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Charles Foster
Charles Foster

VFR Flight Planning Made Easy with ASA's Flight Planner PDF



How to Use ASA's Flight Planner for VFR Flights




If you are planning to fly a VFR flight, you need a reliable tool to help you prepare for a safe and efficient flight. One such tool is ASA's Flight Planner, a simple yet comprehensive form that allows you to plan your route, calculate your performance, and monitor your progress during your flight. In this article, you will learn what ASA's Flight Planner is, how to use it for preflight planning and en route navigation, and where to download it for free.




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What is ASA's Flight Planner?




ASA's Flight Planner is a printable form that helps you organize all the information you need for a VFR flight. It has two sections: the Preflight section and the En Route section. The Preflight section is used for preflight planning, where you enter your checkpoints, courses, altitudes, winds, speeds, times, and fuel calculations. The En Route section is used for navigation and groundspeed checks during the actual flight, where you record your actual departure and arrival times, compare your estimated and actual groundspeeds, update your estimated time of arrival (ETA) and fuel remaining, and note any deviations or changes in your flight plan.


Benefits of using ASA's Flight Planner




Using ASA's Flight Planner has many benefits for VFR pilots. Some of them are:



  • It helps you plan your flight in a logical and systematic way.



  • It helps you avoid missing important details or calculations.



  • It helps you comply with FAA regulations and requirements.



  • It helps you improve your situational awareness and decision making.



  • It helps you save time and fuel by flying the most efficient route.



  • It helps you document your flight for future reference or improvement.



Components of ASA's Flight Planner




ASA's Flight Planner consists of several components that correspond to different aspects of your flight. Here is a brief overview of each component:



  • Aircraft information: This includes your aircraft type, identification, special equipment, true airspeed (TAS), color, number aboard, transponder code, etc.



  • Flight plan information: This includes your type of flight plan (VFR or IFR), departure point and time (actual or proposed), cruising altitude, route of flight, destination airport and city, estimated time en route (ETE), alternate airport(s), fuel on board (FOB), remarks, destination contact/telephone (optional), etc.



  • Preflight section: This includes your checkpoints (departure airport, intermediate waypoints, destination airport), true course (TC) between each checkpoint, intended altitude for each leg, wind direction and velocity at cruising altitude, wind correction angle (WCA) and true heading (TH) for each leg, estimated groundspeed (GS), time en route (ETE) and fuel consumption (GPH) for each leg, magnetic variation (VAR) and compass deviation (DEV) for each leg, and magnetic heading (MH) and compass heading (CH) for each leg.



  • En Route section: This includes your actual departure and arrival times (off and on blocks), actual time en route (ATE) and fuel used for each leg, actual groundspeed (GS) and flight progress for each leg, updated estimated time of arrival (ETA) and fuel remaining for each leg, VOR frequencies, bearings, identifications, to/from indications, transponder codes, and any notes or remarks.



  • Terminal information: This includes your destination airport's elevation, runways, radio frequencies, and field radio procedures.



  • UTC time conversion: This includes a table that shows how to convert local time to UTC time based on your time zone.



How to Plot Your Course on a Sectional Chart




The first step in using ASA's Flight Planner is to plot your course on a sectional chart. A sectional chart is a detailed map of the airspace that shows airports, navigational aids, terrain features, airspace boundaries, obstructions, landmarks, etc. You can use a sectional chart to plan your route of flight, choose your checkpoints, measure your distances and courses, determine your magnetic variation, check your airspace requirements, etc.


Choosing checkpoints and measuring distances




To plot your course on a sectional chart, you need to choose checkpoints that you will use as navigational aids and groundspeed checks during your flight. Checkpoints are easily identifiable points on the ground that you can see from the air. They can be airports, towns, lakes, rivers, roads, towers, etc. You should choose checkpoints that are along or close to your intended route of flight, spaced about 10 to 15 minutes apart, and visible in different weather conditions. You should also avoid checkpoints that are in restricted or prohibited airspace, near busy airports or airways, or over densely populated areas.


Once you have chosen your checkpoints, you need to measure the distance between them. This is the length of each leg of your flight. You can use a plotter or a ruler to measure the distance on the sectional chart. The scale of the sectional chart is 1:500000, which means that 1 inch on the chart equals 500000 inches or about 8 nautical miles (NM) on the ground. You should measure the distance in nautical miles and round it to the nearest whole or half number.


Determining true course and magnetic variation




After measuring the distance between your checkpoints, you need to determine the true course between them. This is the angle between your intended direction of flight and true north. True north is the direction of the geographic north pole. You can use a plotter or a protractor to measure the true course on the sectional chart. You should align the plotter or protractor with the centerline of your intended route of flight and read the angle from the nearest meridian line. A meridian line is a line that connects points of equal longitude. You should measure the true course in degrees from 0 to 360 and round it to the nearest whole number.


