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captain420

Flight planning for GA flying (VFR/IFR) and PFPX

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I want to get back and do some GA flying and had a few questions to ask the community:

 

1) In eal life do GA pilots (VFR) just get up in the air and fly with no specific flight plan in mind and just fly to sight see freelyand casually or do they have to plan it first? I'm assuming with VFR you have more flexibility and freedom to fly wherever you want and with IFR in GA you should create a flight plan first if I'm not mistaken.

 

2) How does one properly create a flight plan for VFR/IFR flying in a GA aircraft such as Cessna 172/182, RealAir Legacy. Can you use PFPX? If so do you guys manually create the route yourself, or let PFPX create the route for you? I'm assuming that in PFPX you would select LOW airspace when finding a route?

 

3) Most GA planes have Garmin units such as GNS, GTN. I'll be using mostly Flight1's GTN 750/650 units. Even if I used a flight planning app such as PFPX, I would still have to manually input the data into the GTN unit myself since you cannot load P3D .pln files if I'm not mistaken.

 

4) Does the GTN 750/650 units support SID/STAR and ILS approaches like a 777 or Airbus would? Are these units capable of capturing localizers and glideslopes?

 

5) I've heard that the GTN 750/650 doesn't support VNAV capabilities, so how will we know optimal altitude to fly at for any given part of the flight plan?

 

6) VFR GA pilots usually fly at altutudes at least 3000 AGL depending on the terrain, and IFR GA pilots fly at much higher altitudes, perhaps above 10,000 feet but below FL180, correct?

 

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I don't want to assume you are in the US, where VFR and uncontrolled flight is common. it is not so in most parts of the world.

 

VFR flights should have a plan, required fuel, destination runway info, weather, etc.  The plan is not required to be filed with the FAA but if you are low time pilot I think it is a good idea.  i usually don't file but I usually have ATC in my hear using traffic advisory service.

 

Flight planning in a light GA plane is easy.., once you've done it a few times.  The main thing to calculate is you estimate time enroute and fuel as far as route planning goes, no need for PFPX just use the fuel burn and speed tables in the POH.

 

Using a Garmin is pretty common now, but the plans do need to be manually loaded, at least the first time.  SID/STARS in general do not apply to GA flying because we stay away from the big busy airline hubs.

 

When you are 7500 ft in the air you really don't need VNAV, although the Garmin will give you an assist if you tell it how what your desired descent rate is going to be.  For VFR, 7500 ft is usually the best depending on wind and your heading because at that altitude a normally aspirated engine has cruise power at full throttle. IFR altitudes are full thousands... ie 6000 8000

 

You should download the Airman Information Manual free from the FAA here (the AIM is a bible for student pilots): http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/#manuals

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And if you've not done so already, download the freeware Plan G from TA Software .  It is the best VFR planner out there--and it's FREE !!!  (but it would be nice to make a donation or buy one of Tim Arnot's books on Amazon)

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And if you've not done so already, download the freeware Plan G from TA Software .  It is the best VFR planner out there--and it's FREE !!!  (but it would be nice to make a donation or buy one of Tim Arnot's books on Amazon)

And the VFR-flight is good too, I use both.

http://vfrflight.org/en/index.html

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Wow, thanks for all the information everyone. Dan what you mentioned about flying GA makes sense to me, now I have a better understanding of it.

 

And those flight planning tools for VFR seems to be very well suited for GA flying vs tubeliners. I will check them both out to see which one is good. So basically when planning for VFR flights, I just look at the map and select all the points I want and it will automatically make a flight plan/path for me for which I can enter into my Garmin G1000, GTN 750, 650, 530, 430, etc?

 

If PFPX is the flagship planning software for IFR and tubeliners, then what's the equivalent for GA and VFR flying? Is there a paid software out there that's really good?

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With VFR planning (for A to B flights) is more about fuel planning, looking at the weather, figuring out which VORs you are going to use (unless you use a GPS), taking note of the runways at your destination, (checking airspaces if you want to go realistic) etc. then the exact route. Routes are less important then with airliners. Usually no one will yell at you when you decide to fly left or right somewhere. There is no need to fly specific routes and cross specific waypoints and use specific airways.

