There is a fair amount of misinformation out there on whether or not we are required to plot in this day of GPS and glass cockpits. Most of the fault lies with us pilots, since we are always looking for the most effective (and easiest) way of getting the job done. But part of the blame belongs to the U.S. FAA who left something out of the most recent change to Advisory Circular 91-70. I fell for it too. So that's the first thing we need to tackle: You Have to Plot.
Questions? Lots. But here are some answers:
Do You Have to Plot?
Yes, you have to plot. On April 6, 2017, there was a great deal of confusion when the 2010 version of AC 91-70A was replaced by AC 91-70B and some key language was replaced. But I have confirmed that the requirement has not changed.
Yes — Legally speaking
It says so, right here:
Photo: "The Rule," from FAA Order 8900.1, Vol 4, Ch 1, ¶4-80
Click photo for a larger image
If all you read was the current Oceanic and International Operations advisory circular, you would be led to believe plotting is optional:
[AC 91-70B, ¶22.214.171.124] Up to now the only recommended method of cross-checking aircraft position in the oceanic airspace environment was manual plotting on a chart. However, a panel of aviation industry and FAA personnel completed an Operational Safety Assessment of methods for cross-checking oceanic flight navigation. The panel determined that an alternative to manual plotting, by which aircraft position could be checked through use of aircraft FMS-driven navigation displays and indications, would provide for an equivalent level of safety.
[AC 91-70B, ¶126.96.36.199.1] Plotting your route on your chart will increase your situational awareness as you execute your trip through oceanic and remote continental airspace.
[AC 91-70B, ¶188.8.131.52.1] You should use a chart, of appropriate scale, to provide yourself with a visual presentation of your intended route, regardless of your type(s) of long-range navigation system (LRNS). Plotting your route on your chart will increase your situational awareness as you execute your trip through oceanic and remote continental airspace.
[AC 91-70B, ¶184.108.40.206.2] Your chart should include, at a minimum:
- The route of your filed flight plan or currently effective route clearance.
- Clearly depicted waypoints using standardized symbology.
- Graphic depictions of all ETPs.
- Alternate airports.
- Proximity of other adjacent tracks.
Note: For certificated operators, if OpSpec/MSpec A061 has been issued authorizing use of an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) and the principal inspector (PI) has authorized “interactive plotting for oceanic and remote continental navigation,” the EFB application may be used in place of a paper plotting/orientation chart. The current edition of AC 120-76, Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness, and Operational Approval of Electronic Flight Bags, provides guidance for operators to develop associated EFB procedures. For part 91 operators, an EFB may be used, provided the criteria and considerations of the current edition of AC 91-78, Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), are observed.
[AC 91-70B, ¶220.127.116.11.3] You can use various additional techniques in order to verify that the correct points are loaded for your planned route. Verify the total route distance in your FMS against your master document to help find embedded mistakes. You should also cross-check course/headings and distances between each waypoint to ensure the FMS routing matches your master document. Referencing your plotting or orientation chart here can also be beneficial.
[AC 91-70B, ¶D.2.9.2] Ten Minutes After Waypoint Passage. Cross-check navigational performance and course compliance by one of the following methods:
D.2.9.1 The “plotting” method is appropriate for all aircraft navigation configurations.
- Verify your plotting/orientation chart reflects the currently effective route clearance.
- Plot your present latitude/longitude and record the time on your chart.
- You should plot your position using coordinates from the nonsteering LRNS.
- Investigate/take corrective action if your plotted position does not agree with your currently effective route clearance.
- Using the steering LRNS, verify the next waypoint is consistent with the currently effective route clearance.
- Verify your autopilot steering mode is in LNAV/VNAV or other appropriate mode to ensure steering to the next intended waypoint.
D.2.9.2 The “navigation display” method is appropriate for and available for use in aircraft equipped with an operable FMS:
- Confirm the aircraft symbol is on the programmed route on the navigation display (at smallest scale).
- Check system-generated cross-track deviation or similar indication of any deviation from the programmed route of flight.
- Using the steering LRNS verify the “TO” waypoint is consistent with your currently effective route clearance.
- Investigate/take correction action to address any anomalies or unexpected deviations.
- Verify your autopilot steering mode is LNAV/VNAV or other appropriate mode to ensure steering to the next intended waypoint.
Once this advisory circular was published, I wrote that the FAA was giving us latitude not to plot. Someone from the FAA called me soon thereafter to tell me that is wrong. Just because the language was removed from the advisory circular doesn't mean you don't have to plot. The language still exists in the 8900.1 series. I've had a few friends go through FAA table tops since then and they were both expected to be plotting experts. So legally speaking, the U.S. FAA expects you to plot.
Yes — Practically speaking
In the old days — when we were entering latitude and longitude into an inertial navigation system that didn't understand named waypoints — the typical reason given for plotting was the one degree error.
