Have you heard the term VFR and do you know what VFR navigation is?
VFR is an acronym for Visual Flight Rules and means that when flying we must keep visual reference to the ground. That means we must be able to see where we are going (so we can’t fly through cloud) and use features on the ground to identify where we are. We can use things like rivers, roads, lakes, railway tracks, coastlines, towns, wheat silo’s, radio masts etc.
Under VFR there is a whole set of rules that we must follow when undertaking a VFR flight. Of course airlines don’t fly this way as they use their instruments and follow IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) however it is generally accepted that all good pilots should first be able to navigate by VFR using a map and a compass to find their way form point A to Point B
Before any flight we must check the weather report to confirm that the flight en route and at the destination can be conducted in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). If there is any doubt that VMC can be maintained, its probably best NOT to go but the more experienced you become the more you will be able to read the conditions and plan for a situation where IMC cannot be maintained and the flight must either return or divert.
A pre flight check should also refer to the NOTAMS (Notices to Airmen) to check whether there are any events you should be aware of that might affect your flight. For example, some airspace might be being used for an airshow for an example or a runway you are planning on using might be closed.
Using your WAC (World Aeronautical Chart) you should rule a pencil line between your departure point and your destination – this is your track. Using your ruler you need to measure the distance and protractor to work out your heading (taking into account magnetic variation and affect of wind)
In your flight plan you will need to work out your ground speed, distance between way points and amount of fuel you need for the flight plus reserves. You must also check your ERC (En Route Charts) to check for any restricted or prohibited areas that might affect your flight path and for controlled airspace levels to ensure that you either fly outside controlled airspace or arrange a clearance to fly inside controlled airspace.
In summary, this is how you plan for a VFR navigation flight. Once airborne you then follow your flight plan and use your WAC to identify features shown on the map that can be also identified along your flight path to check you are on track.
There is much satisfaction to be gained from a successful VFR navigation flight and having the confidence and skills to know that with just a map and a compass you are able to find your way to where you want to go.
You will be taught these skills as stage 2 of your Private Pilot Licence. We hope you enjoy the experience and the learning