ForeFlight PDF Briefing Format

ForeFlight has added a PDF option for displaying preflight briefings. As the tweet below explains, the enhanced PDF briefing provides a more compact briefing that, among other features, sifts out irrelevant NOTAMs.

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-Tweet

The Briefing Format option is on the Settings tab in ForeFlight.

ForeFlight-BriefingFormat

I tested the feature by briefing an IFR flight from Boeing Field (KBFI) in Seattle to Felts Field (KSFF) in Spokane. You can download the full PDF of that briefing here.

The illustrations below show examples of the pages from the briefing.

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P1

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P2

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P3

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P4

 

 

New Kneeboard Nav Log at 1800wxbrief.com

The official FSS website, 1800wxbrief.com, now offers a new kneeboard-style navigation log that you can print and use in the cockpit.

You can set up a free account at 1800wxbrief.com, also known as Flight Service Pilot Web. It’s the official portal to FSS (DUATS was shut down in May 2018). To learn more about the services at 1800wxbrief.com, visit the site’s YouTube channel.

To see the kneeboard navigation log, first create a flight plan and click the NavLog button at the bottom of the flight plan window to display the standard naviation log.

LeidosFSS-Navlog-01
LeidosFSS-Navlog-02.jpg

To creat PDF version of the log in kneeboard format, click the Kneeboard PDF button at the top right of the standard NavLog window.

LeidosFSS-Navlog-03
You can print the PDF, which is formatted to fold to fit a typical pilot kneeboard.

A Quick Way to Search for GPS NOTAMs

The FAA NOTAM search site (https://notams.aim.faa.gov/notamSearch) provides the quickest way to find GPS NOTAMs that alert you to disruptions in the satellite-based navigation system. If you’ve ever tried to find and sort through the text descriptions of these alerts, you’ll appreciate the lists and map views that show how GPS tests and other issues may affect your ability to navigate using GPS.

To learn more about using the FAA NOTAM search site, you can download the User Guide from the FAA website or from my Aviation Documents folder at OneDrive.

NOTAMs-UserGuide

To find GPS-related NOTAMs at the FAA website follow these steps:

After acknowledging the disclaimer, on the main page, select the Predefined Queries option and choose GPS.

FAANotams-PredefinedQuery
FAANOTAMS-selectGPS

Click the Search button, and you’ll see a list of GPS NOTAMs.

FAAGPSNOTAMs-List.jpg

You can also show the NOTAMs in a table.

FAAGPSNOTAMs-Table.jpg
Or in a table with an adjacent map.

FAAGPSNOTAMS-Map+List.jpg
You can filter the list to show only the NOTAMs effective in one or more air route traffic control centers.

FAAGPSNOTAMs-ARTCCListFilter

And you can zoom in on the map and click a NOTAM flag to see more information about that notice.

GAAGPSNOTAMs-MapWide

FAAGPSNOTAMS-MapZoomed.jpg

Use the +/- buttons in the upper-left corner of the map to zoom in and out. To print a NOTAM, click the print icon next to the text.

Sample Western U.S. Flight Routes

Many pilots are curious about routes to fly on longer trips around the western U.S. and to/from the West to destinations like Oshkosh (home of EAA AirVenture).

I’ve flown around the West and to Oshkosh many times over the years, in a variety of aircraft–usually normally aspirated piston singles. I’ve organized routes that I fly regularly into a Microsoft Excel workbook, which you can download from my public AviationDocuments folder at OneDrive, here. Look for the file named BruceAirPreferredRoutes.

BruceAirRoutes-01

Each entry includes a basic description and:

  • Links to information about the departure and destination airports (at SkyVector.com)
  • An overlay of the route on a VFR chart at SkyVector.com
  • ; you can easily export the routes to ForeFlight.

  • Basic statistics (distance, etc.)

BruceAirRoutes-02

The AircraftData tab (at the bottom of the worksheet window) contains basic information about the aircraft (e.g., KTAS and fuel burn) that link to the information in the main Routes tab. Edit the information in the AircraftData tab to match the data for the aircraft that you fly, and it will automatically populate the appropriate fields in the Routes tab, saving you the effort of manually filling in speeds, etc. for each route.