These days we are more likely to hear about oceanic re-routes that crews missed or entered in error.
- Oceanic Reroute — Reroutes are common and except in rare combinations of aircraft/controller CPDLC capabilities, will require crews to manually enter FMS waypoints. I often read about crews that somehow mishandled the data entry. Plotting could have saved them.
- An FMS error — yes, these happen. A few years ago the FMS makers didn't all agree on what nomenclature was needed for half-degree latitude separation and the result was chaos. The pilots who plotted caught the error. Another cause, albeit rare, is a coding error that waited until the database was updated. The first airplane to fly the route when the new database went into effect was caught. I've caught two such errors, but both were over continental Europe, not oceanic.
No matter the reason, I like to think of it this way. When you are flying domestically all of your airplane's wizardry is keeping you separated from other airplanes and air traffic control's radar is backing everything up. When you are flying oceanic you don't have ATC's radar to help you out. It is up to you to back up the airplane's computers.
When do you have to plot?
[FAA Order 8900.1 Volume 4, Chapter 1, Paragraph 4-80.A]
- Plotting Procedures. Plotting procedures have had a significant impact on the reduction of gross navigational errors. There is a requirement to plot the route of flight on a plotting chart and to plot the computer position, approximately 10 minutes after waypoint passage. Plotting may or may not be required, depending upon the distance between the standard ICAO ground-based NAVAIDs.
- Plotting procedures are required for all turbojet operations where the route segment between the operational service volume of ICAO standard ground-based navigational aids exceeds 725 NM.
- Plotting procedures are required for all turboprop operations where the route segment between the operational service volume of ICAO standard ground-based navigational aids exceeds 450 NM.
- The Administrator requires plotting procedures for routes of shorter duration that transit airspace where special conditions exist, such as reduced lateral and vertical separation standards, high density traffic, or proximity to potentially hostile border areas.
- Any existing approvals that differ from the plotting requirements in this paragraph and Class II navigation procedures should be reviewed and revised as necessary. Direction and guidance is available from the navigation specialists in coordination with AFS-400.
What is the service volume of a navigation aid?
Figure: Standard High Altitude Service Volumes (Aeronautical Information Manual, Figure 1-1-1.)
You could have a navaid tuned and identified far outside its service volume, which means it doesn't count when making the plot / don't plot decision. Typical service volumes from [Aeronautical Information Manual, ¶1-1-8:
- Standard High Altitude Service Volume between 18,000 and 45,000 ft: 130 nm
- Standard Low Altitude Service Volume between 1,000 and 18,000 ft: 40 nm
- Standard Terminal Service Volume between 1,000 and 12,000 ft: 25 nm
- NDB HH Service Volume: 75 nm
- NDB MH Service Volume: 25 nm
What about fixed airways?
I often hear from crews that want reassurance that there is no need to plot the routes between California and Hawaii because they are fixed and appear on their charts. They are wrong.
They are much more than 725 nm outside the service volume of the nearest navigation aid, they have to (and should) plot.
But what if I'm doing everything perfectly?
Just because you are doing everything "by the book" doesn't mean another aircraft's errors can't impact you. How is plotting going to save you from another airplane's error? Here is a scenario for you. Let's say you filed Mach 0.80 as did the airplane in front of you, but the airplane behind you filed M0.83. Shanwick Oceanic planned on all this by placing the minimum spacing between you and the lead aircraft and allowed extra space between you and the third. Now let's say there is an unforecast increase in the tailwind and all three airplanes start to miss their next forecast ETA. (You are early.) You and the third aircraft revise your ETAs, as required, while maintaining your filed Mach Numbers. The lead aircraft, however, slows down to avoid having to revise his ETA and there is a loss of separation between you and the lead aircraft. Shanwick will be asking for all three aircraft to provide their paperwork and having shoddy paperwork may implicate the wrong crew.
Even if you've flown the route a hundred times (an example of a good pilot gone bad)
You don't know every quirk of your FMS and sometimes that can bite you. For example, the Gulfstream GV FMS originally had a 100 waypoint limitation; that's a lot of waypoints. Well, no, it isn't. It is easy to have more than 100 when flying through Europe. One of our TAG Aviation pilots in 2005 was an old pro at flying from London to White Plains, over and over again. On one of his trips they departed Italy instead. He simply downloaded the flight plan and headed west. The crew didn't plot, didn't check the FMS, and ran out of waypoints at 30° West longitude. At that point, the airplane turned directly to White Plains. How do you spell Gross Navigational Error? Plotting would have saved them.
Is That iPad Really Legal?
Operating an iPad and a portable GPS receiver that is independent of the aircraft systems would seem to be the ideal crosscheck of your aircraft avionics. But is it legal? The basic regulation seems to indicate that it is, provided you can determine the device in question "will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system" of your aircraft. But how can you make that determination?
