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.
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:
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 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 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!
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!