Updated: Dec 8, 2020

VFR Flight Planning Lesson by wifiCFI

VFR Flight Planning (PHAK C16)

Before we begin our discussion on creating a VFR Flight Plan we need to understand some terminology.


Pilotage is navigation by reference to landmarks or checkpoints. 

It is a method of navigation that can be used on any course that has adequate checkpoints, but it is more commonly used in conjunction with dead reckoning and VFR radio navigation.

Dead Reckoning:

Dead reckoning is navigation solely by means of computations based on time, airspeed, distance, and direction. 

The products derived from these variables, when adjusted by wind speed and velocity, are heading and GS. 

The predicted heading takes the aircraft along the intended path and the GS establishes the time to arrive at each checkpoint and the destination. 

A combination of Pilotage and Dead Reckoning will be used to create our VFR Flight Plan.

The Nav Log

We will use the Nav Log included on wifiCFI.

Each box will be filled in step-by-step with detailed instructions.


The first step is to select the checkpoints/fixes we will use along our route of flight.

Checkpoints should be prominent and easy to see from the airplane (Pilotage).


The example flight plan we use for this lesson will take us from KOGD to KTVY airports.

We will be utilizing a “VFR Sectional Chart.”

We have marked our Departure and Destination Airports.

Next, we select checkpoints along our route.

In this example we will use Antelope Island as our checkpoint.

After marking our Departure and Destination Airports and the Checkpoints along our route, we will note them on the VFR Nav Log.

After noting the checkpoints on the Nav Log we will note VOR’s along our route that can be beneficial to our Flight Plan.

We will then note the VOR’s Identifier and Frequencies on our Nav Log.

Next, we will draw straight lines connecting our airports and Checkpoints.

After drawing our course lines, we will use the Plotter to determine our course headings.

This is done by aligning the plotter edge with the course lines we have drawn.

Then, we will rotate the face of the plotter so the arrows parallel the quadrangle lines on the VFR Sectional Chart.

Our course heading is then read directly off the Plotter.

Example Course Heading = 233

After drawing our course lines, we will use the Plotter to determine our course headings.

This is done by aligning the plotter edge with the course lines we have drawn.

Then, we will rotate the face of the plotter so the arrows parallel the quadrangle lines on the VFR Sectional Chart.

Our course heading is then read directly off the Plotter.

Example Course Heading = 188

We will take our course headings and note them on our VFR Nav Log.

Determining Altitudes to Fly

The next section of our Nav Log is the “Altitude” section.

We need to pick an altitude that is sufficient to:

Clear terrain along our route.

Take airspace into consideration and

Complies with VFR cruising rules listed below:

For course headings between: (FAR 91.159)

000 – 179: Odd Altitude plus 500 ft

Examples: 5,500, 7,500, 9,500 etc.

180 – 359: Even Altitude plus 500 ft

Examples: 6,500, 8,500, 10,500 etc.

In this example, an altitude of 6,500 ft will allow us to clear terrain, avoid the overlying Class B Airspace and comply with cruising rules.

Winds and Temperatures Aloft

Next we need to figure out the winds and temperatures at our Cruising Altitude.

This is done by checking weather reports for the area.

There are many different sources to find this information. 

However, for this example we will use he Winds and Temperatures Aloft Chart on Aviationweather.gov

As can be seen from our Winds Aloft Report, the winds for today are 250 @ 11 knots at our selected altitude of 6,500 ft.

The temperature in this example is omitted because 6,500 ft is within 2,000 ft of ground level.

Because of this, we will need to get our temperature from a local reporting station’s METAR like KOGD.

We will then convert the temperature to the predicted temperature at 6,500 ft.

As can be seen, the temperature at KOGD is 4c.

To figure our predicted temperature at 6,500 ft we will use the Standard Temperature Lapse Rate of: -2c per 1,000 ft gain in Altitude

This means the temperature at 6,500 ft should be approximately 0c since 6,500 ft is 2,000 ft AGL.

Now we will transpose our wind data to our VFR Nav Log.

Determining True Airspeed

Next we use our Altitude and Temperature Data to find our TAS (True Airspeed).

This is found by running the “Cruise Performance Chart” found in the Aircraft’s POH.

We will use the 6,000 ft performance numbers as they are closest to our selected altitude of 6,500 ft.

We must also know the cruise RPM setting of our aircraft.

For today’s example we will use 2300 RPM.

Figuring Standard Temperature Deviation

Before continuing, we need to know how 0c deviates from Standard Temperature at 6,000 ft.

