How do I read charts like these?

I don't know how to read it, or where to get started on IFR departures and approaches. I can talk to ATC and fly VFR, but I am still unable to fly IFR and would really like to start.

What else do I need to know to start on IFR?

What are fixes, airways, and routes? How do I plan a route myself?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome Justin, have you tried an IFR tutorial? Or studied documents about SIDs from the same source. For extreme aviation enthusiasts, there are books like this one which make the bridge between game and real world. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 5:46

1 Answer 1


So there's a lot going on in your question to address. First, and most importantly, the info you linked is for ATC, not pilots. you won't get any usable info of how to fly IFR in this airspace. You won't need to know any of this to fly IFR. You won't need any of this to fly VFR either, for what it's worth.

When you fly IFR you file a flight plan that includes your route, destination, and nav points, which are those funny named things like WAVEY in the chart you linked. This is done before you even step in to the plane. Generally a day ahead or early in the morning of your flight, but you can file it right before. a lot of pilots (this is for non-commercial) will take off VFR and then "pick up" their filed flight plan after they are en route. this means you don't have to wait for an IFR release on departure. You just take off, fly in the general direction you are headed, and then ATC will direct you via nav points the rest of the way (or if you're lucky tell you to proceed "as filed", which means no changes to your original plan). For commercial they don't usually have to wait for the release because they are scheduled flights. Thats kind of a different world. I bring up how it happens for non-commercial because you will do a LOT of that kind of flying before you have to be worried about how United and Delta get off the ground.

an IFR approach plate for pilots is still confusing, but there isn't nearly as much going on as what you have linked. Approaches are very very specific for the runway, type of approach (look up types of instrument approaches), and a number of other factors. specific to the point of each has a special thing you do if you can't land for any reason and have to "go missed". This is a huge portion of the IFR training, and nobody can really be self taught this or know how to do it right away. IFR is the hardest rating for a reason.

Don't get too cocky about being able to talk to ATC while VFR. Thousands of experienced pilots a year go through comms training because it's hard. In vatsim is one thing, but the real world of radio is one of the most stressful and elusive parts of the flight. get something wrong and you can lose your license or your life.

If you want to get started with reading charts go to sportys.com and buy their VFR sectional training chart. It's 3 dollars and gets you a manageable section of a navigational chart to learn how to plan and plot and read an aeronautical chart. Theres a lot going on there, you have true longitude and magnetic longitude lines, VORs, airport info, waypoints, obstructions, ground levels, airspace, MOAs. Don't think of VFR as "the easy flying".


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