 

I myself usually create simple A to B plans which also saves a lot of time when you have to enter them into the GNS manually. ;) (BTW I am currently flying with VOR only, no GPS.) And whenever I see something interesting somewhere in the distance I simply go there (fuel permitting, but I usually load enough fuel for a few flights, like I do with my car. It's my own private plane so...). To me VFR stands for Visual Freedom Rules. ;) Loosen up a little and forget all those strict airliner rules! You can create plans with loads of points but be sure to choose 'points' which can be entered into your GNS.

 

IMHO Plan-G is the VFR flagship, even though it is free. No need for paid software. Don't even know if there are any paid VFR planners. I myself mainly use it to pick a destination and checking freqs, runways and VORs during the planning phase. I don't use it during a flight. If you want to you can create standard pln files that can be loaded into P3D. You can create 'tourist routes' following rivers or valleys very easily by clicking and dragging, creating non existing waypoint on the fly or by clicking on VORs, NDBs or whatever. It really is payware quality!

 

Concerning altitudes: if you want to do it realistic you should look up specific information for the country you are flying in. Usually VFR is flown at #500 feet, as posted above, but it may also depend on the direction you are flying. I mainly fly in Norway and when the magnetic track is between 0 and 179 degrees VFR altitudes are 3500, 5500, 7500 etc. while between 180 and 359 it is 4500, 6500, 8500 etc. Obviously in the sim no one will mind if you fly at other altitudes just like no one cares about airspaces. I mostly fly at 7500 feet in any direction, sometimes 8500 when I know I am will be flying near the highest mountains in Norway.

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Thanks J, yes flying GA VFR is very relaxing to me. I want to do more of it now. Need a break from flying long haul flights on commercial planes anyways. I plan to fly with my Garmin GTN units. I just love using GPS when flying because I love technology and gadgets, and that's good to know that you can have more freedom when doing VFR flights. That's exactly what I'm looking for.

 

Since you guys have both mentioned about Plan-G being the premier VFR flight planning tool, I will check them out. But I have found this app here called QuickPlan for $25.

 

http://fswidgets.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=70

 

Do you guys know anything about this product or have experience with it? There's even a review from AVSIM about this so it must be pretty good as well. Not sure how it stacks up to Plan-G.

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Waste of money imho. Also because you need yet another addon from that dev for so called advanced options that come free with Plan-G. I understand the 'fear' for freeware ('free? it can't be any good') but Plan-G simply is good. Save your money for better things, I'd say!

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As for your question about Glideslope capture for GTN units,  you will find that ever more airports have RNAV (GPS) approaches.  So when you select the approach into the airport, look for both ILS and RNAV options and choose what you like better.

 

Personally, I like RNAV approaches because you can stay in GPS mode all the way and do not have to worry about ILS frequencies.  If the approach has LPV capability, the GTN will steer the glidepath as well as the localizer, much like a traditional ILS landing.  Really slick B)

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As for your question about Glideslope capture for GTN units,  you will find that ever more airports have RNAV (GPS) approaches.  So when you select the approach into the airport, look for both ILS and RNAV options and choose what you like better.

 

Personally, I like RNAV approaches because you can stay in GPS mode all the way and do not have to worry about ILS frequencies.  If the approach has LPV capability, the GTN will steer the glidepath as well as the localizer, much like a traditional ILS landing.  Really slick B)

 

Just have to make sure it is an LPV approach, otherwise it's like a localizer approach with no vertical guidance. 

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So the best and most automated kind of approaches to do with the GTN units are: (going from best to worse)

 

1) LPV (Aircraft automatically steers on the VNAV and LNAV)

2) RNAV (???)

3) ILS (Aircraft automatically steers in LNAV)

 

Oh and btw, can Plan-G be used on a network envirionment and can it be updated with navigraph data?

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3) ILS on the GTN is like any ILS approach (lateral and vertical guidance).  There are just the additional steps of activating the ILS frequency on the NAV1 radio and switching the GTN from GPS to VLOC mode.

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can Plan-G be used on a network envirionment and can it be updated with navigraph data?

 

Plan-G absolutely can be used online. It doesn't have a Navigraph update, it reads data directly out of your sim, but remember that Navigraph, ILS approaches, RNAV etc are fundamentally IFR procedures and resources that do not really apply to VFR flight.

