CHAPTER 8. The National Airspace System

Navigating the Airspace

Knowledge of airspace dimensions, requirements to enter the airspace, and geographical location of the airspace is the responsibility of all pilots. The current sectional chart is the primary offi cial tool to determine the airspace fl ying within or avoiding.

Pilotage is navigation by reference to landmarks to determine location and the location of airspace. Pilotage is the best form of navigation to ensure that you avoid airspace not authorized to enter. Locating your position on the sectional chart and locating/identifying the airspace you want to enter/avoid requires prefl ight planning on the ground and situational awareness in the air.

For all fl ights, pilots must be sure to have enough fuel to complete the fl ight. For longer cross-country fl ights, this requires the pilot to check winds aloft and calculate the groundspeed for the planned altitude and forecast wind. The resultant time to the destination and the fuel consumption determines the fuel required to make the fl ight. This prefl ight planning is especially important for slower WSC aircraft because increased headwind components provide signifi cant time increases to get to fuel stops than faster aircraft. Although 14 CFR section 91.151 requires airplanes to have at least 30 minutes of reserve fuel for an intended fuel stop; this minimum is also recommended for WSC aircraft. The Pilotís Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge chapter on navigation provides procedures in navigation, plotting a course, determining groundspeed for the predicted wind, headings and the required fuel for intended legs of the fl ight. For any cross-country fl ight, a fl ight log should be used and the planned groundspeed should be compared to the actual GPS groundspeed measured in fl ight. If the GPS groundspeed is lower than the planned groundspeed, the time en route and the fuel reserves must be evaluated to assure the WSC aircraft does not run out of fuel during the fl ight.

GPS is a very popular form of navigation used by WSC pilots. The GPS receiver is small, simple to use, and inexpensive compared to other forms of electronic (radio) navigation. Simple modes of operation provide actual groundspeed and time to a waypoint. More sophisticated GPSs have aviation databases and provide the pilot a considerable amount of information about airports and airspace. When using GPS to determine airspace or airport position, boundaries, and/ or information, the aviation database in the GPS may not exactly match the information as depicted on the sectional chart. If there is a difference between the sectional chart and GPS information, the sectional chart should be considered correct.

A WSC pilot using GPS should ensure that the batteries are fresh and the aviation database is current. Never rely on the GPS as a primary navigation system. Pilotage using the sectional chart is the primary navigation system when fl ying beyond visual range of a familiar airport. The GPS is used only as a backup aid for navigation.

With proper prefl ight planning and constant evaluation of the planned verses actual fl ight performance, cross-country fl ight is practical in the NAS for WSC pilots.

Chapter Summary

At fi rst glance, the NAS appears to be a complex arena in which to operate such a simple aircraft. This chapter simplifi es the airspace for the reader, and makes it readily apparent that it is possible to operate a WSC aircraft safely, without causing confl ict.

Simple courtesy and common sense go a long way in airspace operations. A complete and thorough understanding of the airspace, combined with good decision-making, will allow the pilot to do what he or she wishes, with recognition of the needs of other users of the sky.

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