Keep in mind that these routes are general guidelines that may help you start planning trips in these areas. You should adjust them for the performance of the aircraft you fly, fuel stops, places you want to visit, terrain, and so forth. Obviously, weather and other factors (such as your personal preferences for leg lengths) also come into play.

A New Way to Open and Close VFR Flight Plans

I recently ferried a C182 from Boulder City, NV to Boulder, CO (route at SkyVector here).

This a was VFR trip with the airplane’s new owner (who hadn’t flown in more than 30 years–talk about getting back into flying), and, based on previous experience flying the route, I knew that for much of the trip we’d be in poor radar/communications coverage at 9500 MSL. It was a good opportunity to try the new EasyActivate and EasyClose features available via Lockheed Martin Flight Services (video below).

Now, I know the arguments about the value of filing VFR flight plans, and like many pilots, I rarely file VFR flight plans. Contacting FSS to open a VFR flight plan, especially when departing busy airspace, can be cumbersome, and even with cell phones, calling FSS at the other end and navigating the prompts/menus to close a flight plan with a briefer can also be pain.

But on long trips like this one, across sparsely populated areas and in a new airplane, I like having backup for SAR. For that purpose, I filed a detailed route (see above) and stuck to it. (I did pick up flight following on the leg from KAEG–necessary to get through the ABQ Class C and to deal efficiently with the airspace around Denver.)

This new feature is handy. File your VFR flight plan directly with L-M (not DUAT or DUATS) and select the appropriate options. About 30 minutes before your ETD, you’ll get an email or text message with a link to open the flight plan. When you’re ready to go, click/tap the link. You’ll receive a confirmation.

About 30 minutes before your ETA, you’ll get another message from L-M with a link to close the flight plan. After you land, click/tap the link, and almost immediately you’ll receive a confirmation.

No menus. No waiting to talk to a briefer over a scratchy connection. And with the reminders, less risk of forgetting to close a VFR flight plan.

Given that many of my flights involve trips into the wide open spaces of the West, often in airplanes that either aren’t equipped or suitable for IFR, I’m going to take advantage of this new way to use VFR flight plans.

ICAO Flight Plan Equipment Codes for Aircraft with IFR GPS

As of August 27, 2019, FAA requires that all flight plans (VFR, IFR, domestic, and international) use the ICAO format.

Most pilots file flight plans electronically, typically via an app or website such as ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, or Fltplan.com, so many of the details of the ICAO plan form (electronic or on paper) aren’t important. Fill in the basic information such as departure, route, destination, and ETD, and the apps and websites ensure that data are formatted correctly.

The most difficult hurdle for pilots new to the ICAO format is figuring out the correct codes and other details about the aircraft that you fly. But once you enter the information about the aircraft into the app(s) that you use, filing ICAO is trivial.

A detailed explanation of the ICAO flight plan form is available here. Flight Service also has a handy tip card here and more details, including links to videos, here.

In November 2013, FAA updated and simplified some of the requirements for filing ICAO flight plans for domestic use. You can read about those changes here (PDF). Note that the instructions from FAA focus on the printed flight plan form, which few pilots use. Apps such as ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, WingX, FltPlanGo, go FlyQ take care of many of the details for you. You should review the user guides and other instructions for the apps and web-based tools that you use to file flight plans. ForeFlight has detailed information about ICAO flight plans here.

Confusing Codes

Many pilots are confused by elements of the ICAO flight plan format, especially the multiple aircraft equipment codes that you must include to inform ATC of the gizmos and capability that are installed in your aircraft.

The following guide should help you sort out those ICAO codes if you fly a typical light GA aircraft equipped with at least one WAAS-capable, GPS navigator that is approved to fly RNAV (GPS) approaches. Examples of such avionics include:

Garmin has posted detailed information about the ICAO codes for its avionics, including a handy Microsoft Excel worksheet, here.

Overview

Here’s a look at the relevant parts of the ICAO flight plan form as shown on the Leidos FSS website. You can find a video that describes the ICAO flight plan form at Leidos FSS here.

