What’s the best way to learn cross country flight planning?

John Ewing has recently written a lengthy post about cross country flight planning where he noted that the introduction and use of new technologies or techniques in flying will raise interesting new questions, such as the following:

Should student pilots be taught to use paper charts, plotter, pencil, and a slide rule E6B or encouraged to switch entirely to electronic charts, calculators, GPS and computer-based weather briefings?

In reply to his question, John wrote that the best way to learn the complicated process of cross country flight planning is to combine “old school” methods with “waay cool” new technologies. He then proceeds to go into considerable detail about how to do this.

However, one interesting point that John brought up was that so-called “old school” pilots and instructors are correct to claim that a student who has never drawn a course line on a paper chart will be robbed of an important lesson about Magnetic declination. On the other hand, John also noted that with the right data, a computer will probably do a much faster and more accurate job than a human would. 

John also pointed out that while old school paper chart adherents may claim that paper charts are foolproof because they will not require batteries, can be handled or folded and can be used by less tech savvy pilots, they also have serious disadvantages. After all, paper charts can get torn, lost or too marked up from previous flight planning efforts to be read. More importantly, all paper charts will eventually become obsolete as they do not update by themselves.

John’s lengthy post about cross country flight planning is well worth reading and it should be noted that this particular post is the first installment of a multi-part series of posts about the revolutionary changes occurring in VFR cross-country flight planning. In future posts, John will discuss how technology is already changing calculators, navigation log preparation tools and in-flight diversions.


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