Annotating IFR Charts

Annotating electronic charts makes flying IFR procedures easier and less stressful. The video presentation (below and at my YouTube channel) describes how you can use the markup features in EFB apps such as ForeFlight to highlight important data and consolidate information from several sources so that it’s available on the charts in front of you as you fly.

Annotating charts also helps address a modern problem. EFBs have eliminated the hassle of updating paper charts and related documents.

Today it’s easy to go through many update cycles without really looking at charts you use regularly, to say nothing about procedures you fly only occasionally.

Marking up electronic pages also helps you slow down and review the details on charts. Annotating on the ground reduces heads-down time and confusion in flight, especially for trips outside your normal operating area.

All of the popular EFB apps include an annotation feature. You can learn more about the details for your app at the developer’s website and in the user guides that they publish. Here are some links to get you started:

ForeFlight videos about annotations

Garmin Pilot User Guide

FlyQ Support

iPad Pilot News: How to Mark up Charts in Your Aviation App

NBAA Proposal to Simplify FAA IAP Charts

Many instrument approach procedure charts are cluttered with notes and multiple lines of minimums to accommodate a range of possible lighting failures, remote altimeter settings, and other factors.

NBAA has submitted a recommendation document (PDF) to the Aeronautical Charting Meeting. The ACM will consider the proposal to simply FAA IAP charts at its October 2018 meeting.

To comment on the proposal, see the contact information in the recommendation document.

The proposal begins by noting that:

U.S. Government (FAA) instrument approach charts (IAPs) have become increasingly complex and difficult for pilots to use and interpret. This complexity results from TERPS and PBN requirements, multiple lines of minima, voluminous chart notes, just to name a few. As a result, pilots find it difficult to extract necessary information to fly the approach. Several FAA initiatives are currently underway or proposed to simplify the FAA IAP charts. Currently underway is the deployment of the PBN and Equipment Requirements Box. In addition, at the 1801 ACF meeting, there was discussion about the removal of the airport sketch on the FAA’s IAP chart. NBAA believes that these changes are long overdue. We believe it is necessary to look at Chart Notes, the Minima depiction, and adjustments to these minima resulting from inoperative components or remote altimeter setting source (RASS).

NBAA offers four suggestions:

  1. Removal of the Airport Sketch from the IAP chart and replace it with a stand-alone Airport Diagram chart for every airport entry in the TPP. This proposal not only reduces chart clutter and returns valuable “white space” to the chart, it will also provide for a larger airport diagram assisting pilots with ground surface operations and reduces the risks associated with runway incursions and excursions. Removal of the Airport Sketch has been discussed at a prior ACF; however, it is incorporated into this recommendation as a prerequisite for IAP modernization.
  2. Eliminate Military Minimums. Concerning military minimums, the ceiling is easily derived from other information already present on the chart and a parenthetical Statute Mile (SM) visibility for RVR would be provided.
  3. Eliminate RASS chart note and incorporate the RASS as a separate line of minima applicable to the altimeter source.
  4. Incorporate the effects of inoperative components into the lines of minima for each approach category. The purpose of this proposed change is to furnish the pilot with a Minima Table providing minimums for all situations. Today, the pilot must refer to the Inoperative Components Table of the TPP to determine corrections to the published visibility and to the MDA or DA with the failure of the approach lighting system, runway touchdown zone or centerline lights, or RVR systems.

The following illustration shows how proposal (3) would consolidate and clarify notes related to remote altimeter settings.

NBAA asserts that:

The advantages of these changes are clear. The benefit of this proposed change is to furnish the pilot with a Minima Table providing minimums for all situations without the need for pilot computations or references to other pages within the TPP. The increased use of EFB products makes referencing ancillary pages difficult and time consuming.

NBAA proposes two options, side-by-side and stacked, to present minimums when all components of the approach lights are working, and when some are inoperative.

NBAA-IAP-minima options-01

Proposed Changes to Airport Diagrams

FAA is proposing to remove the inset airport diagrams from instrument procedure charts and the Chart Supplement (A/FD) and instead publish complete airport diagrams for all airports with IFR procedures.

The proposal (detailed FAA briefing here) was discussed at the April 25-26, 2018 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum (complete meeting minutes here).

FAA currently produces:

  • 700 airport diagrams
  • 3000 airport sketches in the Chart Supplement
  • 3000 inset diagrams on terminal procedure charts


The detailed proposal includes the following key points:

  • Eliminate Terminal and Chart Supplement Sketches.
  • All hard-surfaced runway public use airports with IFR procedures will have a published airport diagram.
  • Eliminate cultural features such as trees, creeks, water and power lines etc.
  • Change diagram specifications to incorporate information from the chart supplement and terminal chart sketches.
  • Add geo-referenced information for real-world location and for future data driven product development.

FAA argued that the proposed charting change would:

  • Eliminate maintenance of three types of airport layouts.
  • Create a single standard Airport Diagram for all airports.
  • Print one diagram in one publication (currently printed 4 ways).
  • Free up space in the TPP plate for more relevant procedural information
  • Provide a more robust product.
  • Streamline internal production processes.
  • Deliver a more accurate and updated product.

