Classic Flight Tips

Propliner Tutorial Radio Range Navigation Aviation Charts Procedure Turns Piston Flight Altitudes   Intecepting an NDB "Radial     Crosswind Correction Table   Climb Calculation Formulas GPS Checklists    

FSAviator Propliner Tutorial (and other tutorials)

This is it! The only tutorial written that describes in complete detail how to fly the propliners like they really were flown in the pioneer, vintage, and classic era. Most information is completely applicable for flying in later years as well. It comes in text file format, and includes 8 parts:

Part 1 - Flight Simulation Basics
Part 2A - En Route Phase (simulating historic infrastructure constraints)
Part 2B – En Route Phase (Radio Ranges – navigation gauge development)
Part 2C - En Route Phase (Procedures, Mach, ETA v ATA, Winds, 4D navigation)
Part 3 - Arrival Phase (including holding procedures)
Part 4 - Approach Phase
Part 5 - Departure Phase
Part 6 - Flight Planning in detail
Part 7 - Near runway operations
Part 8 - Managing thrust in propliners

This is an exhaustive tutorial that takes you through the details of each phase of flight, and comes complete with approach plates for visual aids (Adobe Acrobat required to view/print approach plates). The complete tutorial is 1.1 MB.

I printed it, read it, and now keep it by my computer for ready reference. FSAviator and I have also created a Quick Reference guide (actually a step by step reference), to have while actually flying an airliner flight. However, you must have read and understood the entire tutorial first before the quick reference file will help you.

Radio Range Navigation

The folks at DC-3 Airways have created a great package to allow you to fly using included DC-3's using the old four course radio navigation system. Try it!

Classic Flight Instruction Sites

Charles Wood's Aerial Navigation Page also has a very nice selection of flight training pages, including the older techniques like the NDB approach.

Procedure Turns

Procedure turns are a common component of Piston-era approaches, and thus are important to learn.  The theory is very simple:  a procedure turn is used to perform a 180 degree turn about a navaid (usually an LOM - locating outer marker - an NDB used as an final approach fix to a runway).

To perform the procedure turn, you approach the navaid close to 180 degrees from the final course (this can vary), and then turn to a prescribed heading when directly over the navaid.  Fly 1-3 minutes on that heading (the time is often specified on the approach plate), and then turn to 45 degrees left or right of that heading (also often specified; if not, turn in the direction that doesn't have obstacles in the path of your turn).  Fly this heading for 1 minute (for fast planes, 1 minute 15 seconds might be better).  Now turn 180 degrees back towards your original heading (i.e. if you turned left initially, now turn right).  Perform a standard rate turn (determined by your turn coordinator; if it doesn't work properly an estimate is the second mark on the artificial horizon) until you make the 180, and then wait to intercept the proper course to the NDB (see below).  This will be exactly 180 degrees from your original heading leaving the navaid.  If not, adjust course so you are heading towards the navaid at the correct heading.

Often, you will be descending while you are performing this turn; a typical approach would put you over the airport at ~3000 ft AGL heading in the opposite direction from your final approach heading.  You would then cross the LOM, begin descending, perform your procedure turn, and cross the LOM on your final approach course at ~1500 ft AGL.  An interesting maneuver - good luck!!

Classic Flight Altitudes

You should cruise at the proper altitude, based on your heading.  This will minimize collisions with the limited radar coverage of the 50's and early 60's.
Magnetic Heading   Altitude
0-179 degrees IFR - Odd thousands of feet
VFR - Odd thousands of feet plus 500 ft.
180-359 degrees IFR - Even thousands of feet.
VFR - Even thousands plus 500 ft


Calculating the Intercept Point for an NDB "Radial"

Since NDB's do not have an OBI setting to allow you to intercept a specific radial, you need to calculate it.  This is easy if the ADF has a rotating compass card; just wait until the needle is pointing towards the desired heading and then turn to that heading.  

