October 7, 2010

VFR Sectional Chart: My Love Hate Relationship

skysectionals.jpgAs a cost cutting measure I have forgone my time in the G1000 and been flying the steam gauges as of late. Several of my flights were even without the luxuries of any GPS (oh mercy me). Whether you call it cheap, old school, or more authentic flying does not matter. What matters is I have enjoyed these recent flights without all the bells and whistles and spending more time with my head out the window looking for landmarks (don't worry G1000 I will return to you soon enough).

One of the things I have rediscovered is my love-hate relationship with the VFR sectional chart. Often when flying in the G1000 enabled Cessna my sectional chart plays a supporting role which finds it left folded in my flight bag. Recently however, I have been pulling out and referencing the sectional chart on a more regular basis. I forgot how much I enjoy the sectional. Preflight, I can spend hours looking at sectionals and dreaming of all the cool places to fly, choosing routes and spots to fly over, plus I like the smell of sectionals even more than a magic marker.

On the other hand inflight, I feel like I need to have trained under an origami ninja to fold the charts into a useful shape that allows me to fly safely without being distracted by this cloud of a five foot by four foot map covering my windshield. How often have you asked your co pilot to take the plane while you wrestle with an uncooperative sectional? Happens to me too often.

I guess I was not the only pilot frustrated with sectionals, enter Eric Boles and SkySectionals. SkySectionals are downloadable, print on demand sectionals (also available for TACs & Enroute charts) broken into letter-sized panels meant to a more manageable chart solution. Eric was kind enough to share with me a sample of his product for a recent flight in Northern Wisconsin.

Here are the pros and cons of SkySectionals:
  • I liked being able to make notes on the printouts without worrying about using a pencil, erasable highlighter or destroying a sectional.
  • I was flying a short cross country so I was able to print just the panels I intended to use (packed a few extra neighboring panels to be safe)
  • It was convenient to download on demand and print prior to flight. I have at times intended to buy a sectional at the airport only to have them be out of stock.
  • I can only imagine how much ink I am burning through printing these off (Not much good in black and white)
  • The flight I was on was a short cross country but due to the location of the airports in relationship to breaks on the page required me to flip between four different panels which was unwieldy causing it to be as inefficient if not more inefficient than pulling out my chart.

All in all I think it is a creative solution and for the uber-organized it is probable a gift from above. I think for my needs I will likely stick with the standard sectional, something about the smell of them I just can't live without.

Posted by at October 7, 2010 8:50 PM

Although it prints with a little "Not for Navigation" notice on the sheet, I frequently use SkyVector (www.skyvector.com) to print customized areas of charts when I fly to supplement my official sectionals. It's free and I can determine how zoomed I need it.

Posted by: Dan at October 11, 2010 8:15 AM | Reply


I realize I'm resurrecting an old post with this comment, but bear with me for a moment. I'm providing a similar service as SkySectionals on my web site. The big difference is mine are available for free download.

You talked about the cost of ink. The research I've done on a standard HP ink jet printer shows that it costs about $4.61 to print the entire sectional from my site. If you only print the pages you need, then the cost goes down even more.

I would appreciate any feedback you have.


Posted by: Brian at September 19, 2012 10:22 PM | Reply

I just realized that the web site didn't attach to my previous comment.

The free download sectional and enroute charts on my web site are at http://www.av8orcharts.com


Posted by: Brian at September 19, 2012 10:24 PM | Reply

Somebody needs to invent black-and-white sectionals. At night under red lights, color sectionals are just about unreadable because you can't distinguish blue rivers from green dry land, nor yellow towns from green farmland. The only things you can read clearly under red light are the airports and VORs.

Posted by: John at March 1, 2014 10:13 AM | Reply

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