An FAA representative noted that Jeppesen does not publish inset sketches on its terminal charts. Adopting this proposal would follow that practice.

The proposal generated detailed discussion, and FAA solicited comments from users and organizations such as AOPA.

FAA Changing Notes on Instrument Charts

The FAA is gradually changing notes on instrument procedure charts (SIDs, STARs, and approaches) to consolidate and clarify equipment required and PBN-related information.

AOPA has published a detailed summary with background on the changes here.

The AOPA summary also includes tables that can help pilots who use Garmin equipment understand the capabilities of the avionics installed in their aircraft.


Organizing Approach Charts and Checklists

My IFR students have asked about the system I use for organizing frequently-used approach charts and checklists, especially when flying aircraft with small cockpits. Although I use an iPad and have electronic charts in the G500/GTN750 avionics in the cockpit of the Bonanza, I still keep printed copies of the current charts for the airports that I use frequently, both as backup and for convenience when I fly with students and customers.


I use 5.5 x 8.5 (kneeboard size) Avery 77004 sheet protectors or Staples Item 616224 ($4.81 for 25) to organize and hold approach charts and checklists. These sheet holders work with printed FAA charts or Jeppesen plates.

You can quickly print sets of charts for airports by using the features at AOPA Airports. You can also capture and then print portions of IFR en route and VFR charts at

Staples® 5-1/2

You can use Staples Item 453599 ($7.79 for 66 tabs) or the equivalent to attach and label tabs to help you organize checklists and charts.

Post-it® 1

New Aviation Data and Charts: What’s Changed?

Before the advent of the iPad and similar tablets, aviators used paper charts. Most instrument-rated pilots subscribed to charts published by Jeppesen, and updates, in distinctive yellow envelopes, arrived in the mail every two weeks. Updating the approach charts and associated information meant pulling out one or more thick binders and manually tearing out the old sheets and replacing them with new “plates.”


That manual update process was time-consuming and prone to errors–a chore often left to downtime at the airport. Now, most pilots, from airline captains to students, have adopted electronic charts, at least for some operations. Increasing numbers of us have gone paperless, a practice allowed by the FAA under several guidance documents. For non-commercial operators, the most relevant document is AC 91-78 Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).


The old manual update method had one virtue, however. You handled the new charts, and you could easily see which procedures had been canceled or updated. New procedures were also obvious.

Downloads of new charts to an iPad update the information quickly and accurately, but you can’t easily determine which charts have changed.

The FAA does offer tools to help you discover what’s new with each data cycle.

For example, the Advanced Search page at the AeroNav Products website is an interactive way to find new or changed terminal procedures (IAPs, SIDs, STARs, etc.) for IFR flying.


You can search for procedures added, changed, or deleted in the current cycle or the next updates to be published. Narrow a search by the volume (Northeast Vol. 1, Southwest Vol. 2, etc.), state, or city in which the airport(s) you’re interested in are listed. You can also search for specific a specific airport by typing its ID or name.

The PDF compare option displays the two latest versions of a chart with highlights that mark what’s changed.


Looking Ahead: Procedures in Development

To learn about instrument procedures that are under development, visit the IFP Information Gateway, where you can search for airports by name, ID, or city. The page displays details about forthcoming changes to existing procedures and information about procedures that are under development, including preliminary charts.

VFR Chart Updates and Bulletins

To review changes to VFR charts, see the VFR Chart Update Bulletins page, where you can download PDF summaries of late changes to and errors on published charts.


When a VOR is Decommissioned

The recent shutdown of the Lake Henry VOR (LHY), which lies northeast of Wilkes-Barre PA (VFR chart at SkyVector here), is an example of how the FAA is handling the gradual decommissioning of VORs. (See also More Details about VOR Shutdowns)

As the latest IFR low-altitude en route charts show, the VOR (at present still depicted on the charts to help pilots become familiar with the new routes) has been replaced by a five-letter waypoint, LAAYK.


Note that the frequency for the VOR (110.8) is now shaded to indicate that the facility has been shut down, as described on p. 54 of the Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide.


A wider view of the area shows that several victor airways or segments of airways have been replaced with T-routes, depicted in blue on charts published by the FAA.


T-routes and their associated G (GPS-based) MEAs are described in AIM 5−3−4. Airways and Route Systems and in “Area Naviation (RNAV) ‘T’ Route System” on page 56 of the Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide (12th edition).

You can expect similar changes as more VORs are shut down over the next several years, leaving what the FAA calls the Minimum Operational Network. That plan at present calls for all VORs in the mountainous regions (essentially the western U.S.) to remain online, while many VORs elsewhere in the country are decommissioned.

FAA AeroNav Services “compare PDF” function for IAP charts

The FAA’s digital Terminal Procedure Publication (d-TPP) website  application includes a “compare PDF” feature for civil Instrument Approach Procedures (IAP), Standard Terminal Arrivals (STAR), Departure Procedures (DP) and Airport Diagrams (APD) that have changed from the previous version.

More details are in this safety alert (PDF) from 2010. It’s a handy feature that helps you quickly see what has changed when new plates are issued.