The Standard Temperature at Sea Level is 15c and we know the Temperature Lapse Rate is -2c per 1,000 ft.

Therefore, the Standard Temperature at 6,000 ft is 3c.

Today’s temperature is 0c so we are 3c colder than Standard.

That being said, we will use the “Standard Temperature” Column on our Cruise Performance Chart since it is closest to a 3 degree deviation.

This gives us a TAS of 104 KTAS and a Fuel Burn of 6.2 GPH (Gallons Per Hour)

We now transpose our TAS and Fuel Burn to our VFR Nav Log.

Notice I have rounded our Fuel Burn up from 6.2 to 7 GPH. 

This is to make fuel calculations easier and to err on the side of caution.

Determining Wind Correction Angles

The next step in the process is to figure our Wind Correction Angles.

This is how we must compensate for wind drift to remain on our desired course.

The first step in this process is to copy our Course Heading to our True Course (TC) box.

Before continuing with our Wind Correction Angles, we need to discuss what True Course means.

True Course

The course measured on the chart is known as the true course (TC). 

This is the direction measured by reference to a meridian or true north (TN).

Essentially, the VFR Charts are drawn in relation to True North.

However, as pilot’s, we fly Magnetic Courses.

After figuring our Wind Correction Angles on the next slide, we will correct our True Course for a flyable Magnetic Course.

Wind Correction Angle

By determining the amount of drift, the pilot can counteract the effect of the wind and make the track of the aircraft coincide with the desired course. 

If the mass of air is moving across the course from the left, the aircraft drifts to the right, and a correction must be made by heading the aircraft sufficiently to the left to offset this drift. 

In other words, if the wind is from the left, the correction is made by pointing the aircraft to the left a certain number of degrees, therefore correcting for wind drift. 

This is the wind correction angle (WCA) and is expressed in terms of degrees right or left of the TC.

To figure our wind correction angle and groundspeed we must utilize the “Wind Side” of the E6B.

The steps to this process are listed at the top of the E6B.

Wind Correction on the E6B

The first suggested step is to slide the E6B so the grommet is over the 100 arc.

This will simplify the process.

Step 2:

Set wind direction under “True Index.”

Step 3:

Mark wind velocity up from center.

In our example wind velocity is 11 Knots.

Step 4:

Set True Course to True Index.

In our example True Course is 233.

Step 5:

Slide wind velocity mark to TAS.

Ground speed reads at Grommet.

Wind Correction Angle:

If Wind Velocity Mark is Right of Center - Add wind correction to True Course.

If Wind Velocity Mark is Left of Center - Minus wind correction from True Course.

We transpose the WCA and GS to the VFR Nav Log.

Complete the previous E6B process for eachnleg of the flight plan.

Notice, we labeled our GS in the “Estimated” box.

The actual GS may vary in flight and should be noted in the “Actual” box.

Determining True Heading

The next step is very simple.

We will add our WCA to our TC to come up with our “True Heading” (our heading in relation to True North).

TC of 233 +2 WCA = TH of 235.

TC of 188 +5 WCA = TH of 193.

Determining Magnetic Heading

Now we must correct our TH for “Variation” to come up with our “Magnetic Heading.”

Magnetic Variation

Variation is the angle between True North and Magnetic North. 

True and Magnetic North are not located in the same position.

Therefore, we have an angular difference between the two.

It is expressed as east variation or west variation.

Determining the amount of Variation is done on the VFR Sectional.

Magnetic Heading

Correcting our TH for Magnetic Variation gives a flyable MH.

We will mark the Line of Variation on the VFR Sectional.

The Sectional will also tell us the amount of Variation.

East Variations will be subtracted from our TH.

West Variations will be added to our TH.

In our example, the area Variation is 12.5 degrees east.

We will round up to a 13 degree Easterly Variation.

We will subtract 13 degrees from our TH.

TH of 235 – 13 Variation = 222 MH

TH of 193 – 13 Variation = 180 MH

Determining Compass Headings

The final heading correction we need to make is to correct our MH for Deviation.

This will give us our “Compass Heading (CH).”

Magnetic Deviation

Because each aircraft has its own internal effect upon the onboard compass systems from its own localized magnetic influencers, the pilot must add or subtract these influencers based upon the direction he or she is flying. 

The application of deviation (taken from a compass deviation card) compensates the magnetic course unique to that aircraft’s compass system (as affected by localized magnetic influencers) and it now becomes the compass course.

