Thank you for signing up for the GMA class on Flight Planning. Remember that classes are listed in GMT. This timezone is 4 or 5 hours from the East Coast of the United States. You subtract 4 or 5 hours from the time listed on the web site to get the time in the Eastern time zone that the class is run. Subtract even more for other time zones like Central, Mountain or Pacific.

To do a decent flight on VATSIM without getting yelled at or even "flagged for training" you need to supply a proper flight plan and follow it. This class will go through the planning and execution of a flight from KBTV to KBOS.

To start out you need a way to get flight plans. The website has flight plans for more popular airport combinations but you may not find any for our J41 flights. There are several flight planners out there.


Abacus Publishing has a program ($29) called Co-Pilot that will make flight plans for it's own GPS program and prints out real nice airport diagrams and approach plates based on the FS Scenery on your computer.

FS Navigator 4.5 ($35 at seems to have the most features including it's own GPS with plenty of inflight features. I think it even makes plans compatible with SquawkBox and FS200x's Autopilot.

FSBUILD at is a freeware package that saves flight plans to about any kind of format you can find. Now for the evals:

FS200x Flight Planner - Comes with FS! Can't save in SB format. Doesn't follow SIDS or STARS but will follow airways. Can't print plates.

Co-Pilot - $29 - Can't save in FS200x or SB format. Doesn't follow Jetways, SIDS or STARS. Great printing options.

FSNAV - $35 - Has everything but may take more memory than others when flying. Can even change flight plan in middle of flight and will even plot holding patterns.

FSBUILD - Free - Doesn't print plates, I find it only selects the proper STAR/SID on the first flight plotted for session. I find I have to stop and restart the program to get acceptable flight plans. Database is a little off in places (STAR into KDSF takes you to London England first, VOLLS5 Arrival to BNA is messed up) but that can be corrected with a text editor. 

FSBUILD 2.x - $40+ based on exchange rate - Still doesn't print plates but the first flight only problem has been fixed.  Can now save flight in PDF format with your VA's logo.  With proper setup can correctly calculate time and fuel usage.  Like FSNAV can have a rolling map option to see your status but I find FS200x's GPS works better for my purposes.

Other Sources

Plates and STARs can be found on the internet. has airport information. Most ARTCC sites ( has a list of ARTCCs) have pointers to echoflight website for their plates and STARs.

Now What?

Once you have a plan set up you need to load it into SB (SquawkBox). Hopefully you have saved the flight plan in your squawkbox directory/folder. Right click, FMS Functions - Load FMS Flight plan will bring up the file dialogue showing your SB directory. Once you load the file the "File Flight Plan" dialoge will show up where you can finish that by selecting your aicraft, keying in remarks (Green Mountain New Pilot) and filling in fuel information if you feel necessary.

Fuel information you say? Yes you have to think about your fuel, that is a part of your planning a flight. How often do you get in your car and assume you have a full tank of gas every time you leave the parking lot? An airline doesn't want to pay for the extra gas to fly all that extra fuel around the place. A 747 with full tanks can't get to cruising altitude in one climb. It has to fly at lower altitudes for a while until it can burn off some of that heavy fuel. I have noticed similar sluggishness trying to get a 737 or A320 all the way up to FL390 with a full tank of gas. If you can log how much fuel you use for each flight you should be able to start judging how much fuel you need for a flight. The FAA requires pilots to plan for a minimum of 1/2 hour of extra fuel on board. I think there is a requirement to take into account holding at the destination adding more fuel needs.

Now that you have loaded your flight plan into Squawkbox when you bring up the TCAS and FMS your waypoints will be displayed. Now you need to know how to use the rest of SB to execute that flight plan. I have a tutorial here that goes over all this but here is a condensed version of what the different buttons do.

E - brings up the TCAS that shows nearby traffic and your route. left or right click to zoom in or out. Click on the letters to turn on/off different options.

F - Brings up the FMS

in the FMS there are more buttons

WAY - shows the waypoints in your flight plan. You can add and delete waypoints using this screen. The line at the "current waypoint" is the one that is deleted when you click the "delete waypoint" arrow. Any "Insert Waypoint" is done directly after the current one.

DIR TO - allows you to input a waypoint and find out how close it is, what direction and if it is a VOR what it's frequency is. If you click the "dir to disp" button it will show the last one you had displayed.

When you need to input a waypoint for DIR TO or WAY you will have to hit to buttons to enter the Letters then select what type it is like VOR, NDB, INTX (intersection), APT (Airport).

NAV - shows the direction and distance to the next 3 waypoints. The distance is as if you were to follow the waypoints in order. If you pass the 1st or 2nd waypoint the distance to them would be as if you flew back to the 1st and on. You have to go to the WAY screen to delete a waypoint once you pass it.

PRV, NXT - scroll the waypoint list up and down.

ACARS - Show the METAR (Weather report) for an airport. Origination and destination are preset by your flight plan or you can input another airport. Wind is shown as something like 30010kt (300 degrees at 10 knots). Visibility is usually like 10sm or 10 statute miles. Cloud heights and type are mentioned up to the first overcast layer. SCT030 BKN050 OVC100 means scattered clouds at 3,000, Broken clouds at 5,000 and overcast at 10,000ft. If visibility is at 10sm but only clouds are OVC005 that means once you get below 500ft you can see 10 miles but it is probably white out above 500ft.

Using these buttons you can find out plenty about your surroundings and follow ATC directions. If there is no ATC you can find out the weather of your destination so you know what runway to land on. If ATC tells you to proceed direct to ORL you can use the DIR TO to find out which way or you can add it to your flight plan using the WAY screen. Note, changes to this flight plan do NOT appear to the ATC. You have to "ATC - Submit Flight Plan" and make the changes on that screen for it to show on the ATC's screen. If you load the flight plan before connecting you will have to "resend flight plan" for it to appear to the ATC. It is also a good idea to "squawk standby" before you connect but don't forget to undo it just before you take off.

Tim Laswell - GMA653