information like PIREPs
- Navigation: VOR (TACAN), NDB, Marker beacons and (if any) GPS arrivals
- Arrival and departure route procedures and requirements as: altitude, areas to avoid, obstacles and landmarks
- Any delays to be expected on your departure, route and destination airport
- Non radio procedures, just in case yours fails along the way
- Noise abatement procedures, lets keep the neighbours happy!
- Type of engine oil and fuel and amount / availability
- Meteorological service available on the airport or via phone
- Times when the tower / airport is open or closed
- Any telephone number for tower, meteo, AIS, flight service, etc
- Customs availability and requirements if you are crossing the border
- Hotels, restaurants, rental car of taxi cabs, just in case you need to stay over and sit out the weather
After checking all points described above it is wise to see what the weather will be for the planned route. Do this some time ahead of the flight and with a broad and very wide view. Not only along the route but also check the direction the weather is coming from, how fast it moves (weather fronts over sea sometimes slow down when they move onto land), and if it intensifies or dies out.
Take note of the jet streams as frontal systems are moved by the jet. Check to see if mountain ranges have any influence on the trip, check the direction the wind is blowing over such ranges. This type of mountain turbulence can be felt many miles downwind from the range. Make sure to check the cloud base and visibility enroute and the minima for those on the airports you wish to use.
You will find aviation weather forecasts, satellite, radar images and surface maps available in our Aviation Weather section.