VFR Navigation

VFR Navigation

With the TBM just around the corner, I’m excited to see GA get more attention in Infinite Flight. My only fear is that pilots may use the TBM to fly waypoint to waypoint like airliners do, and overlook an exciting part of GA flying – VFR navigation.

In this tutorial I cover some resources out there, as well as how to perform pilotage and dead reckoning – the two major types of VFR navigation. I wrap up with a list of the resources and links covered in this topic for easy access.

Disclaimer: There’s nothing wrong with waypoint-to-waypoint IFR flights. This is simply meant to provide a basic overview of another option.

Resources: This is at the top to let you know what’s out there.

Other Topics: First off, this isn’t the first post on the IFC about VFR Navigation, I did search before posting :). @Insertusernamehere made a great tutorial on How to fly a pilotage VFR flight, which I highly recommend you go look at. It covers a lot that this tutorial does not, such as weather minimums and cruising altitudes.

Charts: When flying VFR, Sectional Aeronautic Charts (VFR charts) are your roadmap to the sky. Here’s a snippet of one:


SkyVector

Now, I agree. That’s a lot of information in one area, but stick with me. SkyVector.com has the entire planet mapped out in charts. Go search and look at your local airport, see if you can get a sense of where things are. Once you’re oriented, use this legend from the FAA and select the VFR Sectional & TAC tab to start identifying landmarks. From there, you can find ground features to look for and navigate based off of on your flight. You can even add waypoints and draw out a planned flight, like I did in pink.

I don’t want this to turn into a VFR chart tutorial, so I’ll stop here. I do encourage you to check out this tutorial video if you’d like to learn more, and like all things, don’t feel the need to learn it all at once!

An important note is that just like a paper map, SkyVector does not show your live position in Infinite Flight. I highly recommend checking out LiveFlight by @Cameron as a way to see your live position in Infinite Flight, as well as ForeFlight.

Pilotage: Looking Out The Window

Pilotage is the practice of navigating based on outside references. All you need for this is a map, a plan, and a way to look outside your aircraft.

Start your flight planning by looking at a VFR chart and planning where you want to end up. Imagine a line between your departure airport and arrival airport. Start looking down that line, and make a plan based off ground features you’re sure you can see from the air. Towns, major roads, rivers, and airports are all great landmarks to use. Choose features that aren’t too far away, roughly 15nm maximum, so that you know you’ll be able to see each landmark and not get lost in between. In the chart I included in the Resources section, you can see that the pink line has a few airports and towns along it’s way, and that there’s a highway just right of course, north of Jolamtra. These all make great waypoints to follow, even with 15m imagery.

Once you have your plan, you can use it to go flying! Take off, and head towards your first waypoint! Keep a sharp eye out, and once you see it, head to the next one. Keep doing this until you reach your destination.

Dead Reckoning: Math Meets Aviation

Dead Reckoning is a little bit more complicated, but we’ll still cover the basics. Dead Reckoning uses math to determine just what direction you have to travel, and for how long. In real life, you would need a map, a plotter, a compass, a stopwatch, and a navigation log. Infinite Flight provides a lot of those things, so all you need to do is some planning.

Start off by planning your start and end airports, and drawing a line between them. If you’re comfortable, you can use dead reckoning to fly direct between them, as long as your aircraft has the range. At this point, you need to determine a few things: your true airspeed (TAS)and your heading.

To save us all a bit of math, I’m going to refer you to ExperimentalAircraft.info for these calculations. Once you plug your information in, you’ll have a heading and a groundspeed.

Once you have your heading and TAS as well as a calculated groundspeed, you can figure out how long it’ll take you to travel between your waypoints.

This isn’t a perfect system though – you may get blown off course by the wind or something! Don’t worry, course corrections aren’t uncommon. There’s a good rule of thumb, the 1 in 60 rule. If you are 1 nautical mile off course (based on what you see on the ground versus your course line on your map), a course correction of 1 degree will have you back on course in roughly 60 nautical miles. A course correction of 2 degrees will have you back on course in half the distance, roughly 30 nautical miles. As always, keep looking out the window and making sure you know where you are relative to your plan!

Directory of Links

How to fly a pilotage VFR flight
SkyVector, the entire world in aeronautical charts.
VFR chart legend, courtesy of the FAA
An intro to VFR charts video
Some helpful calculators for dead reckoning

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment or PM me with questions. I’m looking forward to more GA and VFR flights in the future!

64 Likes

great tutorial. Some may not understand the importance of VFR flying but its a real great way too see the surroundings.

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I’m really a fan of flying VFR, pilotage is one of the main things that makes me want to go back for another flight. Spotting landmarks is very cool! Awesome post! :)

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Thanks guys! We’ve got the whole world, no better way to experience it than by navigating across it!

Is there any good way to navigate following highways? I know it’s possible but can you do it well in game?

Of course, I flew up to the Lukla region that way one time. You just follow the roads.

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Yeah! There’s a joke that IFR actually stands for I Follow Roads ;)

I’d recommend taking off in a Cessna somewhere you’re familiar with, and finding a road or highway that you know, and following it for a bit. Use maps as a guide. Find the road on a sectional chart, and you’re all set!

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So excited for VFR and GA flying to get a bit of love with the new TBM. 🎉

BTW, this is probably a good spot for a shameless plug for my lesser-known iOS app In-Flight Instruments (demo video) which lets you use live GA instruments and fly VOR to VOR, too, if you want. :)

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Great tutorial, i always feel like I’m the only one flying vfr in the game especially with the location of my home airport hopefully this tutorial and of course the Tbm brings a lot more of this kind of flying.

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Great post Tommy… I’d just say that the TBM is great GA aircraft however due to its performance it will probably not be used much for VFR flights.You didn’t mention on your post but just a quick reminder that there are a few requirements for a VFR flight which include:

  • VFR weather conditions
  • Flight must be below FL180
  • Altitudes used should end with 500 (i.e. 11,500; 14,500).
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I believe it’s because of its performance that it will be utilized more for vfr. You can do a lot more in a tbm at low altitude vfr flying than you can in say a Cessna or cirrus (ex. Mountain flying)
Additional info as you’ve provided is also expanded on here How to fly a pilotage VFR flight

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Yeah, it certainly doesn’t have to be, but if people want to do it in the TBM or any other GA, this is to help them!

A lot of that was already covered in How to fly a pilotage VFR flight so I skimmed over it. You’re right, it is important to know!

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This was a really great tutorial. You have inspired me to do a flight that I did in real life in the sim.

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A very well-written guide. The only problem is that in IF, VFR flying is hard (along with visual approaches) because of the low quality scenery (relatively speaking). I have tried VFR in the SR-22 in IF, and I kind of got lost because I could not see the visual references. Are you able to fly VFR well in IF?

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Shut up and take my money!!!

*looks on Play Store…
Capture%202

*reads Youtube comments…

Capture

BOOOO!! I have money if you ever put it on Android.

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Yeah! My recommendation is to make sure you’re high enough, at least 3,000 feet AGL, and to start somewhere you’re familiar with. Stick to the most obvious landmarks like large towns, lakes, or airports. Once you’re more comfortable with that, move on to new places and landmarks.

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Wow! I just downloaded this and spent a half hour flying around and messing with the VORs. I have some learning to do for sure, but this adds a whole new level to Infinite Flight.

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You also might want to fly at places your familiar with first. It will get easier the more you do it.

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