These rules were established in 1961 but were relaxed considerably in 2000 and again in 2006 with the release of Advisory Circular 91-21.1B which gave operators the latitude to allow the use of non-transmitting Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) and gave some guidance on Transmitting PEDs and Medical PEDs. Operators were also given guidance on how to make these determinations. But no guidance was given for PEDs that receive GPS signals.
The latest version of AC 91.21-D cleared a lot of this up. The basic rule is that if your aircraft was certified with an onboard WiFi system, you are considered "PED Tolerant." Otherwise, you either have to get them tested (very hard to do) or restrict your use to ground taxi operations and cruise flight above 10,000 feet (easy to do).
So for the purpose of oceanic operations and plotting, the iPad and even a portable GPS unit are generally okay. (Operating commercially, you will need OpsSpec/MSpec/LOA A061.) If you are using your iPad (or other Electronic Flight Bag hardware) to view your airfield diagram during taxi, that's okay too. But if you want to use these devices for takeoff and landing, you have more work to do. More about all of this: Portable Electronic Devices.
Aircraft Type Data Certification Sheet . . . Good to go.
If you are flying something that was certified relatiively recently, you may find the aircraft's PED tolerance explicitly stated. This for the Gulfstream GVII-G500:
Photo: GVII-G500 PED Toleance, from its Type Data Certification Sheet.
Click photo for a larger image
So if you are flying a GVII-G500, you are good to go. Most aircraft certified more than 5 years ago, such as my trust Gulfstream G450, will not have this statement. But that doesn't mean you are not PED tolerant, as we shall now see.
Airplane certified with a demonstrated tolerance for PEDs . . . Good to go.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.1] Aircraft Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. Aircraft manufacturers with access to aircraft electronic system qualifications and aircraft radio receiver antenna installation data can easily demonstrate an aircraft meets the requirements of RTCA DO-307A. Operators may obtain statements of such demonstrations from an aircraft manufacturer to substantiate PED tolerance of the aircraft. Operators can also use the RTCA DO-307A methods in demonstrating PED tolerance of their aircraft. RTCA DO-307A separates demonstration methods for tolerance to intentional transmissions from PEDs versus tolerance to spurious emissions from PEDs. Aircraft with an FAA-approved system—such as an Onboard Mobile Telecommunications System (OMTS), Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), airborne access systems (AASs), or Network Control Units (NCUs)—are considered PED-tolerant for PEDs used with the installed system. If an aircraft model has demonstrated tolerance for both transmitting and non-transmitting PEDs, the operator may allow PED use during all phases of flight on this aircraft model.
If your aircraft is certified with one of the listed systems (OMTS, WiFi, or AAS), then you are "PED Tolerant" and can use PEDs during all phases of flight. Of course you will have a few precautions to take, like turning the cellular system off by using "Airplane" mode and making sure it is properly stowed for takeoff and landing, but you can use it in the cockpit for all phases of flight.
Airplane passes risk assessment . . . Good to go.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.2] Aircraft Not Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. An operator may choose to conduct a safety risk assessment following the process in RTCA DO-363 if it 1) does not have a designed and certified PED-tolerant aircraft, and 2) chooses not to test its aircraft fleet types according to RTCA DO-307A or obtain supporting documentation from an aircraft manufacturer. The operator’s assessment must evaluate the avionics configuration of its fleet and failure modes of communication, navigation, surveillance, and other electronic systems with respect to electromagnetic interference. This assessment ultimately outlines mitigations and controls the operator needs to adopt to expand PED use into various phases of flight.
There are two phases to the risk assessment, as outlined in InFO 13010 Sup: "Back door" and "front door" assessment. "Back door coupling" refers to intentional radio frequency emissions from transmitting PEDs which can interfere with aircraft systems. Appendix B of InFO 13010 Sup provides instructions on how to determine if an analysis must be performed. Many aircraft have the necessary statement in their Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) that allow them to assume the back door assessment is already completed. The front door assessment is much harder to determine and most operators will not be able to obtain such an assessment on their own.
Aircraft missing demonstrated tolerance or required assessment . . . Good to go for cruise flight only.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.3] Aircraft Not Demonstrated PED Tolerant. If the operator has not demonstrated PED tolerance for their aircraft, they may allow PED operation during cruise flight. If interference to aircraft systems from PEDs is experienced during cruise flight, the devices causing interference should be isolated, and applicable conditions recorded. The device responsible for the interference should be turned off.