 

In VFR flight you are primarily flying and navigating by looking out of the window. GPS etc is great, but you should be able to turn it off and do without it. Plan your flight with reference to good visual turning points that you can identify on the ground and by all means put them in the GPS, follow it and use it to stay out of controlled airspace, but you're not really going to be planning using IFR reporting points -- they are largely irrelevant.

 

Edit to add: in terms of altitude selection, to be honest VFR in a typical spam can the concept of 'optimum altitude' doesn't really come in to the equation. The altitude you fly at will be determined primarily by several factors

 

Firstly, the minimum safe altitude to fly that will give you obstacle clearance (if you install the DEM data for Plan G you will get an MEF, Maximum Elevation Figure, for each leg: this is the highest level of terrain and obstacles to which you would normally add a comfortable safety margin (in the UK, charts only display obstacles higher than 300ft AGL and terrain in 500ft contours, so theoretically you could have a 299ft obstacle on top of a 499ft hill and have no indication of either on the chart -- so in practice you need to add 800ft for this plus a safety margin, ideally of around 1000ft over flat terrain -- so practically speaking the minimum sensible altitude to plan to fly at is 1800ft AGL. On the upper limit you will be limited by cloud base (no entering cloud if you are VFR) and controlled airspace (which you are generally planning to avoid when you are VFR as there is no guarantee you will be allowed in).

 

In some parts of the world there may be mandatory VFR cruising levels for direction of flight but in the UK these are advisory only (and in any event staying clear of cloud and controlled airspace takes precedence).

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As for your question about Glideslope capture for GTN units,  you will find that ever more airports have RNAV (GPS) approaches.  So when you select the approach into the airport, look for both ILS and RNAV options and choose what you like better.

 

Personally, I like RNAV approaches because you can stay in GPS mode all the way and do not have to worry about ILS frequencies.  If the approach has LPV capability, the GTN will steer the glidepath as well as the localizer, much like a traditional ILS landing.  Really slick B)

 

So the only difference between RNAV and LPV approaches are that with RNAV I can have the unit in GPS mode at all times? But do RNAV approaches support vertical and horizontal steering like the LPV approaches?

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1) In eal life do GA pilots (VFR) just get up in the air and fly with no specific flight plan in mind and just fly to sight see freelyand casually or do they have to plan it first? I'm assuming with VFR you have more flexibility and freedom to fly wherever you want and with IFR in GA you should create a flight plan first if I'm not mistaken.

 

2) How does one properly create a flight plan for VFR/IFR flying in a GA aircraft such as Cessna 172/182, RealAir Legacy. Can you use PFPX? If so do you guys manually create the route yourself, or let PFPX create the route for you? I'm assuming that in PFPX you would select LOW airspace when finding a route?

 

Hi Aaron,

 

I am a pilot with PPL. Some time ago I have created these 5 videos to explain how to create VFR flight plan and navigate. Those videos have 31 minutes in total, so not too much.

 

Hope they will be useful for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lukasz

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Nice video's, Lukasz! I just finished watching them all. I seriously never ever gave dead reckoning a try (I mostly fly using VOR) but I think I will give it a try. I will also download your program because it has some very nice features concerning VORs that Plan-G doesn't have.

 

BTW At first I wondered why you use VOR as a backup only and not as the main navigation tool but I suppose this is because VORs can go down or something like that and dead reckoning simply is the most basic form of navigation any pilot should be able to use?

 

Anyway, thanks for the video's, I learned a lot from them already! I think it is time to take my flying skills to the next phase. Well... I think I should say 'to the previous phase' because dead reckoning is what you should learn first, I suppose. ;)

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BTW At first I wondered why you use VOR as a backup only and not as the main navigation tool but I suppose this is because VORs can go down or something like that and dead reckoning simply is the most basic form of navigation any pilot should be able to use?

 

Indeed -- and also because, to be honest, VORs/NDBs etc are often not located very conveniently for the average VFR flight in a spamcan. It's much easier just to look out of the window than go out of your way to route via VORs. This is particularly relevant these days with ground-based aids like VORs and NDBs being decommissioned in large swathes across the globe -- there are some places (I know Australia, for instance, has been particularly ruthless) where there might not be any radio aids for hundreds of miles. Plus, most of these beacons exist to support the airways structure and instrument approaches, and so the coverage may not always be reliable or certified at lower levels where light GA VFR tends to trundle around.

