CFI Topics
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Why Do We Need to Know This Stuff?

Lesson 1

Students and licensed pilots alike have found many uses for the VFR Sectional chart. They are great for filling those little empty spaces in the flight bag, they make wonderful gift wrap for anyone who is even remotely aware of aviation, and they substitute as a “view-restricting” device when you forget your hood or foggles. Of course, none of these great ideas are the chart’s primary purpose.

It’s time for us – as instructors – to do the research and put some study time in so that we can do a better job of teaching the VFR chart. There is so much information provided if we just look closely and understand what that big - sometimes hard-to-handle - multi-colored piece of paper is telling us.

As any student pilot will tell you, the VFR chart is loaded with lots of, ummm .... confusing but useful information. Much, much more information than a pilot candidate is taught or can absorb in the relatively short time it takes to prepare for a certificate or rating. Most students learn just enough to “get-by” and to pass the oral portion of their practical test. After a brief refresher for their instrument rating or flight review a lot of the information the chart provides is quickly forgotten.

“Why do we need to know this stuff?” is a familiar question heard by CFIs from their students. As instructors we patiently explain that the primary reason is safety. The chart is an important tool to use in flight planning for several reasons. First, to plan courses and distances from point A to point B using prominent “check-points” to keep from getting lost. Second, to keep him or her out of places they don’t belong. And third, to give them the frequencies they may need to call for help if necessary. There is a whole lot more about the chart for the student to learn, so here is some of that good information.

The chart can also be used to cover instruments so your student will look outside during maneuvers and not focus on the gauges when flying by visual flight rules. After all, we are teaching “VFR” and not “IFR” flight in the primary stage of training. And when we do teach “flight-by-reference to instruments” the chart can be that substitute hood.

It’s time for us – as instructors – to do the research and put some study time in so that we can do a better job of teaching the VFR chart. There is so much information provided if we just look closely and understand what that big - sometimes hard-to-handle - multi-colored piece of paper is telling us. (Did you know that there is an easy way to always open the chart to the correct side?) Of all the resources we introduce to our students, the VFR chart is right on top of the list as an important document to be understood and taken along on every flight. We CFIs need to learn as much as possible about the charts and airspace and can accomplish this by spending some time in the Aeronautical Information Manual – Chapter 3; FAR Part 71 and 91; on the internet; and attend an Airspace seminar in our area. Additionally, I would like to share here, some information that I have learned over the years. I hope you learn something new that you can add to your knowledge of Airspace.

Are you telling your student how to use the chart to find Flight Service Station (FSS) frequencies? How about how to use the chart tab to determine when and where to fly to safely navigate Military Operating Areas, or how to find the correct frequency to get a Class B clearance? How about how to determine where IFR traffic will be? IFR? Isn’t there a separate chart for that? We’ll cover more about this in a minute.

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