Unless your aircraft is PED tolerant or you have done an RTCA DO-363 risk assessment, this is what you are left with: you can only allow PED use during cruise flight.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.1] Operator Procedures. If an operator allows PEDs aboard its aircraft or the aircraft being operated, procedures should be established to control PED use during aircraft operations. RCTA DO-363 section 7.5 and InFO 13010SUP provide further guidance on what to include in the operator’s policies, procedures, and training programs. In general, the procedures should address:
- PEDs approved for use onboard the aircraft;
- Times of approved PED operation;
- How and when PEDs must be secured or stowed;
- PED modes of operation used and not used;
- How and when to inform passengers of the aircraft operator’s PED policies and procedures; and
- How to manage scenarios such as suspected or confirmed electromagnetic interference, PED unit or battery smoke or fire, or other scenarios.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.2] Passenger Communication. This paragraph outlines methods to inform passengers of permissible times, conditions, and limitations of PED usage. These methods may be accomplished through the departure briefing; passenger information cards; flightcrew, flight attendant (F/A), or prerecorded announcements; or other methods deemed appropriate by the operator. Operators should inform passengers of PED use restrictions, such as prior to departure, after takeoff (at 10,000 feet), prior to landing (at 10,000 feet), and after landing. For air carrier operations conducted under part 121 or 135, the limitations, at a minimum, should state the use of all such devices—except medical electronic devices such as heart pacemakers or portable oxygen concentrators (POC)—is prohibited during phases of operation when they could interfere with communication or navigation equipment onboard the aircraft or the ability of the flightcrew to give instructions in the event of an emergency. Methods of passenger communication may include:
- Procedures to terminate operation of PEDs suspected of causing interference with aircraft systems.
- Procedures for reporting PED interference to a responsible Flight Standards office.
- Procedures for cockpit-to-cabin coordination and cockpit flightcrew monitoring procedures.
- Procedures for determining acceptability of PEDs for operation aboard its aircraft. Acceptable PED identification should be clearly spelled out in oral departure briefings and by written material provided to passengers.
- Procedures for takeoff and landing preparation must be considered when allowing the PED operation during these phases of flight. Operators must recognize that the potential for personal injury to passengers is a crucial consideration, as well as the possibility of missing significant safety announcements during takeoff and landing. InFO 13010 and InFO 13010SUP provide guidance to address these considerations.
[AC 120-76D, ¶12] A part 91K, 121, 125, or 135 operator must have an EFB program authorized by the FAA in order to use EFB applications on either portable or installed equipment in flight operations. EFB program specifics (i.e., operating procedures, maintenance procedures, administrative procedures, and training modules) must be developed, as applicable, and be available to the FAA. FAA authorization for an EFB program will be granted upon successful evaluation of an applicant’s program operation.
It is up to the operator to determine if you can use that iPad and portable GPS during cruise flight, taxi before takeoff, and taxi after landing. Under 14 CFR 91K, 121, and 135, the operator is the company that controls the operation and have a program "authorized by the FAA" usually with OpSpec/MSpec/LOA A061. Under 14 CFR 91, it is you, the pilot.
How Are the Applications Different?
You will need applications to produce the Master Document, to plot any relevant tracks, to plot your intended course, to plot your navigation accuracy check, to plot your current position for the "post position plot," and to archive everything for your records. Optionally, you might also want to have a way for both pilots to annotate the plotting charts and the master document, taking care that you really only have one true master document. As of this writing in December of 2018, no one application does it all. Depending on your flight planning service, your options might be easier or harder than others. The minimum requirement is to have an iPad that allows you to display and make notes on an Adobe PDF file.
What follows is a brief description of the applications I know about, their strengths and weaknesses, and a few other comments.
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Photo: Adobe Acrobat Reader, from Apple App Store
Available at: ARINCDirect
The Adobe Acrobat Reader is free and provides a way of making notes, drawing lines, and adding check marks to your Master Document, plotting charts, and various checklists. The drawing tool is found by pressing the "pen" tool and then selecting "Comment." It simply draws a line where you drag your finger, isn't very precise, and doesn't offer special figures or ways to ensure the lines are straight. You might not need it if, like me, your other applications allow you to make annotations directly.
Photo: ARINCDirect screen shot, from Eddie's iPad.
Available at: https://direct.arinc.net
The application itself is free if you have an ARINCDirect account. The price of that account varies depending on what you use them for. We use them for as much as we can, to include flight planning and aircraft phone service. I think we average between $300 and $500 a month. This program does everything well except plotting. They say they will have an upgrade that solves that deficiency. Until then, this application with JeppFD can be everything you need to go paperless when oceanic.
The program operates seamlessly with their web-based application and their Flight Operations System (FOS) scheduling software. Depending on your airplane and subscription, the flight can be built automatically in FOS and sent to ARINCDirect and your aircraft FMS. You download the flight plan into your FMS and iPad. You then have a master document ready for annotations.
Photo: DropBox screen shot, from Eddie's iPad.