I’ve filled in the information for my Beechcraft A36 Bonanza (ICAO identifier BE36), which is equipped with a GTN750, a Garmin GTX 327 transponder (not Mode S), and the GDL 88 ADS-B transmitter and receiver. This aircraft also has a Bendix/King DME receiver.

For more information about the ICAO identifiers to use for the makes and models of aircraft that you fly, see ICAO Aircraft Type Designators here at BruceAir.

The example is for an IFR trip from KBFI to KGEG in the Pacific Northwest. The route includes the ZOOMR1 STAR into KGEG.

ICAO-FlightPlan-Form-Example

Basic Information

The first few items are the same for all typical IFR general aviation flights:

  • Flight Rule: IFR
  • Flight Type: G (for general aviation)
  • Number of Aircraft: 1 (i.e., not a formation flight)
  • Wake Turbulence Category: L (for light)
  • Aircraft Type: The official ICAO designator for the make and model of aircraft you fly (e.g., BE36, C172, C210, M20P, PA28A, etc.)

Aircraft Equipment

On the familiar FAA domestic flight plan form, equipment suffixes for typical GA pilots are simple, and if you’re flying a GPS-equipped airplane with a Mode C transponder, the basic /G was all you needed.

But the ICAO form captures many more details about the equipment installed in your aircraft, and the fun typically begins with this item.

For a WAAS-equipped aircraft such as we’re discussing, you should enter the following codes in the Aircraft Equipment box:

  • SBDGR

ICAO-FlightPlan-Form-Example-A

As you can see in the illustration from the Leidos FSS web form, these letters represent the following equipment:

  • S: Standard communication and navigation receivers/transmitters (VOR, VHF communications radios, and ILS receiver). If you enter S in this box, you shouldn’t include the letters L (ILS), O (VOR), or V (VHF) here. S includes that equipment.
  • B: LPV approach capability. If you have a WAAS GPS, but your installation isn’t approved for LPV procedures (see the user’s guide and AFM supplement), omit this letter.
  • D: DME. If you don’t have DME, omit the D.
  • G: IFR-approved GPS (the preferred term is now GNSS, Global Navigation Satellite System)
  • R: PBN approved. This letter means that your aircraft meets basic RNP standards. All aircraft with an IFR-approved GPS are PBN approved (see AIM 1-2-1). You must include R, and associated information in the Other Information box, to ensure that the computer will accept a routing that includes RNAV routes, SIDs, STARs, or charted ODPs. See PBN and RNP Confusion, below.
  • Z: Indicates additional information to be added to the Other Information box, described below.
  • If you still have an ADF, include F.

PBN and RNP Confusion

The aviation world uses RNP (required navigation performance) for two related, but different purposes.

In general, RNP is an RNAV specification (e.g., RNAV 5, RNAV 2, and RNAV 1) that indicates that an aircraft is capable of maintaining a course (track) within designated limits 95 percent of the time. For example, RNAV 5 means the aircraft as equipped can reliably maintain a track with 5 nm; RNAV 2 limits are 2 nm, and so forth. If your aircraft is equipped with an IFR-approved GPS authorized to fly RNAV (GPS) approaches, it matches this sense of RNP and PBN.

The basic RNP (RNAV) specifications used in the U.S. (RNP 0.3, RNP 1.0, RNP 2.0, and RNP 1.0) are shown in the following illustration from the Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA H-8083-15B). For more information about RNP and RNAV specifications, see “Required Navigation Performance” on page 9-44 of the IFH.

clip_image006

Current WAAS-approved GPS receivers for typical GA aircraft, such as those listed earlier, meet the U.S. RNP specifications, as described in AC 90-100A: U.S Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations and the associated AC 90-100 Compliance document (PDF). To confirm your GPS receiver’s capabilities, check the user guides and the AFM supplements for the equipment installed in your aircraft.

The term RNP is also applied as a descriptor for airspace, routes, and procedures (including departures, arrivals, and IAPs). RNP can apply to a unique approach procedure or to a large region of airspace. In this sense, RNP means something similar to Category II and Category III instrument approaches. For example, an approach with RNP in the title (e.g., RNAV (RNP) Z RWY 16R) requires special equipment and detailed crew training/qualification. Such RNAV (RNP) approaches include the note AUTHORIZATION REQUIRED on the chart.

