View Full Version : For "Pilotgirl" re Finding The Airport

Bill Greenwood
09-30-2013, 09:23 AM
There are at least two ways to find your destination airport at the end of a cross country leg. One is to look on the sectional chart before the trip and find some landmark the gives you a clue, either as you approach the airport area. Such as there being a big 4 land highway you cross or a river or power line, etc. Notice if the airport is just outside town or inside the populated urban area. That is easy to see on the chart. Especially notice if there is only only runway or an X of two or more. And of course many of the larger airports have VOR on the field so that with DME can be an exact lead in. However I would practice doing it visually first and have the vor or gps be a backup so that you really learn it from the basics up.

There is another way that I have used as an aid which really helps. Several companies publish small charts of each airport. Airguide is the main one that I have used over the years. This gives you critical info, such as that the airport is 5 MILES NORTHWEST OF TOWN, or maybe 5 Miles South of the vor, etc. It gives the airport elevation so you can plan what altitude that you need to descend too, and the atis or awos, approach and tower or unicom radio freqencies, and runway lenghts and details. The diagram gives the runway layout and whether hard surface or not. It is a lot harder to find a single small grass runway than a major airport with mulitiple 8000' concrete ones.
Airguide used to publish this info in a small binder about 3x5 which was very convenient and would even fit in a pocket of a shirt or a flight suit map pocket. I flew a fast airplane all over the country for 20 years and used this. But some marketing genius who is likely not a pilot decided they needed to cram all lot more info in on each page and so the book is now way too big to fit in a pocket and the vital info is harder to dig out. Still a good source. They may also have a computer version so that you could print out the pages you need, but nothing was as useful as having it all there.
Others ,like AOPA have similar books, but again not the small convenient ones. I use the AOPA one for preflight planning, often calling ahead to ask about fuel or rent a car etc. Most states also publish a free similar guide to their airports, but if you fly very far you may need more than one state.

The pinnacle may be the Jeppesen airport charts. I don't mean an instrument approach chart, but rather an actual air photo, in color, of the runways and surroundings as it really looks when you fly in. If you can find one, take a look at the one for Aspen. Ask an airline or charter pilot if they have this so that you can take a look at one.

You will also develop better eyesight for finding the airports as you go along. Remember there has to be a runway, so some clear area even if small, not counting water or heliports. There may or may not be hangars, etc. and sometimes the runway stands out like blacktop in a brown field and sometimes it blends in, like old pavement faded to grey.

You can certainly overfly the area to see the airport better. Just slow down, stay 1000 feet above the pattern and watch out for traffic. If there is a unicom you can always announce "Niagara traffic, yellow Harvard is 5 south and will be flying over the runway at 2000'. " or similar. Then move a few miles away and descend so as to join on downwind. Keep the radio calls brief and to the point, since another pilot may need to talk also.

10-08-2013, 07:25 AM
For those with I-devices, you might try Foreflight and zoom into the airport in Aerial View (satellite images).

10-08-2013, 05:20 PM
Thanks!!! Right now GPS is only a backup for emergencies, otherwise its visual or VORs. These are very small local airports we are going to, so they are not very easy to find. I am doing another dual xcountry tomrw, so hopefully i am well prepared for it. i have gone over everything in my head a few hundred times ... lol

10-08-2013, 05:42 PM
You can turn the GPS off on the I-device and use Foreflight as simply your charts. This way you could switch to Aerial View when you got close to your intended airport.

I also know a low time pilot that looks up airports in Google Maps, changes to Satellite view and prints them out for use in the cockpit. Might work for you as well.

Good Luck!

10-08-2013, 07:37 PM
Have a great flight tomorrow, Pilotgirl!

10-13-2013, 03:51 AM
Yay!!! I finally did it! found the airport on my last dual xcountry! I then solo'd to another local airport round trip, with ease. I found a routine that works, made myself a personal checklist, what to prepare before the flight (frequencies, runways, traffic patterns, etc), what to do during the flight, (calling ATC, switches like leaning the mixture, turning off the fuel pump, etc) and what to do about 15-20 nm outside my destination airport (AWOS/ASOS/ATIS wx check, runway check, traffic pattern entry, start the descent). seems to work amazing!! so until i get that memorized i will be referring to my own checklist. thanks for all the advice, it has really helped :D

Mike M
10-13-2013, 04:47 AM
...seems to work amazing!! so until i get that memorized i will be referring to my own checklist. thanks for all the advice, it has really helped :D

congrats, nice job.

don't bother to memorize it. you'll learn "the flow" quickly now. KEEP THE CHECKLIST!

10-13-2013, 07:28 PM
You go Pilotgirlbuf!! Great report.

12-02-2013, 07:31 PM
Also, do not be shy, or afraid, to talk to the tower. I found out years ago that they are very understanding and helpful to new pilots! If you should be a little "disoriented" when approaching an airport, just ask for "progressive vectoring". Tell them the sun is in your eyes if you want to. They will talk you right to where you need to be, no problem.

12-03-2013, 07:10 AM
My wife when she was training had some fun finding MTN (10,000 runways) but she asked for help from the tower and they suggested she look down (she was right over the field practically. Her instructor had forbidden her (and his other students) from using GPS (handheld aviation units were just beginning to show up on the market at that time). The plane she flew in had an old VOR/DME RNAV unit. I had taught her how to look up the RNAV coords in the FlightGuide and dial them up into that unit when we were out flying on my ticket. She pulled that stunt on the instructor once and he gave her a NO RNAV rule. She didn't use it but at least she knew it was in the plane if she ever really had to.