Available at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dropbox/id327630330?mt%3D8.
The application is free but there are additional charges for more storage space. You can simply email all your documents for a perfectly adequate way of archiving your oceanic paperwork, but DropBox makes this process easier. It is also a good way to have a full set of manuals on the iPad. (We get the same utility from ARINCDirect.)
There are other file transfer utilities out there for the iPad that may have more features and might be easier to use. But I use DropBox for other things so it is easier for me to use it on the iPad too.
Available at: ForeFlight
This is a great tool for improving your situational awareness with terrain maps, synthetic vision, and weather flying domestically or oceanic. It is a pretty good oceanic plotter, however it has a strange quirk when it comes to measuring courses. (More about that below.)
Available at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/garmin-pilot/id340917615?mt=8 for $600 per year for the worldwide version.
This is another great tool for improving your situational awareness with terrain maps, synthetic vision, and weather flying domestically or oceanic. It does one thing better than JeppFD and ARINCDirect when plotting: it gives you true course, magnetic course, and leg distances on one screen. If your flight planning provider gives you only a PFD master document without any interactive tools, Garmin Pilot could be the app for you.
Photo: GoodReader screen shot, from Eddie's iPad.
Available at: GoodReader.
If you don't have an application that provides robust plotting and PDF comment tools, such as ARINCDirect and JeppFD, you will need a good PDF editing too. While the Adobe Acrobat Reader will do the job, it isn't very good at drawing lines. For that I recommend GoodReader. For an example of a plotting chart completed with GoodReader, see the illustration below: Using a downloaded plotting chart.
Price: hard to say. I've had Jeppesen worldwide accounts in the past that ran around $13,000 per year for worldwide coverage that gave you four installations. If you don't need worldwide coverage it would be less. Now I run a flight operation that needs four installations for the aircraft alone (the data exists in four places for redundancy) and we have four pilots on top of that. So that runs around $38,000 per year. The airplane can't fly without it so we don't have a lot of choice here.
If you fly internationally as a non-military U.S. pilot, there is no substitute for Jeppesen charts. The only drawback with JeppFD is the course and distance measuring tools are crude. (More about that below.)
How Do You Handle the Master Document?
The master document process depends on what applications you are using, but it is important to remember that you can only have one master document. If you are using ARINCDirect or another application that allows you to sync between iPads, you can have a single master document that will have each person's entries in different colors. If you do not have this capability, you can designate one pilot to control the master document as provided in an Adobe PDF format using Adobe Acrobat Reader or other application.
Depending on the application, typing involves selecting an "edit" icon or pen, selecting a color and/or font, selecting an area on the document, and typing using the provided keyboard. (You can also use a physical keyboard to the iPad using a Bluetooth connection.)
Photo: Typing on the iPad master document using Adobe Acrobat Reader
If you are transposing from a data link clearance, retyping onto the iPad is certainly neater and easier to read after the fact. If, on the other hand, you are recording from a clearance given over the radio, this could mean an extra step having to write the clearance on a notepad first.
Photo: iPad master document, front page, paper
You can also handwrite on the iPad using a stylus or even the tip of your finger. We find the typing option easier for most tasks. The "X" diagonals on each waypoint shown here were hand drawn.
Photo: iPad master document, oceanic page, paper
What About All Those Checklists?
You may have a number of checklists that require various entries for your oceanic flights. If so, you need only reproduce those in PDF form and then you can annotate them as shown for the master document. Here is an example from several years back:
Photo: Oceanic checklist and RVSM/Nav performance log example, iPad.
Our iPad version of this checklist is the same as the paper version and entries can be made by drawing, such as the check marks, or by typing. Here again the iPad version can be neater and offers better archival options. But once again it takes a little longer.
We have since weaved this checklist into our master document. So even in our quest to rid ourselves of paper, we managed to reduce the total number of documents too.
How Do You Set Up the Plotting Chart?
If you have access to a charting application, like JeppFD, that is the way to go. If all you have is a PDF chart, you can do it but it will be a frustrating experience. I'll cover the PDF method first, but you shouldn't bother with this if you have a good charting application.
Understanding True versus Magnetic heading
Part of the plotting process is to check the courses in your FMS (which are almost always in Magnetic) against those on your charts (which are in True). To convert from True to Magnetic you need Variation.
Figure: Variation, (AFM 51-37, page 1-13)
[AFM 51-37, page 1-12.] The magnetic compass points to magnetic north. The angular difference between true and magnetic north is known as variation and it changes for different locations on the earth. Variation must be considered when converting true course, true headings, or true winds to magnetic direction.
If you need to convert, the formula is:
True + Variation = Magnetic
Where West Variation is positive and East Variation is negative
If, for example, you measure a True course of 090 on the chart and the nearest line of Variation is 10° East, the Magnetic course will be 090 - 10 = 080° (Because you subtract East Variation.)