For more information about RNP approaches, see RNP Procedures and Typical Part 91 Pilots and Garmin Radius to Fix Leg Project Report here at my blog.

Surveillance Equipment (Transponder and ADS-B)

This box on the ICAO form tells ATC what type of transponder and related equipment are installed in your aircraft.

  • For most GA pilots flying IFR, this box will include at least C, for a transponder with altitude-reporting capability.
  • If you have a Mode S transponder, you should select the appropriate letter, E, H, I, L, P, S, or X, based on the information in the user guide and AFM supplement for your transponder.
  • If you have ADS-B equipment installed (not a portable ADS-B receiver such as the Stratus or Dual XGPS170), include U1 or U2. The Garmin GDL 88 in my airplane both transmits and receives ADS-B signals, so I add U2 to this box.

ICAO-FlightPlan-Form-Example-B

Other Information

The final box for designating your RNAV capabilities and additional data is Other Information. You must use prefixes, followed by letters, to include different categories of information.

As described above here and here, it’s important to add a PBN/ group in this box to ensure that the ATC system understands the RNP/RNAV capabilities of your aircraft.

ICAO-FlightPlan-Form-Example-D

If you have a GPS approved for at least IFR en route and terminal operations, add the following letters:

  • C2, which designates RNAV 2 capability based on GPS (GNSS)
  • D2, which designates RNAV 1 capability based on GPS (GNSS)

If you have a Mode S transponder that complies with the ADS-B out requirements, add the following group to this box:

  • SUR/260B

If you have a UAT box such as the Garmin GDL 88 to meet the ADS-B requirements, add the following group to this box:

  • SUR/282B

You should also file the six-digit Mode S Code (base 16 / hex) assigned to your aircraft by inserting a CODE/ group. You can find the hexadecimal code for your aircraft by checking the FAA N-number registry:

  • CODE/xxxxxx

For example, the code for one of the aircraft at the flight school where I instruct is A66E8E. The entry for that aircraft is:

  • CODE/A66E8E

For more information about the filing the appropriate codes related to ADS-B capabilities, see Filing for Advanced Surveillance Broadcast Capability (PDF) at the FAA flight plan website.

You can also add a NAV/ group in this box to indicate your RNAV capability. This group isn’t necessary if you use the appropriate PBN codes described above. But you can use a NAV/ group such as D1E2A1to indicate that you have RNAV 1 capability for departure, RNAV 2 capability for the en route segment, and RNAV 1 capability for arrival.

  • NAV/RNVD1E2A1

These groups and letters mean that you can fly RNAV routes (e.g., T-routes), RNAV SIDs and STARs, and charted ODPs (charted ODPs are often RNAV procedures, usually based on GPS).

For more information about charted ODPs, see:

Don’t worry about the options in the RNP Specifications part of this box. Unless you are authorized to fly RNAV (RNP) procedures (see above), these items don’t apply to you.

Summary

Here’s a quick review of what to put in the equipment-related boxes of the ICAO flight plan form if, like me, you fly an aircraft with one of the common IFR-approved, WAAS-capable GPS receivers:

  • Aircraft Equipment: SBGR
  • Surveillance Equipment: C (for a Mode C transponder).
    (If you have ADS-B in/out capability, such as a Garmin GDL 88, add U2. If you have a Mode S transponder, include the appropriate letter for your model.)
  • Other Information: PBN/C2D2 SUR/260B or SUR/282B and CODE/xxxxxx
    (where xxxxxx is the six-digit hexadecimal code assigned to your aircraft as part of its registration record at the FAA).

ICAO-FlightPlan-Form-Example

International Aviation Charts at SkyVector.com

SkyVector.com, a website that displays free online aviation charts, now provides worldwide VFR and IFR charts. The charts, still officially in beta, are described in more detail here.

The charts are part of set of new features that include expanded display of weather. The developer promises better flight planning and other improvements soon.