Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cross Country Flight Planning Checklist

When cross country flight planning, I know that it can be a little overwhelming at times. Between calling for briefings, filling out the nav log, filing the flight plan, familiarizing yourself with the destination airports, and so on, it can get a little hectic, especially when you're trying to cram it all in in a short period of time.

Way back when, after I got my instrument rating, and I was really trying to build up cross country time for my Commercial, I decided it would be a good idea to develop a cross country planning checklist. I mean, why not? We use checklists for flying the airplane. It only makes sense to make a checklist for this workload intensive task before we hop in the plane. Besides I needed something to help simplify the process.

We use checklists to make sure we don't leave anything out, and that's exactly why I developed this. I give this to my students, and believe you all should use one as well. Here's the one I use and in this order.

1. Obtain an overall weather picture of the entire region (morning news, Weather Channel, internet, etc.)

2. Select destination based on weather conditions.

3. Select most practical route (check for IFR preferred routes).

4. Check NOTAMs for navigational aids to confirm the flight can be completed according to the selected route.

5. Select checkpoints, measure distances, and fill in navigation log.

6. Fill in true course figures, for all segments of flight.

7. Study weather charts to obtain a thorough understanding of current and forecast weather conditions.

8. Select cruise altitude considering winds aloft, cloud tops, freezing level, turbulence, PIREPs, etc.

9. Obtain weather briefing from Flight Service and make go/no-go decision.

10. Determine alternate airports(s) if necessary.

11. Become familiar with airports of intended landing, with information such as runway lengths and slopes, communication frequencies, airport elevations, traffic pattern altitudes, equipment required for airspace to be entered, etc.

12. Calculate course heading(s) and ground speed(s) and fill in navigation log.

13. Calculate density altitude, takeoff and landing distances, weight and balance, and necessary performance figures from charts.

14. Fill in remaining times to calculate time enroute, and select point to start descent.

15. Calculate total fuel burn and fill in navigation log.

16. File your flight plan.

Phew! There you have it. There really is a lot to do before a cross country flight isn't there? Yes, there is, but you know what? This is the right way to do it. Never forget the importance of all of this planning. Of course it can be a bit tedious, but if things start to go a little sour in the air, you may end up being sorry you didn't plan sufficiently.

Print this off and use it. Modify it and put in your own notes if you wish, but make sure you get this stuff done one way or another. When you get in the cockpit, you'll feel confident and more ready to handle any sort of curveballs that should arrive. Good luck and have fun. Cross country flights are why we learn to fly and are my favorite part of being a pilot. So long!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for making this site. I appreciate the information. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Very nice - thanks!
Now to go find a Navigation Log form.....

Ricardo said...

Thank you very helpful. I'm getting to cross country solo soon!

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