If you don't have a paper chart, you may not find variation on the electronic chart. In JeppFD, for example, you need to select "VFR" from the chart type (left side of the accompanying photo), select the "Interstate 25" sign (right side of the accompanying photo), and zoom down to a fairly small scale. This works just about everywhere in the world except the North Atlantic, where variation magically disappears. For those of you without JeppFD and even for JeppFD users over the North Atlantic, your FMS should display variation for each waypoint.
Your FMS needs a database of worldwide magnetic variation and should be able to find a page that gives you access to that database. In a PlaneView cockpit (G450, G550), select "NAV" and "WPT DATABASE" and enter the point you want the variation. In the example photo, we see the variation is 14° West at 51°N 30° W.
Understanding distance measurement on an aeronautical chart
Measuring distance isn't straight forward on an aeronautical chart, even when dealing with paper. Have you ever noticed how lines of latitude are spaced evenly from pole to pole? The spacing is consistently 60 nautical miles for every 1° of latitude. And that's how you measure distance: you measure the distance between points, then put that against the nearest line of longitude to count off the distance.
Figure: Dividers, (Eddie' collection)
Of course very few of us fly with dividers these days, so we construct rulers made up on paper, index cards, or Post Its. More about how to do this: Plotting 101.
Using a downloaded plotting chart
There are various vendors out there that will sell you a PDF chart the day of your flight that already has the relevant oceanic tracks plotted. Alternatively, some vendors will sell you a chart without the tracks for a little less money. In either case, it is up to you to plot your course, ETPs, and all other items just as you would on paper.
Photo: Completed oceanic plotting chart example, annotated with GoodReader. (Click image for full size)
This method is easy enough but there are a few things that may not be entirely intuitive. Here are a few pointers:
- You can use a plastic plotter on an iPad but the second you touch the screen with your hands, the position and scale of the map can change. Try a larger plotter and place it on the iPad in the correct position before making contact with the screen.
- Measuring distance is even harder because the scale is prone to change the second you make contact with the screen. We had our best luck with a pair of dividers with the pointy ends dulled with a file.
- Finding the exact longitude and latitude can be easier if you draw straight lines from the nearest scale, pick the intersection, then erase the lines.
Photo: iPad course measuring
Photo: Makeshift iPad dividers
This method of plotting on a PDF works but it isn't very accurate. Getting courses and distances will take a fair amount of time and can be frustrating. Placing your finger or stylus on exactly an exact latitude/longitude isn't easy. If you have access to a charting application, that is definitely easier, faster, and more accurate.
Using an interactive application
If you are using an interactive application to produce your plotting chart, you can cut and paste the route from either the application's master document or the PDF version of the master document. Press and hold any portion of the route until at least a portion of the route appears in inverse video. Then drag the start and end handles until the entire route is highlighted. Then select "Copy." You then go to the plotting application to the route entry appears, press and hold until you see a "paste" button.
If you are a subscriber to ARINCDirect your route will be automatically plotted in the "Map" function of the application and any relevant tracks will be plotted. This is a great tool for situational awareness. Unfortunately, the resolution of this chart makes it unsuitable for other plotting chores.
To cut and paste your routing into ForeFlight you will first have to export the master document PDF file into ForeFlight. From that point you select the file from the bototm Documents tab.
At this point you select and copy the route as shown above under "Using an interactive applicaiton" by pressing on a part of the route, extending the copy handles until the route is highlighted, and the select "Copy" from the popup menu.
Now select "FPL" from the top menu, "Clear" the old route if necessary, and then press and hold the Search window on top. You should be presented with the text you just copied, press to select.
The resutl should be your copied route.
Using Garmin Pilot
You can paste the entire route into the "Routing" window in Garmin Pilot, though it may not understand SIDs, STARs, and "DCT". The routing window will provide true course, magnetic course, and distances. (This display can be customized.)
You can paste the copied route into JeppFD by pulling down the Flight Plan bar, selecting "New," tapping the route window once, and then pressing and holding until the "paste" icon comes up.
How Do You Check Course and Distance?
If you are using a PDF plotting chart and a basic PDF editor, see How do you set up the plotting chart? above. If you are using one of the interactive applications I've made examples of, I've outlined the basics here.
Once you've entered the route, pressing the FPL button brings up the flight plan which includes headings and distances:
Notice that this brings up headings not the courses. If ForeFlight has or has recently had access to the Internet, it will automatically download the winds and you will not be able to display courses. To get around this, tap the "Edit" button below the legs, then look for either "ETD" or a time which indicates the ETD. Tap the ETD and you will see a calendar. If you select a date at least 7 days away, the winds are zeroed and the NavLog will then display "CRS" which is the Magnetic Course:
This works, but remember it isn't the True course, it has been corrected for magnetic variation.
