Get More From Your Charts

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Just as understanding the electrical, hydraulic and avionics systems in your airplane help you operate it better, it makes sense that a deeper understanding of aeronautical charts can help you use them more effectively. This review will remind you of the hidden gems that will aid you in getting more from your charts the next time you fly and every time after that. While you’ll see some similarities across all charts, we’re keeping our focus on Jeppesen because that’s where our expertise lies.

For starters, it helps to understand the difference between source and data. Source is the raw aeronautical information that’s published by nations and their respective airspace authorities. In the case of the U.S., for example, source is the information published by the FAA after a new approach or runway is built or procedure changes. Data is the final product that flight crews use (aeronautical charts) which is created from source by entities like Jeppesen, the U.S. government and other airspace authorities and/or nations around the world.

Using an approach plate as the primary (but not exclusive) reference for the points below, here are a few ideas that should help make reading chart data even more intuitive (whether you use Jeppesen charts or others):

  • Communications Section/Pilot Briefing—Make sure it reflects crew resource management (CRM) best practices and has been adapted internationally. This ensures information flows in the sequential order you’ll need for a particular phase of flight. On an approach plate, you might see, for example, the ICAO/IATA identifier, non-standard aircraft categories, communications frequencies/facility frequencies and procedure notes in that order.
  • Plan View—Typically the center graphic of the chart, the Plan View provides the bird’s-eye view of a particular phase of flight. It’s important to determine if your Plan Views are built to scale, latitude/longitude referenced and geo-referenced. This is critical when you’re flying an approach using an EFB or FMS own ship function.
  • Profile View—Often the lowest graphic on the chart, it appears as a side view of the phase of flight. In the Profile View of an approach plate, you’ll find procedure track, glideslope intercept, crossing altitude depictions and localizer track. But don’t overlook the value of the accompanying Notes and Groundspeed Data. They provide the pertinent detail and calculations that you don’t have time to be looking up or figuring during an approach.
  • Approach Minimums—Look to determine if it depicts the approach minima, one or multiple sets, to help reduce the workload of flying an approach. Your charts may also analyze runway lighting, derive TERPS “lights out” minimum visibilities for straight in approach(es), determine decision altitudes (DA) and minimum decisions altitudes (MDA) and provide all appropriate “increase by” amounts already calculated for you.
  • Takeoff and Alternate Minimums—Published on the Airport Diagram, takeoff and alternate minimums can be found beneath the additional runway information band. In addition, all standard and non-standard alternate minimums, as well as standard and lower-than-standard take off minimums, can be found for the applicable operators.
  • Manual Content—Seek out other content on your charts to minimize the number of times you have to find content in other sources. Examples include determining if complete diagrams for all IFR airports, whether the airfield has a tower or not (to scale and geo-referenced, see above), or graphical depiction of all radar approaches (PAR, ASR) might be provided right on your chart.

In time, getting acquainted with the subtleties of aeronautical charts is like anything else—it becomes second nature. Still, even the most seasoned aviators know there’s always more to learn. If you ever have any questions about your Jeppesen charts or NavData, please visit our Technical Support page or call us at (800) 732-2800.


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