For today’s example we will use the Compass Deviation Card pictured.

We will take our Magnetic Headings and correct them to Compass Headings.

MH of 222 is between 210 and 240 on the Compass Deviation Card.

Both of which have a +4 Deviation Degree.

So, we will add 4 degrees to our MH of 222 for a CH of 226.

The second MH on our flight plan is 180.

180 has a +1 Degree Deviation.

So, we will add 1 degree to our MH of 180 for a CH of 181.

We will transpose the information from the Compass Headings to our VFR Navigation Log.

Time and Distance Calculations

Now that our headings are complete, we will make our time and distance calculations to each point on our flight plan.

First, we need to know the distance between each point and the total distance of the flight.

The distance between each point is measured with the plotter on the VFR Sectional Chart.

As can be seen from our plotter, the distance between KOGD and Antelope Island is 15 NM.

The distance between Antelope Island and KTVY is 25 NM. 

Again we will transpose this information to our VFR Nav Log.

We will add all the leg distances together to come up with our Total Distance.

Determining ETE’s and ETA’s

After deciding on our Departure Time, we will have all the necessary information to finish:

ETEs (Estimated Time En-Route)

ETAs (Estimated Times of Arrival)

For today’s example let’s use a Departure Time of 9:00 AM Local Time.

To figure our ETEs and ETAs we will need to use the front side of our E6B.

We need to know the Groundspeeds and Distances for each leg of our flight plan.

It should be noted that the directions for proper use of the E6B are listed right on the front.

GS of 93 Knots and Leg Distance of 15 NM.

First, we will set the thick black triangle to our Groundspeed.

Next, we will find our leg distance on the outer ring of the E6B.

Lastly, the distance will be lined up with Time on the inner ring.

This gives us a time between 9 and 10 minutes.

Let’s round up to 10 minutes to be conservative.

We will repeat this process for each leg of our flight plan.

We will then transpose the information to our VFR Nav Log and make the appropriate calculations.

Determining Fuel Burn

Our final Nav Log calculation is fuel burn.

We will calculate the fuel burn per leg and the total fuel burn for the flight.

VFR Fuel Requirements (FAR 91.151)

Day = Destination + 30 min at normal cruise.

Night = Destination + 45 min at normal cruise.

The directions for fuel burn calculations are also printed on the face of the E6B.

Fuel Burn of 7 GPH and Time of 10 minutes.

First, we will set the thick black triangle to our Fuel Burn.

Next, we will find our Time on the inner ring of the E6B.

Lastly, the fuel burn will be lined up with Time on the outer ring.

This gives us a fuel burn between 1.1 and 1.2 gallons.

Let’s round up to 1.2 gallons to be conservative.

We will repeat this process for each leg of our flight plan.

We will then transpose the information to our VFR Nav Log and make the appropriate calculations.

We will assume the aircraft was filled to 50 gallons Usable Fuel prior to departure.

Usable Fuel

The amount of fuel available for flight planning.

This number differs from Total Fuel on board.

We will use this number to figure our remaining fuel after each leg of the flight plan.

Departure and Destination Airport Information

Next, we fill in our departure and destination airport frequencies and information.

The ATIS Section will be left blank until we pick up the current ATIS in the airplane.

The runway layout box is used to sketch the runway layout at the destination airport.

Flight Plan Notes

Lastly, we can add our aircraft tail number and any notes of pertinent information.

Pertinent notes include:

Traffic Pattern Altitude at Destination.

Traffic Pattern Direction at Destination.

Filling out the VFR Flight Plan Form and Filing

With our Nav Log complete, we can now fill out our VFR Flight Plan Form.

The flight plan can be filed with the appropriate flight service station via telephone at 1-800-WX-BRIEF.

You can then open your flight plan by calling the nearest FSS outlet in the air.

Remember to call the FSS upon landing to close the flight plan.

Lost Procedures

If you happen to get lost while flying your flight plan, remember the “5 C’s:”

Climb = To a higher altitude for better visibility of your surroundings.

Conserve = Conserve fuel (lean it out).

Call = Radio for assistance from ATC or other pilots in the surrounding area.

Confess = Confess to yourself and ATC that you are lost.

Comply = Comply with any instructions given by ATC.

FAA Sources Used for this Lesson

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) Chapter 16

Federal Aviation Regulation’s (FAR) Part 91

Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) Chapter 5

Private Pilot Airmen Certification Standards (ACS)


where aviation comes to study

worldwide site members: 27,532