Similar to driving directions, is there a service from where we can get flying directions? Let's suppose an airplane does not have a GPS and it has to rely on VORs for navigation.

I know about SkyVector. But if I create a flight plan there, it is a straight line. They also specify that this is not for navigation.

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    $\begingroup$ Many GA airplanes rely on the pilot's eyes combined with dead reckoning for navigation and are perfectly capable of flying direct :) $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Jun 27, 2014 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ I don't really know what to say. Basic navigation with VORs and paper charts is taught to every student prior to the student taking the written and practical tests. I guess this didn't stick in your case.... $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2014 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ @SkipMiller Perhaps the individual asking the question is not yet a pilot (student or otherwise) or is asking a question that would be perfectly reasonable for a curious non-flying individual. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Jun 27, 2014 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ Terry, you are right. Perhaps the best answer for an individual who has aspirations of becoming a pilot is to find a CFI or CFI-G and take a lesson or two. $\endgroup$ Jun 29, 2014 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to note that I am one of those who hang around because I am interested in aviation, for education and entertainment, without a chance to become a pilot, ever. And hope it is not frowned upon :-) $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2014 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


The traditional (i.e., "old") method is to spread out aviation charts on a large table, and use a plotter to hand-craft a flight plan on paper. Victor airways (the VOR airway network) are depicted both on VFR sectionals and on IFR low & high altitude enroute charts. The pilot/navigator will mark his or her origin and destination, and eyeball the available airways to come up with a suitable route, much like a driver would use a national atlas to find what interstates/highways to take for a long road trip. These maps depict all the information needed about distances, courses, minimum altitudes and airspace classifications.

Planning by hand may also involve the use of the Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD), which has information about airports, and the Terminal Procedures Publication which shows what instrument approaches are available at each airport and any necessary IFR departure procedures, takeoff weather minimums, etc.

Nowadays, people will more often use computer planning tools like AOPA Flight Planner, fltplan.com, etc. There are a large number of sites and software programs for this, some free, some requiring paid subscription / purchase. Most recently, mobile apps for smartphones and tablets have emerged with the same capabilities.

The best such sites/software will also provide the necessary information about terrain, takeoff minimums, departure procedures and so on, and even give you current NOTAMs, weather forecasts, etc. Many also have aircraft performance databases (or allow you to create one yourself for your airplane) and can do performance calculations for you. Some will even find the cheapest places along your route to purchase fuel, and also give you information about local transportation and accomodations.

Note, though, that neither the FAA nor any other civil aviation authority authorizes the pilot to rely on software resources. The pilot is still always responsible for verifying that he or she has complete, accurate information from official sources. In other words, if you're using software to plan your flight, and you violate restricted airspace that your flight planning software didn't warn you about, you'll be held responsible for not verifying the information and catching the error. So be careful what you use and rely on!

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    $\begingroup$ The tools you link to seem to be US/Americas only. If anyone could expand the answer to include links to European or world-wide tools, it would be very useful. $\endgroup$ Jun 28, 2014 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @VidarS.Ramdal Unfortunately outside the US access to aviation data is "extremely variable" (which is a polite way of saying you're probably not going to find the equivalent level of access without forking over some money). If you can turn up something similar we'd all definitely be interested though :) $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Jul 1, 2014 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I suspected that. Thanks, at least I know there's not much point in searching around for it. $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2014 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ A word of caution about the electronic tools: they are great and make things INCREDIBLY easy, but it's still important to have a good grasp on how to do it "the old way". I was teaching when GPS started coming online for civilian use, so the students loved to "Ooh" and "Ahh". We had one airplane that had a GPS in the panel, and one of my students wanted to use it for a cross country. He planned and plotted the flight, programmed it in, began flying the path, and I turned the GPS off. He asked "Why?" so I said "GPS failure". He scrambled with the "old way" charts to figure out our path. $\endgroup$
    – Shawn
    Jun 2, 2017 at 16:50

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