Flight planning

Planning a cross-country flight EFTU-EFTP.

This week we finished the operational flight plan for a cross-country trip from Malmi to Turku (EFHF-EFTU) in Navigation, had Air Law and Meteorology exams, continued with Principles of Flight, started with Flight Performance and Planning and had an oral practise in Communications flying fake planes in the classroom. “Oscar oscar tango, line up runway 18.” “Line up runway 18, oscar oscar tango.”

Flight planning is so much fun. I suppose the appeal lies in the fact that it is closer to practise than most things we do in class. We finished the EFHF-EFTU plan in class and got another cross-country trip, Turku (EFTU) – Tampere (EFTP), for homework. I have spent a good part of my Sunday working on that.

First I drew the route on a map, then marked the waypoints on it, measured the distances between the waypoints and filled them on an operational flight plan. Then I figured out the minimum altitudes on each segment between the waypoints, based on ground elevation, the airspace restrictions and density of population in the area. Then I filled in the planned flying altitudes on the route.

With the help of a navigation plotter, I figured out the true courses between the waypoints. Then, based on the wind information I had gathered, I calculated the wind correction angles using the circular computer (kakkara in Finnish) and finally got the magnetic headings for each segment. (Magnetic heading is the direction you need to fly towards, to end up in the desired destination, after the corrections for the wind and magnetic variations have been done.)

I added the tailwinds (+) and headwinds (-) to the true airspeed (TAS) and got the ground speeds for each segment. Then I could calculate the estimated flight times for each segment and the whole trip.

The fuel amount on this flight is 80 liters before taxi and I did the fuel calculations based on that. Take-off fuel (i.e. the amount of fuel in the tanks on take-off) would give the duration of 3:08 hours. However, the trip is estimated to last only 61 minutes. I also wrote down the radio frequencies, that I would be using during the trip, on the operational flight plan.

Finally, I draw the 3-minute scale on the map for each segment. I calculated, based on the groundspeed on each segment, how far I would fly in 3 minutes. Drawing the scale on the map helps you to keep track of your position and to stay on the route. Sometime this spring I will most probably also fly this route!

Can you tell I am flying as the pilot in command on this one?

I also did the weight and balance calculations for my EFTU-EFTP trip for fun although it wasn’t required for the homework. This is something we have practised in Flight Performance and Planning this week anyway so it didn’t hurt to do an extra one. W&B calculation is needed to ensure the aircraft’s weight doesn’t exceed its’ maximum take-off weight and that the aircraft is loaded correctly, so that the center of gravity is within acceptable limits.

Next week is our last week of theory. We have exams on Navigation and Principles of Flight. Couple of exams will be taken after the theory is done. The week consists mostly of Principles of Flight and Flight Performance and Planning. Then later in the week we will go through the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for Cessna 152 and the SL Flight Training’s operational procedures.

Do you know what the last week of theory means? We start flying training the following week!

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5 responses to “Flight planning

  1. Very interesting to compare the differences in our training. Yours seems more regimented, whereas i didnt take a real test until months after I started flying. Also, when flight planning, I don’t use a 3-minute scale, instead choosing checkpoints every 10-15 miles apart. But I think I like the idea of the 3-minute scale and might try that on my next flight.

    • Yes, we do things quite formally and more regimented than the usual PPL student would probably do. I suppose we also do some things that are not mandatory for a PPL student/holder, but since we train to be professional pilots, we do it the professional way from the start. I’m looking forward to reading about how you find the 3-min scale if you try it. Obviously I have no practical experience at this point.

  2. thanks so much, this write up was so helpful, im hopelessly failing met, so im moving onto radio nav and flight planning. u explained it so easily!! :)

    • Thanks for your comment! I’ve been doing these calculations a lot lately. I’m flying navigation and cross-country flights at the moment. :) Good luck with met too!

  3. Pingback: Cross-country | becoming pilot.·

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