 

Radio navigation is only taught to a very basic level in the PPL syllabus -- the emphasis is on visual flying and navigation, and keeping your eyes out of the cockpit looking for traffic rather than peering at instruments.

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Cool, nice to know, Simon. Now I am definitely going to give dead reckoning a try!

 

Maybe I should read the Plan-G manual (for the first time) but it seems that VFRFlight offers more when it comes to dead reckoning flights then Plan-G? I will give VFRFlight a try anyway.

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If PFPX is the flagship planning software for IFR and tubeliners, then what's the equivalent for GA and VFR flying? Is there a paid software out there that's really good?

 

http://www.fltplan.com

 

https://skyvector.com/

 

They are free. Just need to learn to use the tools at those sites.  At fltplan.com I use the IFR (Domestic Format) option when creating a flight plan. That because the other two types require aircraft registration and aircraft specific IFR specifications.  It is a real world USA and Canada (and Caribbean) flight planning and aviation site, so there is a need for us flight sim users to keep within the allowable limits of what is real world and what is sim. 

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Thanks everyone for the info. Lukasz, great videos! These will definitely come in handy for me. :) Much appreciated it.

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BTW At first I wondered why you use VOR as a backup only and not as the main navigation tool but I suppose this is because VORs can go down or something like that and dead reckoning simply is the most basic form of navigation any pilot should be able to use?

 

Anyway, thanks for the video's, I learned a lot from them already! I think it is time to take my flying skills to the next phase. Well... I think I should say 'to the previous phase' because dead reckoning is what you should learn first, I suppose. ;)

 

Simon has answered this question nicely.
 
I would add up that I am usually flying in C152, where you have one radio nav. And I don't have NDB receiver. If I would stick to VOR navigation only, I would have to switch frequency back and forth to get at least 2 radials at any place and then locate myself in the map. At the same time I need to keep altitude, direction, speed, communicate, watch for traffic etc. This is pretty heavy work load. Try to do this in sim without pressing pause button and with no autopilot on :).
Hence, in many situations it is much easier (and safer) just to look out the window.
 
The other thing is that in real world VORs and NDBs doesn't have to work flawlessly. Sometimes you can get invalid readings on some radials due to some maintenance, or you have limited range because of terrain etc.
 
And dead reckoning itself, could be pretty fun and rewarding. I remember my longest cross country during the training - 150 NM with 2 landings on different airports. And almost in the last moment we had to change one destination to the airport that I was only once before. I could see that my Flight Instructor was pretty tensed, I tried to joke that 'I have to only fly half of the country using map, timer and compass, what could go wrong?', but it didn't work :). Anyway, I remember my way to this airport, there was almost no landmarks, just plain fields everywhere. I had kept my course and watched the timer. I was almost sure, that I am on the right track, but still, that was something very new to me. And then, finally, I could see the airport just in front of me! I cannot describe how excited I was back then. This is one of the memories that will stay with me forever, because for such moments I have become the pilot in the first place.

 

 

Maybe I should read the Plan-G manual (for the first time) but it seems that VFRFlight offers more when it comes to dead reckoning flights then Plan-G? I will give VFRFlight a try anyway.

 

Well, maybe as an author of VfrFlight I shouldn't take part into this discussion, but I will just say that I am successfully using VfrFlight in every real world VFR flight I do. In my opinion, people who want to fly VFR 'as real as it gets' will appreciate VfrFlight more.
But - it is just an opinion.
 

Lukasz

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Using a Garmin is pretty common now, but the plans do need to be manually loaded, at least the first time.  SID/STARS in general do not apply to GA flying because we stay away from the big busy airline hubs.

 

 

 Why is that? If you airplane is RNAV capable you can use SID/STARS. If  you elect not to use them you, can file flight plan with remark "NO SID?STAR" 

 

It's ok to fly in any big international airport even in 152. It's not a big deal at all, just find out ahead of time FBOor transient parking info

 

 
The other thing is that in real world VORs and NDBs doesn't have to work flawlessly. Sometimes you can get invalid readings on some radials due to some maintenance, or you have limited range because of terrain etc.
 
 

 

 

You mean VOR facility maintenance? NOTAMs will be you friend prior the flight than

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