Flight Planning

Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91 states, in part, that before beginning a flight, the pilot in command (PIC) of an aircraft shall become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. For flights not in the vicinity of an airport, this must include information on available current weather reports and forecasts, fuel requirements, alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed, and any known traffic delays of which the PIC has been advised by ATC.

 

Assembling Necessary Material

The pilot should collect the necessary material well before beginning the flight. An appropriate current sectional chart and charts for areas adjoining the flight route should be among this material if the route of flight is near the border of a chart.

Additional equipment should include a flight computer or electronic calculator, plotter, and any other item appropriate to the particular flight. For example, if a night flight is to be undertaken, carry a flashlight; if a flight is over desert country, carry a supply of water and other necessities.

Weather Check

It is wise to check the weather before continuing with other aspects of flight planning to see, first of all, if the flight is feasible and, if it is, which route is best. Chapter 12, “Aviation Weather Services,” discusses obtaining a weather briefing.

Use of Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory)

Study available information about each airport at which a landing is intended. This should include a study of the Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and the Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory). [Figure 16-24] This includes location, elevation, runway and lighting facilities, available services, availability of aeronautical advisory station frequency (UNICOM), types of fuel available (use to decide on refueling stops), FSS located on the airport, control tower and ground control frequencies, traffic information, remarks, and other pertinent information. The NOTAMs, issued every 28 days, should be checked for additional information on hazardous conditions or changes that have been made since issuance of the Chart Supplement U.S.

Figure 16-24. Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory).

Figure 16-24. Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory).

The sectional chart bulletin subsection should be checked for major changes that have occurred since the last publication date of each sectional chart being used. Remember, the chart may be up to 6 months old. The effective date of the chart appears at the top of the front of the chart. The Chart Supplement U.S. generally has the latest information pertaining to such matters and should be used in preference to the information on the back of the chart, if there are differences.

 

Airplane Flight Manual or Pilot’s Operating Handbook (AFM/POH)

The Aircraft Flight Manual or Pilot’s Operating Handbook (AFM/POH) should be checked to determine the proper loading of the aircraft (weight and balance data). The weight of the usable fuel and drainable oil aboard must be known. Also, check the weight of the passengers, the weight of all baggage to be carried, and the empty weight of the aircraft to be sure that the total weight does not exceed the maximum allowable weight. The distribution of the load must be known to tell if the resulting center of gravity (CG) is within limits.

Be sure to use the latest weight and balance information in the FAA-approved AFM or other permanent aircraft records, as appropriate, to obtain empty weight and empty weight CG information.

Determine the takeoff and landing distances from the appropriate charts, based on the calculated load, elevation of the airport, and temperature; then compare these distances with the amount of runway available. Remember, the heavier the load and the higher the elevation, temperature, or humidity, the longer the takeoff roll and landing roll and the lower the rate of climb.

Check the fuel consumption charts to determine the rate of fuel consumption at the estimated flight altitude and power settings. Calculate the rate of fuel consumption, and compare it with the estimated time for the flight so that refueling points along the route can be included in the plan.