This chapter provides an introduction to cross-country flying under visual flight rules (VFR). It contains practical information for planning and executing cross-country flights for the beginning pilot.

 Air navigation is simply the process of piloting an airplane from one geographic position to another while monitoring one’s position as the flight progresses. It introduces the need for planning, which includes plotting the course on an aeronautical chart, selecting checkpoints, measuring distances, obtaining pertinent weather information, and computing flight time, headings, and fuel requirements. The methods used in this chapter include pilotage—navigating by reference to visible landmarks, dead reckoning—computations of direction and distance from a known position, and radio navigation—by use of radio aids.


 An aeronautical chart is the road map for a pilot flying under VFR. The chart provides information which allows pilots to track their position and provides available information which enhances safety. The three aeronautical charts used by VFR pilots are:

• Sectional Charts
• VFR Terminal Area Charts
• World Aeronautical Charts

 A free catalog listing aeronautical charts and related publications including prices and instructions for ordering is available upon request from:

  NOAA Distribution Branch (N/CG33)
  National Ocean Survey
  Riverdale, MD 20737-1199
  Telephone: (301) 436-6990

Sectional Charts

Sectional charts are the most common charts used by pilots today. The charts have a scale of 1:500,000 (1 inch = 6.86 nautical miles or 8 statute miles) which allows for more detailed information to be included on the chart.
The charts provide an abundance of information, including airport data, navigational aids, airspace, and topography etc. Figure 8-1 is an excerpt from the legend of a sectional chart. By referring to the chart legend, a pilot can interpret most of the information on the chart. A pilot should also check the chart for other legend information which includes air traffic control frequencies and information on airspace. These charts are revised semiannually except for some areas outside the contiguous United States where they are revised annually.

Visual Flight Rule (VFR) Terminal Area Charts

 Visual flight rule terminal area charts are helpful when flying in or near Class B airspace. They have a scale of 1:250,000 (1 inch =3.43 nautical miles or 4 statute miles). These charts provide a more detailed display of topographical information and are revised semiannually, except for several Alaskan and Caribbean charts.

World Aeronautical Charts

 World aeronautical charts are designed to provide a standard series of aeronautical charts, covering land areas of the world, at a size and scale convenient for navigation by moderate speed aircraft. They are produced at a scale of 1:1,000,000 (1 inch = 13.7 nautical miles (NM) or 16 statute miles). These charts are similar to sectional charts and the symbols are the same except there is less detail due to the smaller scale. These charts are revised annually except several Alaskan charts and the Mexican/Caribbean charts which are revised every 2 years.

Figure 8-1.—Sectional chart legend.