As opposed to maps…

WSF’s comment on yesterday’s post kicked off some memories. These are charts, with a wealth of information…

First up, a sectional of the area around the Wyoming/Colorado border. The normal scale on these is 1:250,000 (1 inch = 3.43 NM). EVERY aeronautical chart has latitude and longitude markings, so you actually use dividers to measure, rather than measuring inches…

They show terrain features, airports, things like wind farms and antennas (both with altitudes), rivers, lakes, mountains, and cities and towns. The bright yellow towns are actually the ‘shape’ of the lights at night of that particular town.

Depending on where you’re flying, there can be MUCH more specific charts… Grand Canyon VFR chart anyone?

And then there are GNC or Global Navigation Charts, now most people probably have never seen one, but they are about 5 feet by 4 feet, so folding the charts so that you can see where you’re going is an artform! The dotted lines that cross the longitude lines at various angles are the magnetic variation for that lat/long or the closest one to your position.

I’ve actually used this one, AND the ones to the north and south of it to navigate on a single mission before… Talk about having charts spread out everywhere… sigh…

Anyhoo, thanks to WSF for kicking over the memories and hopefully this gives folks that don’t fly a bit better understanding of how you get from point A to point B in an airplane. You can just look out the window and follow the roads (IFR)… LOL


Charts… — 20 Comments

  1. At one point in my somewhat checkered career I used to make those things…

  2. Ah yes, Sectional charts . . . Amarillo, Texas has the odd quirk of straddling the border between the DFW and Albuquerque sectionals, so that you had to have both with you if you flew (fly) in the area. One of the town’s airports is on one chart, the other public use airport is on the second chart. You can guess what one of the things pilot examiners and FAA ramp-checkers loooooved to look for was (is).

    I may or may not have been known to spend hours looking at sectionals and USGS topo maps. No, I’m not a map junkie, and I can quit at any time.

    • TXRed, Back before the left broke (in more ways than one) the Boy Scouts. I spent hours pouring over topo maps either planning hikes/camping trips or looking for interesting places to go. I finally had to quit when hiking no longer was an option. However, don’t let me near any topo maps or I might still loose hours planning a fantasy trip.

  3. I pulled out my old E&E charts from the First Gulf War. Memories, yes, but they’re also cool, and the reverse side is camouflaged.

  4. Ian- Thank you! They saved my butt on more than one occasion!

    TXRed- LOL, ah yes… THOSE are always fun! Sure, sure, you can…

    NRW- That’s where I learned map reading and navigation. Philmont was interesting!

    LL- I have one on my wall, from WWII for Japan, it’s double sided with ocean currents mapped out.

  5. Should have remembered the difference between maps and charts. Reading either is a skill all should have, IMO. Your laptop won’t always be able to pull up Google Maps.

  6. GPS is a great tool but I learned long ago that proper maps give you an overview of any trip that’s hard to come by with a handheld GPS phone or nav system, and you can assess alternate routes and detours MUCH better with a map than you can with the newer gadgets. And with a topo map and/or charts, you get 3D landmarks that regular GPS units don’t give… Yes, I know you can get sectionals and topo maps for your handhelds … but I also have BUIS on my AR’s for a similar reason

  7. Never dealt with aviation charts, but am very familiar, or used to be very familiar, with nautical charts. Back before everything was computerized and GPSed. Ones marked with Loran data and all of that.

    I did get quite good at translating points on the map to actual visual clues for navigating around off the Intercoastal in Brevard on the Indian and Banana rivers (the IC being the big dredged ditch that was surrounded by all sorts of shallow stuffs.

    And used them to go out Sebastian Inlet past where you could see land.

    Good times. Love being on the water in a small boat. Even better when you’re the helmsman.

  8. Similar to Nautical charts. At least you didn’t have to worry about new mountains. No VFR on Submarines!

    We found a new mountain by the gravity disturbance on our inertial navigators. Then the Captain decided to map it so we went over it again.

    • Better that way than the “Damn, what the hell was that (sudden stop coincident with a loud bang)!?” method.

      • USS San Francisco. 🙁 Used an outdated chart and found a mountain. 1 sailor killed.

  9. WSF- No biggie… 😉

    Tom- Which is why I have a Rand McNally atlas in my car!

    Beans- I navigated off Loran charts too! Problem is, middle of the Pacific, there aren’t any ‘visual cues’… Just a lot of water!

    Clayton- Actually that IS an issue sometimes.

    NRW- Yep, like the guy that hit a tall tower guy wire… Sadly he didn’t survive to ask that question.

  10. I Follow Roads hahaha!

    NRW- in the back of a Cessna 172 ‘way back when: in the kinda sorta almost not VFR when someone commented “Hey, lookit the lights above us on that tower” WHAT!!?!! Jeeezus!

  11. Hmmmm. I think LL kicked off this the chartist frenzy, which I like.

    Have you read Hapgood’s Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings? I think that’s the title, and it goes into Piri Reis and all of that. Longitude and latitude before their time, to say nothing of anything else.

    Curious. Was there a civilization before our own with advanced mathematical/charting skills? I don’t know, but like to ask the question!

  12. When you mentioned “charts” I thought you were referring to proper charts which have depths on the rather than some newfangled Brown Shoe “sectionals”.
    I understand both, but really…charts are charts and sectionals are sectionals.

  13. Love poring over ’em… until I left the ARMY and had to start paying for “current” ones myself.
    DAMN, those things are expensive to keep up with.

  14. I’m a map junkie, too! Got the sectionals for out here, the ones for back in SoCal, and some absolutely ancient ones from the 1970’s for the Chicago area. I wasn’t exposed to nautical charts until Sea Launch, but I liked going over those, too.

    And I have a bunch of topo maps somewhere, along with all the pertinent digital versions to plug into my radio propagation software.

  15. Way back in 1990 I was on a team that was preparing a proposal to the USSR to develop some oil projects on Sakhalin Island. Local data was hard to find but we used aero charts to show us major infrastructure to help us in our planning. (Roads, power lines, rail roads, rivers, etc)

  16. Robert- That ‘has’ happened… sigh

    LSP- Good question, no answers here… LOL Funny story though. Some of the research I was doing in the South China Sea, I was using an 1879 British chart of wrecks… 😀

    Boat- Ours have the same info, just ‘upside down’ to yours! 😉

    GB- Oh yeah, Jeppesen charts were NEVER cheap!

    drjim- They’re all useful!

    PE- See above… LOL

  17. When you used that GNC in the picture were you in grid? I never flew far enough north or south to need grid navigation but I did practice it on occasion. Man, that brings back memories…