Once you have determined the true course between your checkpoints, you need to determine the magnetic variation for each leg of your flight. Magnetic variation is the angle between true north and magnetic north. Magnetic north is the direction of the magnetic north pole. Magnetic variation varies depending on your location and changes over time due to the movement of the earth's magnetic field. You can find the magnetic variation for your area on the sectional chart by looking for isogonic lines. Isogonic lines are lines that connect points of equal magnetic variation. The value and direction of magnetic variation are indicated next to each isogonic line. For example, 14E means that magnetic north is 14 degrees east of true north.


Selecting a cruising altitude and checking airspace




The next step in plotting your course on a sectional chart is to select a cruising altitude for each leg of your flight. Your cruising altitude is the altitude at which you intend to fly most of your flight. You should choose a cruising altitude that is appropriate for your direction of flight, safe for terrain clearance and obstacle avoidance, compliant with airspace rules and regulations, suitable for weather conditions and visibility requirements, and efficient for fuel consumption and performance.


How to Obtain Weather Information for Your Flight




Another important step in using ASA's Flight Planner is to obtain weather information for your flight. Weather is a critical factor that affects your flight safety, performance, and efficiency. You need to obtain a weather briefing before your flight to receive important weather data and forecasts for your route of flight. You also need to update your weather information during your flight to check for any changes or hazards that may affect your flight plan.


Sources of weather data and briefings




There are many sources of weather data and briefings that you can use for your flight planning. Some of them are:



  • Flight Service Stations (FSS): You can call 1-800-WX-BRIEF or use the website www.1800wxbrief.com to obtain a weather briefing from a certified FSS specialist. You can request a standard briefing, an abbreviated briefing, or an outlook briefing depending on your needs and time frame.



  • Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSS): You can use the same phone number or website to access an automated system that provides weather information and briefings. You can also file, activate, or close your flight plan using this system.



  • Automated Weather Observing Systems (AWOS) and Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS): These are automated systems that provide continuous weather observations and reports at airports. You can access them by radio or phone.



  • Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS): This is a continuous broadcast of weather and airport information at busy airports. You can access it by radio.



  • Flight Information Service-Broadcast (FIS-B): This is a service that provides weather and aeronautical information via ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) to equipped aircraft. You can access it by using an ADS-B receiver and display.



  • Internet: You can use various websites and apps to access weather data and briefings online. Some examples are aviationweather.gov, duats.com, foreflight.com, etc.



Wind direction, velocity and temperature at cruising altitude




One of the most important pieces of weather data that you need for your flight planning is the wind direction, velocity and temperature at your cruising altitude. These factors affect your aircraft's performance, fuel consumption, and groundspeed. You need to know the wind direction and velocity to calculate your wind correction angle and true heading for each leg of your flight. You also need to know the temperature to calculate your true airspeed and density altitude.


You can obtain the wind direction, velocity and temperature at your cruising altitude from various sources of weather data and briefings. Some of them are:



  • Winds aloft forecast: This is a forecast of the wind direction, velocity and temperature at various altitudes and locations. You can access it by calling FSS or using the website aviationweather.gov.



  • Pilot reports (PIREPs): These are reports of actual weather conditions encountered by pilots during flight. You can access them by calling FSS or listening to ATIS or FSS broadcasts.



  • Airport weather reports: These are reports of the current weather conditions at airports. You can access them by calling FSS or listening to AWOS, ASOS or ATIS broadcasts.



Sky coverage, ceiling and freezing level




Another important piece of weather data that you need for your flight planning is the sky coverage, ceiling and freezing level along your route of flight. These factors affect your visibility, cloud clearance, icing potential, and alternate airport selection. You need to know the sky coverage and ceiling to determine if you can fly VFR or if you need an instrument flight rules (IFR) clearance or an alternate airport. You also need to know the freezing level to avoid icing conditions that may degrade your aircraft's performance or damage its structure.


You can obtain the sky coverage, ceiling and freezing level along your route of flight from various sources of weather data and briefings. Some of them are:



  • Area forecast: This is a forecast of the general weather conditions over a large area. It includes information on sky coverage, ceiling, visibility, precipitation, thunderstorms, etc. You can access it by calling FSS or using the website aviationweather.gov.



  • Airmen's meteorological information (AIRMET): This is a forecast of hazardous weather conditions that may affect aircraft operations. It includes information on icing, turbulence, mountain obscuration, etc. You can access it by calling FSS or using the website aviationweather.gov.



  • Sigmet: This is a forecast of significant weather conditions that may affect all aircraft operations. It includes information on severe icing, severe turbulence, dust storms, volcanic ash, etc. You can access it by calling FSS or using the website aviationweather.gov.



  • Convective sigmet: This is a forecast of convective weather conditions that may affect all aircraft operations. It includes information on thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, etc. You can access it by calling FSS or using the website aviationweather.gov.



How to Complete the Preflight Section of the Flight Planner




Once you have plotted your course on a sectional chart and obtained weather information for your flight, you are ready to complete the preflight section of the flight planner. This section is used for preflight planning, where you enter your checkpoints, courses, altitudes, winds, speeds, times, and fuel calculations. To complete the preflight section of the flight planner, you will need to know your checkpoint locations, true course between the checkpoints, intended altitude, wind direction and velocity at cruising altitude, the aircraft's true airspeed, magnetic variation from the sectional chart and compass deviation from your aircraft.