True and magnetic course, as well as distance, are all available with one button press, the Flight Plan icon. You might have to rotate the screen to portrait mode and scroll down a bit, but it is quite easy. (This is my favorite tool for course and distance information.)
The plotter icon in the tool bar shown on the right brings up an electronic plotter that you can position over a waypoint, resizing as necessary. With a steady hand, you should be able to get a course withing a few degrees accuracy. The distance, however, is hard to get within 20 nm.
You can work around this by inserting a new route from one waypoint to the next. Be sure you save your flight plan first, as doing this will erase it from the display. Step by step: select the flight plan menu, save the flight plan, select "new flight" and type in the two waypoints in the route window. The distance appears on the top left of that window.
An even better solution will cost you $7.99 but is an app well worth having: FlyBy E6B. Simply select "Navigation" and then "Track and Distance" to get the following:
Note that the line that says "GC Track= 68.1° -> 76°M" appears to be saying the true course is 68.1° and the magnetic course is 76° but that isn't the case. The first number is the course leaving the first waypoint and the second is the course arriving at the second waypoint. If you leave the "Var:" entry at zero both numbers represent True courses and if you enter the magnetic variation both numbers are Magnetic courses.
How Do You Enter an ETP, PSR, or other non-route Point?
You will need to enter at least one Equal Time Point (ETP), possibly a Point of Safe Return (PSR), and you may want to enter other points onto the chart that should not appear as routing waypoints.
Press and hold a point on the route near the desired point. Select "More" on the location line and then "Save."
From the next menu give the ETP a suitable name, correct the latitude and longitude. The default format probably isn't what you want: degrees.decimal degrees. To automatically enter degrees, minutes, and decimal minutes, use the format HDDDMMS, i.e., N53259 or W036406. (Latitude degrees must be in two digits, longitude degrees must be three digits.) However you enter it, it will be converted to degrees and decimal degrees.
The resulting point is given with a flag. Note that the location appears to be inside the flag, below the point. (I've tried this many times with the same result.)
Using Garmin Pilot
Press and hold a point on the route near the desired point, select "Create User Waypoint" from the menu, enter a suitable name, press "format" and select hddd°mm.mmm' and enter the coordinates. Select "Save" and the point will be plotted:
To enter a non-routing point in JeppFD, press a point in the approximate position, enter a suitable name, and then fine-tune the latitude and longitude. Do not press "Add To Route" or "Direct To" but do press "Done."
How Do You Do a Navigation Accuracy Check?
Many FMSs provide an easier way to do a navigation accuracy check than what you would do on a paper chart or even on an iPad. For more about that: Navigation Accuracy Check. But if your FMS doesn't give you such a function, here are a few iPad methods.
A ForeFlight method
Using two fingers (using two hands makes this easier), simultaneously press the applicable VOR and the approximate aircraft position, fine tune the VOR position so it is exact, adjust the other until the radial and DME agree with your raw data, release both fingers. The resulting point should be right on the course line. This will not work, however, if you have been cleared direct off the projected course line. If you have a portable GPS linked to the iPad, you can work around this:
The blue orb is the aircraft position derived from the portable GPS unit. For more about how to use a portable GPS, see: Will a Portable GPS Unit Help?
A Garmin Pilot method
Scroll and size the chart to display the VOR and your approximate position, press and hold the VOR until the submenu appears, select the flag icon.
Give the point a name, select Rad/Dist, enter the VOR, radial, and distance, select SAVE.
The navigation accuracy point is displayed and should be on your course. If you have been cleared direct, off your filed route, this method will not work because you will not be on the displayed course line. You can use a portable GPS unit to overcome this limitation. For more about how to use a portable GPS, see: Will a Portable GPS Unit Help? Note that the only record of what the radial and distance are will be the name you chose, which is limited to eight characters. If this isn't enough to describe the point, you can display the radial and distance as follows:
Place two fingers near the VOR, adjust the first point so it is precisely over the VOR, adjust the second point so the ruler describes the desired radial and DME. This will not stay with the chart, but you can take a screen shot by pressing the iPad's HOME and POWER buttons simultaneously. You can access the screen shot in your Photos application.
A JeppFD method
Make note of your aircraft's position by recording the latitude and longitude from the FMS while simultaneously making note of the VOR radial/DME. Create a user waypoint using these coordinates. (Procedure given above in the Create an ETP, PSR, or other User Point section.) Press the electronic plotter icon in JeppFD and move the plotter so it is precisely above the VOR. The user waypoint should be on the recorded radial and DME.
How Do You Do a Post-Position Plot?
