Flightplan and Trip
Courtesy of Andrew Ayers

Well, we've gone through all of our individual procedures and now it's time to make a whole trip from takeoff to touchdown. Today we'll be departing out of West Palm Beach International (PBI) for a short flight up to Vero Beach Municipal (VRB). For this lesson, I've used an NOS enroute chart instead of my Jeppesen chart since the Jepp chart has a fold in between PBI and VRB. It's fairly similar though, we'll go through it and see what we're looking at...

Looking at "A", we see the airport symbol for PBI and at "E", we see the symbol for VRB. So how are we going to get from one place to another? Well, if you look in a straight line between the two VORs, you see V3. But, as I said in my previous lessons, you never get V3 in your clearance unless you're high and out of other traffic's way. Plus, it's too easy to just fly one radial the whole time. We need some practice. Instead, we'll fly the most common route depicted by the arrows. "B" shows V492 which is the 359 degree radial FROM the PBI VOR. As we proceed along, we come to "C", which is STOOP intersection. There, we can make a turn onto V295 and proceed to VRB along the 147 degree radial FROM VRB ("D").

It seems pretty simple so far, the only question is how are we going to know when we reach STOOP? Well, if you follow V492 north, you can see that it's 19DME to WHELM and then 15DME to STOOP, so it's a total of 34DME, which is also shown in the box right at STOOP. So, we can fly along V492 until we're 34DME away and we know we're at STOOP. Also, we know that we're going to be crossing the 147 radial FROM VRB, so if we've got that set in our second NAV instrument, when the needle centers, we know when we're at STOOP. OK, since we've decided on our route, let's look a bit at altitudes. 3000ft is the MEA for V492, 2000ft is the MEA for V295. Since we're going to be on a magnetic course of 359 degrees and then 327 degrees (147 FROM), we know that we're going to have to fly even thousand feet intervals (see the altitude chart for details). Since it's relatively short, we'll just fly 4000ft to keep it simple. Alright, let's take a look at our flight

Keep in mind that I've entered my own information here to illustrate how a flight plan is filled out in the real world. in X-Plane, of course, we have limited options. In box 1, we've checked IFR. In box 2, we have the aircraft identification number. In box 3, we have the aircraft type, in this case, I'm flying my Piper Seminole. Taking a look at our performance charts, we find our true airspeed at cruise altitude and enter it in box 4. In this case, I get 160kts. IN box 5, we have our departure point, PBI. Box 6 has entries for both proposed and actual departure times. You enter your proposed time, ATC will enter in your actual time when you contact them for takeoff. Box 7 has our cruising altitude of 4000ft. Box 8 contains our route of flight. We have boxes for our departure and destination points, so we just enter the fixes we use to determine our route. If you were filing this plan, you would say it just like it is "Route of flight: Victor 492, STOOP, V295". Box 8 has our destination of VRB. In box 9, we enter our estimated time enroute. It's a total of 66NM along the route of flight which, at 160kts, should take about 40 minutes. Add another 10 for the approach.You want to give yourself enough time to cover everything that happens in the flight, but you don't want too much extra because that just delays rescue efforts in case you have a problem. Box 11 is a space for remarks. If you were on a flight to just practice approaches, you could enter "practice approaches". That way, ATC would know what you were up to and wouldn't get irritated when you keep going missed and asking for vectors around for another approach on a perfectly clear day. Anything you feel like you want ATC to know you should enter here. Based again on our performance charts, we enter our fuel on board in terms of time in box 12. The Seminole can fly for nearly five hours. Box 13 is for alternate airports. If you want to know if you're required to file an alternate, take a look at your FARs. I just entered one for the heck of it. Box 14 is for our personal information so ATC knows who's flying so they know who to bust if you screw up. In my case, I just give them my name and tell them my info is on file with FlightSafety because they know us down here. Box 15 is for entering the number of people on board the aircraft. Box 16 is for entering the color of the aircraft for rescue efforts. Box 17 is for entering a destination contact in case ATC needs to know if you made it in or if you didn't close your flight plan going into an uncontrolled airport. It's not necessary. OK, lets go flying...

I'm not going to fly along with you on this one, I'll just talk you through it. You can set the weather as you feel comfortable. Having filed our flight plan, let's get our clearance from Palm Beach Clearance Delivery. It will probably be something like this: "Seminole 2227G is cleared to the Vero Beach Municipal Airport as filed. Climb and maintain 2000ft, expect 4000ft ten minutes after departure. Departure will be on 128.3 Squawk 3462". Alright, we're ready to go. We should have our NAV equipment set up and ready to go before we takeoff. We contact the tower and let them know we're ready and they come back and say "27G fly runway heading, cleared for takeoff." Now, open up that throttle and let's go. Get established in the climb, fly the plane first. Don't worry about the weather outside, just keep the plane flying. Since the VOR is on the field at PBI, we'll actually cross the 359 radial during our takeoff roll. Don't worry, ATC will give us a vector back on course. So, we're climbing out and tower says "27G contact departure" and over we go. Departure says "27G radar contact, climb and maintain 4000ft, turn left heading 330 vectors to join V492." As we close in on V492, the needle should start centering and you should turn to track it. OK, get settled in and level off at 4000ft and hold your course. Set your other NAV radio to the VRB 147 radial and make sure the DME is set to PBI so you can identify STOOP. Somewhere in here, Palm Beach Departure will hand you off to Miami Center. They won't have much to say, they already know that you know where you're going and how to get there. As you come up on STOOP, smoothly make the turn off of V492 and onto V295. As we near VRB, we should be getting the ATIS and finding out what approach is in use. We can then call Miami Center and let them know which approach we'd like. Center will then clear you as necessary to the appropriate fix or navaid to begin the approach. You have plates for both the VOR 11R and NDB 11R approaches, so fly whichever you like.

Congratulations, you just made your first IFR trip with actual procedures! See, once you've got the fundamentals down, it's not so hard. In real life IFR flying, it's not difficult either, though the pressures of actual weather and the idea that you can't see outside and you "pause" to get your bearings addes anxiety. The most important traits of a good IFR pilot is a cool head and a sharp sense of situational awareness. Once you can look at the chart and say "I am here right now", it will make much more comfortable. I've been in the plane before with people that really had no idea at all where they were and it's frightening. But, enough about that, have fun! plan.


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