However, if it has a fixed card, it is a little more tricky.  For example, you are flying on a heading of 275, ready to turn to a course of 300 and a landing on Runway 30R.  The Harris LOM (344)(locating outer marker; an NDB used as an outer marker) is located along that course, and you will use it to align yourself to the runway, since if you cross over the LOM at heading 300, you will be aligned with the runway.  You must stay on your current heading until you intercept this "radial" (300 course towards the LOM and runway), but you have no OBI to tell you you've arrived at that point.  How do you know when to turn?  

First tune to 344 on the ADF, and your needle will swing away from the N position, indicating you are not heading directly towards the NDB.  Look at the needle's deviation from North; this is your angle from the NDB.  Theoretically, when you reach the "radial intercept" point, the NDB will be at an angle of 25 degrees right from you, since your heading is 275 and the radial is 300.  Thus, when the ADF is pointing to 25 degrees right, make your turn to 300 and you should be quite close.  Fine tune your course such that you are pointing directly at the NDB at heading 300.

So when you want to calculate an NDB radial intercept point, simply subtract the desired radial heading from your current heading.  This will indicate what the ADF should read when you reach the intercept point (positive values mean the ADF should be pointing right, negative left).

Crosswind Correction Table

Wind Correction Angles and Ground Speed Corrections per 10 knots of Wind
Wind Angle dGS 100 kts 180 kts 300 kts 500 kts
0 deg -10 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
30 deg  -9 3.0 1.5 1.0 0.5
60 deg  -6 5.0 2.5 1.5 1.0
90 deg  -1 6.0 3.0 1.5 1.0
120 deg +4 5.0 2.5 1.5 1.0
150 deg +8 3.0 1.5 1.0 0.5
180 deg +10 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

Calculate angle between wind and aircraft (Wind Angle).  Select the closest airspeed, and read the correction angle from the table.  Multiply that by the windspeed/10.  To estimate Ground Speed, refer to the dGS line and add/subract that value from your true airspeed (TAS).  Example:  wind 22 kts from 230 deg., plane 200 kts at 270 deg.  Use the 30 deg/180 kts value (1.5) times 2 (2 X 10 kts).  Thus, you need to correct by 3 deg. to the left.   Ground speed is 182 kts (200 kts - 9 kts X 2).

Rule of thumb for TAS:  TAS = [IAS x 2%] x [ALT/1,000 ft] + IAS .   Example:  If IAS = 200 kts and ALT = 20,000 ft, TAS is 280 kts:  (200 x2%) x (20,000/1000) + 200 =  (4 x 20) + 200 = 280.

Calculating Climb/Descent Formulas

When do I need to start my descent to a 1700 ft AGL pattern altitude at my destination airport?

 time = [Current ALT - Final ALT] / Descent Rate
distance = [Current ALT - Final ALT] / Descent Rate x Ground Speed / 60

Airport Elevation = 1250 ft MSL, current Altitude is 14,000 ft MSL, descent ground speed is 240 kts
14,000 - 1700 - 1250 = 11,050 ft to descend
At a descent rate of 800 fpm, it will take 11050/800 = 13.8 minutes (use this value for planned flights; do not continue)
At 240 KTAS (correct for winds), you need to begin your descent  55.2 NM away (240 kts x 13.8/60)
(allow 10-15 extra miles to allow for entry into the pattern).
Calculate Top of Climbs the same way, but use Final ALT - Current ALT.

Altitude Check on Descent (Rule of Thumb):
Desired Altitude = Glideslope Angle x 100 x Distance.  Example:  3.3% GS Angle, 5 NM away - you should be at 1650 ft MSL (3.3 x 100 x 5).

GPS Checklists

While you should not be using the GPS in the usual manner when flying back in the 1960's, it can be used in modern times or when simulating receiving information from your navigator (see FSAviator's Propliner Tutorial above).

Noel Sivertson has created these handy GPS checklists to help out with the somewhat confusing procedures you have to follow to get the best out of them. These are in 4" by 6" page format, for quick and easy reference. The Garmin 295 is the smaller portable unit found in many GA aircraft, while the Garmin 500 is the larger unit found in bigger aircraft.

Garmin 295 GPS Checklist                             Garmin 500 GPS Checklist

Back to the California Classics