Photo by Jack Fleetwood

Good flight planning begins with a mindset, and that mindset is to always fly pro­actively, and never reactively. Being surprised by something that could have been known prior to takeoff is an example of flying reactively. Fly­ing proactively is researching every aspect of your flight so that, with your hands full flying the airplane, you never have to look for informa­tion that could have been gathered before departure. Preparing for a flight is not an option, it is a regu­lation.

FAR 91.103 states, “Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight.” Adhering to the tenets of good flight planning will result in a flight that goes smoothly with few, if any, glitches. So, let’s get started on proactively planning for a typical VFR cross-country flight.

While this tutorial is about pre­flight planning a VFR flight, every­thing presented here also applies to an IFR flight. So, instrument pilots take note! Also, all flight planning in this tutorial will be done using the ForeFlight app.

Let the planning begin!

It is July 9, 2019, and we are pre­paring to fly from the Jake Arner Memorial Airport (22N) in Lehigh­ton, Pennsylvania, to the Sidney Municipal Airport (N23) in Sidney, New York. It will be a day VFR flight in a typical single-engine air­plane.

Since Jake Arner Memorial Air­port is our home base, we are al­ready familiar with operations there. But even so, some research before departure is still in order. This includes checking NOTA­Ms, the current weather, forecast weather, winds aloft, whether a TFR exists, and for AIRMETs or SIGMETs.

The result of our investigation is that everything looks good for our departure from 22N. However, we have never been to Sidney, New York, so some research is in order.

The first step is to log onto Fore­Flight and open the Airports tab. In the search bar, type in N23, and pull up the airport data. Figure 1 is what it shows. Keep in mind the date of our proposed flight is July 9, 2019.

Figure 1: Sidney Municipal Airport data.

Runways 07 and 25, the only runways at Sidney, are both closed according to the NOTAM, which means we cannot make this flight.

Had we flown reactively, and simply taken off without doing our homework, we would have been greeted by a big yellow X at the end of each runway, and the need to divert to another airport, or back to Jake Arner. It is critically impor­tant to fly proactively and do some research before slipping the surly bonds of Earth.