20.1 flight planning and flying

To prepare for the 20.1 upgrade, I did quite a bit of study in this new amazing (!!) Flight Guide. Yet my first VNAV experience resulted in a violation. This, plus the flood of questions I see on this forum, made me decide to start this thread.

I’m not trying to write a tutorial here; I’m just collecting info in a post and see if we can share our experience and learn from it. Stuff in here may not be (fully) correct. That’s where the learning part comes in. Please correct me and I’ll update this where it makes sense.

I have split this write-up in two parts:

  • Flight planning
  • Flying your flight plan

Flight planning

Many airports now have standard departure and arrival routes, called SID (departure) and STARs (arrival). They are a collection of waypoints that we can add to our flight plan and we can use to depart an airspace (SID) or do a standard arrival approach. Many of the waypoints in the SID and STAR have pre-set altitudes. Very clever…

Info below comes from my experience and from the Flying Guide > On the Ground > Flight Planning section.
It is also published on YouTube:

NOTE: I am not much of a real life route flyer. I prefer to make my own. If anyone wants to reply to this thread with info on how to add real-life routes in this, then that would be most welcome.

The Flying Guide tutorial on using SID and STARs in my flight plan can be found here.

Let’s talk about departure planning, using the SID.

What I see in the first part of Tyler’s tutorial is:

  • Select the airport and check out runways in use, etc.
  • Click on PROC and then Select Departure to see all departure SIDs for your airport
  • From the cloud-mesh of many departure route, pick one that seems to take you out into the direction you roughly wanna go. If you can’t work out the one to pick, just select them one by one; by selecting them you see only that SID. Keep selecting until you find the one you like.
  • Select the departure runway.
  • Press ‘Add to FPL’

After you have added your SID to your flight plan, you can add waypoints for the main part of your flight plan, or copy them from a real-life plan.

Now we will plan our arrival , using the STAR

What I see in the second part of Tyler’s tutorial is:

  • Select your destination airport and check out runways, etc
  • Click on PROC and then Select Arrival to see all arrival STARs for the airport
  • From the cloud-mesh of many arrival routes, pick one that is a logical for your arrival airport. If you can’t work out the one to pick, just select them one by one; by selecting them you see only that SID. Keep selecting until you find that is best suited for your arrival
  • Select the Transition (the start of the STAR)
  • <any other steps that need to be added here, can’t work it out from the video>
  • Press ‘Add to FPL’
  • make sure the arrival airport dot is the last waypoint of your flight plan

Flying your flight plan

Now you’ve made your flightplan with the SID (departure) and STAR for your arrival airport, we can start flying it. I’m splitting this up into departure and climb to cruise and arrival.


After your clearance for takeoff, you fly the aircraft out of the airport towards the departure SID. From there you can turn on auto-pilot with the LNAV button. The LNAV button is the same as the old NAV button. Note that, even though you may have added altitudes to your waypoints for the route, LNAV does nothing with these . It just follows the route.

Here I am at cruise altitude and in the AP section I see my upcoming VNAV target: the little airport YORG at 31000 feet.This is where I pressed VNAV and in the next picture you see what happened

  • my VNAV button went Orange (indicating it’s ON). It was showing the distance to my next target.
  • I got a message that a VNAV target was updated (to YORG) and at what altitude.
  • the new target ALT and VS becomes purple, showing that they are under control of the VNAV.

Note that the the altitude in the Target is indeed the target altitude.


After cruising for a while and you finishing some homework or a good night sleep, your arrival STAR Transition point is coming in sight. This point is your Top Of Decent (TOD). In the AP screen you may be able to see how far your VNAV point is. This is a good moment to press the VNAV – and note that VNAV will not work before this. From there on, your aircraft will not just follow the route, but also descent according to the altitude in each waypoint.

Don’t press your VNAV at cruise altitude. A step-climb later on can disable VNAV. Make sure VNAV is enabled at TOD - so just before your descent.

Watch that speed

while the descent happens automatically, it’s the pilot’s responsibility to maintain the appropriate speed.

I hope this thread can help us understand the new features quicker and we can have a fun and educational chat about it.


Almost racked up a few violations on my way into Sydney this morning because of that. Pretty easy to forget how fast you’re going when you’re descending automatically 😳

So can we turn on VNAV after reaching the cruise in order to get the TOD based on a pre-determined altitude for a particular waypoint?! Also do we need to tune ILS to NAV1 as we used to or APPR has got new concept?!

Do not use VNAV once you reach cruise, because on expert you can get violation for descending without clearance

Only if there’s ATC though.

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Not necessarily flying over controlled airspaces… If so; what should I do to meet the altitude restriction on the 1st waypoint pf my STAR? Obtain a clearance first then activating VNAV🤔?!

Get a clearance before TOD. VNAV apparently uses 2 degree instead of 3 degree descent, so a alightly late lcearance is still fine

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Just to get back to the open question in my post:

The question was not relating to if there’s ATC or not. My post does not include ATC communication.

@Crown.plane I think that is more or less my question. in my situation: I pressed VNAV at cruise altitude and with LNAV on I flew to my TOD, and started descending from there (after approval from Center, of course). So I guess the answer to your question is: yes

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It’s very unadvisable though because step climbing disengages VNAV

So…(to come back to the question again)…when would you suggest to press VNAV?

Close to TOD

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So press it again after reaching the final cruise altitude 🤔, it will calculate the new TOD based on your current altitude

I have a question, how do I input main WPTS after the SID WPTS? Should I input the WPT after the SID transition or like before?

For example flying from LAX - SFO : I first select SID SUMMR1 and then add the waypoints from the airport or I only add the waypoints starting from the transition to start of STAR?

Do not input anything that is part of the SID. You can append to FPL instead of replacing the entire FPL now

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I believe the answer is yes; you add the SID to your flight plan and you just add waypoints after that. They all get added to your flight plan.

This is how I see it done in the video tutorial…

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