We check our progress about ten minutes after waypoint passage to make sure we are headed to the correct coordinates. Over the years we figured out that doing this about two degrees of longitude after a waypoint when going approximately east-west improves our accuracy since we eliminate half of the interpolation. But this is a necessity with paper only. More about this: Post Position Plot. The process is easier (and more accurate) on an iPad if you are using a charting application.
Post-position plots in ForeFlight are entered just as you would any other User non-routing point with a suitable name.
Using Garmin Pilot
Post-position plots in Garmin Pilot are entered just as you would any other User non-routing point with a suitable name.
Photo: Two-degree check entered manually into JeppFD
Making a post-position plot using JeppFD with the iPad is quite easy. You derive the coordinates from your FMS and then press the course line in the approximate position. Then it is just a matter of correcting the approximate latitude and longitude with exact numbers and pressing "done."
Will a Portable GPS Unit Help?
Will a portable GPS unit help? Most definitely.
A portable GPS is allowed as just another PED. Some models can be linked to multiple iPads via a Bluetooth connection. These provide the best possible post-position plots and can be invaluable backups when things go wrong. We have two, one for backup. Our favorite is the Bad Elf GPS, available for about $200. Our backup is the Dual XGPS, which costs about $150.
For the Bad Elf, as an example, Bluetooth pairing procedures are conventional. Simply turn the unit on, go to the Settings / Bluetooth menu on the iPad and pair. You may have to wait a few minutes for the unit to find the required number of satellites. Once that is done, you should see an airplane symbol on your charting applications.
Photo: Example post-position plot using JeppFD and a portable GPS unit.
Click photo for a larger image
A conventional post-position plot using paper requires you take your FMS position about ten minutes after waypoint passage, plot that on your chart by interpolating between lines of latitude and longitude. The method is prone to inaccuracy and relies on the FMS which relies on aircraft GPS. AC 91-70B, ¶D.2.9.1, attempts to mitigate this by saying the plot should be made by the "nonsteering LRNS" but if your LRNS uses blended positions from GPS-updated IRUs, this is hardly an independent source. In my opinion, using a portable GPS unit to display aircraft position on your iPad charting application is more accurate and offers an independent GPS source. Plus it is easier. All you have to do is take a screen shot and save that. In the photo above, we plotted the position and waited a minute to allow the aircraft symbol to pass the plotted marker. Notice how both the plot and aircraft symbol are two miles right of course, because we had a 2 nm SLOP.
How Do You Archive (Record Keeping)?
You can easily save six months of records on your iPad but it would be better to save them someplace more secure and redundant. As with the other questions, the solution depends on your international trip planner or the applications you've invested in.
Depending on what you have, archiving can be easy:
- ARINCDirect can archive everything for you into a "Documents" folder or, if combined with their FOS program, important documents can be saved remotely.
- Even if you are working only with PDF files, a file transfer program like DropBox is an easy way to automatically duplicate your documents the next time you sync with the Internet.
- You can also simply email anything you want saved to another person or another computer. Make sure you do a screen shot (by pressing the iPad HOME and POWER buttons simultaneously) of everything you want to make a record of. Then, after the flight, go to your Photos App, select each photo you want, and press the "Send" icon and select the email option.
Links and Downloads
If you are new here because you heard me talk on the subject at a public forum, podcast, or article, welcome. I probably mentioned I would have all the links and downloads available. Here they are.
14 CFR 1, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Definitions and Abbreviations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 91, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, General Operating and Flight Rules, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 121, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Operating Requirements: Domestic, Flag, and Supplemental Operations, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 125, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Certification and Operations: Airplanes Having a Seating Capacity of 20 or More Passengers or a Maximum Payload Capacity of 6,000 Pounds or More; and Rules Governing Persons on Board Such Aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
14 CFR 135, Title 14: Aeronautics and Space, Operating Requirements: Commuter and On Demand Operations and Rules Governing Persons on Board Such Aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation
47 CFR 22, Tile 47: Telecommunication, Federal Communications Commission
Advisory Circular 91.21-1D, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation
*Advisory Circular 91-70A, Oceanic and International Operations, 8/12/10, U.S. Department of Transportation
* This version of AC 91-70 has been superseded but it retained because it contains older guidance that helps place current guidance into perspective.
Advisory Circular 91-70B, Oceanic and International Operations, 10/4/16, U.S. Department of Transportation
Advisory Circular 120-76D, Authorization for use of Electronic Flight Bags, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation
Aeronautical Information Manual
ICAO Annex 4 - Aeronautical Charts, International Standards and Recommended Practices, Annex 4 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, July 2009
Information for Operators (InFO) 13010 Expanding Use of Passenger Portable Electronic Devices (PED), 10/31/13, U.S. Department of Transportation
Information for Operators (InFO) Supplement 13010, FAA Aid to Operators for the Expanded Use of Passenger PEDs, June 9, 2014, Department of Transportation