VFR Flight Planning, I
Preflight planning is a very important element of any flight and especially so when going on a cross country flight. There are a number of items to be done in preparation for a VFR cross country in such a way 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 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 manual (POH).
The checklists presented here can be used as a guide for this phase of preflight planning and we have divided it into a couple of sections. Part one is what we call the preliminary preflight phase which can be done at any time.
Select your destination airport (airport planning) and obtain aeronautical information from either one below:
- AIP, Airport/Facility Directory or Jeppesen/Bottlang
- Most aviation authorities have a Online eAIP
- Current VFR flight charts or sectionals
Plot the legs/course on the map/sectional:
- Draw and highlight the course line, check for airspace restrictions
- Determine Minimum Safe Altitude (MSA) along your route
- Determine course limits left and right, this will help recognizing that a course correction is necessary
- Using a protractor measure the true course per leg
- Select acceptable checkpoints, every 10 NM or 10 min
- Note radio navigation aids along the route to verify position and checkpoints (VOR, NDB)
- Calculate total route distance
Obtain departure, destination and alternate airport information (airport planning)
A current AIP (online), Airport/Facility Directory, Jeppesen Manual and NOTAMs are needed to obtain:
Density Altitude Chart
- Current conditions of runways and taxiways
- Field elevation when flying in mountain areas, make sure to calculate density altitude
- Communication facilities, check for ATIS frequencies along route
- Radio navigation availability
- Important remarks as obstructions
- Transponder codes for the FIRs
From the latest VFR / Sectional charts obtain information relating to:
- Airport layouts, circuit/pattern altitudes
- Local terrain and obstructions along the route
- Airspace restrictions (Controlled Airspace) along intended route
- Check for bird sanctuary areas (min alt 1000 ft AGL)
- Military low flying, danger (shooting ranges), restricted and prohibited areas
Fill out your preferred navigation flight log:
- Enter departure and destination airport information
- Draw destination airport diagram and an arrow showing the arrival direction to the airport (helps in visualizing how one arrives at the airport and how it looks from that point of view)
- Fill out checkpoints
- Measure and enter true course
- Determine and enter magnetic variation
- Measure and enter distances between checkpoints
- Fill out distance remaining box
- Calculate total distance
- Safety vests (strapped on during flight) or life raft / dinghies needed onboard, these items need to be serviceable
- Carry your license and aircraft papers, insurance etc
- Make sure to have a good wristwatch, preferably one with UTC and local time
- Have the correct checklist with you for the type of aircraft, know the emergency items by heart
- Sunglasses and a spare set of eyeglasses (if any)
- Valid identification papers (visa, passport) for anyone onboard
Review any take-off and landing distance performance from the aircraft flight manual. In case of aircraft powered by two or more engines: the engine inoperative procedures and one engine inoperative performance data.
Obtain an ICAO Flight Plan (this one is active, fill in online and print it out), or a FAA Flight Plan, its the same as for a certified aircraft. Make sure you check the weight and balance before you go.