Reference: Charles Wood's Flight Simulator Navigation

Navigation can be difficult in an aircraft since there are no roads or signs so planning a flight and constantly maintaining situational awareness is critical to the your success and safety in the air. Charts help you plan and they help you maintain a visual image of where you are.

For visual flight, relevant charts include:

Sectional Charts - Designed for visual navigation of slow to medium speed aircraft and the primary tool for the VFR flight.

Sectional Chart

The topographic information consists of:

  • contour lines,
  • shaded relief,
  • drainage patterns, and
  • an extensive selection of visual checkpoints and landmarks used for flight under VFR.
Cultural features include:
  • cities & towns,
  • roads & railroads, and
  • other distinct landmarks.
The aeronautical information includes:
  • visual & radio aids to navigation,
  • airports,
  • controlled & special-use airspace,
  • obstructions, and
  • related data.

Where to Obtain Charts:

Towered airports are shown in blue. In the top-left of the sectional (above), you can see KLGB and toward the bottom-right, KSNA. Airports without an operating control tower are shown in magenta, as is MCAS-El-Toro (closed), in the very bottom-right of this sectional.

Terminal airspace is shown by thick colored lines, or thin dashed lines. Notice the dashed blue lines around Long Beach and Los Alamitos. This is the four-mile Class D boundary.

The thick magenta lines surrounding Santa Ana KSNA mark the Class C airspace. See the wording at the top-right? This class C has several sections. Immediately around the airfield is circle and inside it is marked 44/SFC. This means within this area, the class C goes from the surface (SFC) up to 4,400 feet. Above that to the right, you see a 44/20. Here the airspace starts at 2000 feet AGL extending up to 4,400 feet.

The thick irregular blue lines on the left of the diagram delineate a portion of the Los Angeles class B airspace. You will see 100/50 just left of KLGB. Here the airspace starts at 5000 feet and extends up to 10000 feet. KLGB is underneath the LA class B and as long as you fly below 5000 feet AGL, you are underneath it as well.

VORs are shown as a large compass rose. You can see most of the Seal Beach VORTAC (SLI) centered on Los Alomitos KSLI. It is labeled inside a box with the name, frequency, TACAN channel and Morse code identifier. Emanating from this VOR are three faint blue lines with magnetic headings. These are low-altitude “victor” airways mainly used for IFR flight but provided as navigation aids on the sectional chart. These are radials off the VOR.

In a northeast direction, you can see the V8 airway, marked as the 058 radial. To the west on a 272 heading is the V165 and to the southeast is the V23 airway (also shared by V165 and V597) on the 120 radial. To fly these airways, you would tune the VOR, set the OBS to the designated radial, intercept and track as described in the lesson on VOR navigation.

World Aeronautical Charts (WAC) – WAC's cover land areas for navigation by moderate speed aircraft operating at high altitudes.

WAC Chart

Included in WAC's are:

  • city tints,
  • principal roads,
  • railroads,
  • distinctive landmarks,
  • drainage patterns, and
  • topographical relief.
Aeronautical information includes:
  • visual & and radio aids to navigation,
  • airports,
  • airways,
  • special-use airspace, and
  • obstructions.
Because of a smaller scale, WAC's do not show as much detail as sectional or TAC's.

Notice there is less detail depicting the LAX class B airspace. Class D is not shown and there is less detail on the class C. Although the topographic detail is reduced but the symbols are the same as the sectional chart.

Terminal Area Charts (TAC) – These charts provide greater detail of class B airspace which overly the busiest airports like LAX, JFK, ATL and so forth. Included are VFR corridors for transiting through a class B area. A TAC chart is not shown here.

Airport Diagrams - These are typically found with Instrument Charts.

Airport Diagrams are useful in any situation when on the ground, or planning a flight into an airport.

KLGB Diagram

Runways are oriented to the nearest 10 degrees of magnetic heading. So the centerline of runway 25L (“L” for “left”) would be aligned within 240 and 260 degrees magnetic. From the opposite direction, subtract 180 degrees to get runway 7R.

Vertically you can see runways 34L and 34R and bisecting these runways is runway 30 (no L or R designation because there is only one runway oriented in this direction). Note the relative widths of the runways and since the prevailing winds are from the west in southern California, most operations are on the 25’s or runway 30 for larger aircraft.

Let’s look closer at 25L. Threshold elevation is listed and in this case ELEV 29 denotes 29 feet MSL. What is the threshold elevation for runway 7R?

You can see the magnetic direction of 256.1 degrees, so when you are lined up on the centerline, your heading indicator should show 256.

On top of 25L and at the center you see 5420x150. This tells us the runway is 5,420 long and its width is 150 feet, critical information and depending on the aircraft type, gross weight, and density altitude (combination of altitude, pressure and temperature), determines whether you have enough runway to take-off or land.

Now look at runway 30. The letters D, D-1, D-2, L, L-2 are taxiway designators running parallel to the runway on the south side is taxiway D (or Delta). On the north side, you see taxiway L (Lima).

D-1, D-2, D-3, etc. are all runway intersections where the taxiway crosses or connects with the runway itself. Ground controllers will provide instructions to taxi to the runway via various taxiways. A pilot should write those instructions down, read them back to the controller then find his way using the airport diagram and taxiway signs.

Microsoft Flight Simulator does not include taxiway signs but many scenery add-ons will include them. A good source is found here. For additional information about airport signs, once again read the FAA's AIM.

In addition to Airport Diagrams, charts for instrument flying include Enroute Charts (high and low-altitude) Terminal Charts, including standard terminal arrival (STAR), departure procedure (DP, also know as standard instrument departure or SID) and instrument approach procedures (IAP). These are covered in the instrument flying lessons.

FSNavigator is an excellent Flight Simulator add-in module that provides moving map functionality and much more. About$30 US but highly recommended.


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