Entering checkpoints, true course and altitude




The first step in completing the preflight section of the flight planner is to enter your checkpoints, true course and altitude for each leg of your flight. You should list each checkpoint in order, starting with your departure airport and ending with your destination airport. You should also include any intermediate waypoints that you have chosen as navigational aids or groundspeed checks. You should enter the true course that you have measured with your plotter for each leg between the checkpoints. You should also enter your intended cruising altitude for each leg of the flight.


For example, if you are planning to fly from Santa Monica Airport (SMO) to San Diego International Airport (SAN) via Oceanside VOR (OCN), you would enter the following information:



Checkpoints


True Course


Altitude


SMO


-


-


OCN


143


5500 ft


SAN


156


2500 ft


Calculating wind correction angle and true heading




The next step in completing the preflight section of the flight planner is to calculate your wind correction angle and true heading for each leg of your flight. The wind correction angle is the angle that you need to correct your true course to compensate for the wind effect. The true heading is the angle that you need to fly to follow your intended route of flight. To calculate your wind correction angle and true heading for each leg of your flight, you will need to know your true course, wind direction and velocity at cruising altitude, and the aircraft's true airspeed.


the true course on the front side of the flight computer. You should round the wind correction angle and true heading to the nearest whole number.


For example, if you are flying from SMO to OCN with a true course of 143, a wind direction of 270 and a wind velocity of 15 knots, and a true airspeed of 110 knots, you would calculate the following wind correction angle and true heading:



  • Align 270 and 15 on the wind side of the flight computer.



  • Rotate the azimuth card until 143 is aligned with the index mark on the front side of the flight computer.



  • Read the wind correction angle from the drift angle pointer on the azimuth card. It is 8 left.



  • Add the wind correction angle to the true course to get the true heading. 143 + 8 = 151.



You should enter the wind correction angle and true heading for each leg of your flight on the flight planner.



Checkpoints


True Course


Altitude


Wind Correction Angle


True Heading


SMO


-


-


-


-


OCN


143


5500 ft


L8


151


SAN


156


2500 ft


L7


163


Estimating groundspeed, time en route and fuel consumption




The final step in completing the preflight section of the flight planner is to estimate your groundspeed, time en route and fuel consumption for each leg of your flight. The groundspeed is the speed of your aircraft over the ground. The time en route is the time it takes to fly from one checkpoint to another. The fuel consumption is the amount of fuel that your aircraft burns during each leg of your flight. To estimate your groundspeed, time en route and fuel consumption for each leg of your flight, you will need to know your true heading, wind direction and velocity at cruising altitude, and the aircraft's true airspeed and fuel burn rate.


the groundspeed on the front side of the flight computer. The fuel consumption will be indicated by multiplying the fuel burn rate by the time en route on the front side of the flight computer. You should round the groundspeed to the nearest whole number, the time en route to the nearest minute, and the fuel consumption to the nearest tenth of a gallon.


For example, if you are flying from SMO to OCN with a true heading of 151, a wind direction of 270 and a wind velocity of 15 knots, a true airspeed of 110 knots, a fuel burn rate of 8 gallons per hour (GPH), and a distance of 75 nautical miles (NM), you would estimate the following groundspeed, time en route and fuel consumption:



  • Align 270 and 15 on the wind side of the flight computer.



  • Rotate the azimuth card until 151 is aligned with the index mark on the front side of the flight computer.



  • Read the groundspeed from the index mark on the wind side of the flight computer. It is 122 knots.



  • Divide the distance by the groundspeed to get the time en route. 75 NM / 122 knots = 0.615 hours or 37 minutes.



  • Multiply the fuel burn rate by the time en route to get the fuel consumption. 8 GPH x 0.615 hours = 4.9 gallons.



You should enter the groundspeed, time en route and fuel consumption for each leg of your flight on the flight planner.



Checkpoints


True Course


Altitude


Wind Correction Angle


True Heading


Groundspeed


Time En Route


Fuel Consumption


SMO


-


-


-


-


-


-


-


OCN


143


5500 ft


L8


151


122 knots


37 minutes


4.9 gallons


SAN


156


2500 ft


L7


163


120 knots


12 minutes


1.6 gallons


Totals:


-


-


-


--49 minutes >6.5 gallons >


How to Complete the En Route Section of the Flight Planner


The last step in using ASA's Flight Planner is to complete the en route section of the flight planner. This section is used for navigation and groundspeed checks during the actual flight, where you record your actual departure and arrival times, compare your estimated and actual groundspeeds, update your estimated time of arrival (ETA) and fuel remaining, and note any deviations or changes in your flight plan. To complete the en route section of the flight planner, you will need to know your actual departure and arrival times, actual groundspeed and flight progress, VOR frequencies, bea


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