An aeronautical chart is the road map for a pilot flying under VFR. The chart provides information that allows pilots to track their position and provides available information that enhances safety. The three aeronautical charts used by VFR pilots are:

  • Sectional
  • VFR Terminal Area
  • World Aeronautical

A free catalog listing aeronautical charts and related publications including prices and instructions for ordering is available at the Aeronautical Navigation Products website:

Sectional Charts

Sectional charts are the most common charts used by pilots today. The charts have a scale of 1:500,000 (1 inch = 6.86 nautical miles (NM) or approximately 8 statute miles (SM)), which allows for more detailed information to be included on the chart.

Aeronautical Charts
Figure 1. Sectional chart and legend
The charts provide an abundance of information, including airport data, navigational aids, airspace, and topography. Figure 1 is an excerpt from the legend of a sectional chart. By referring to the chart legend, a pilot can interpret most of the information on the chart. A pilot should also check the chart for other legend information, which includes air traffic control (ATC) frequencies and information on airspace. These charts are revised semiannually except for some areas outside the conterminous United States where they are revised annually.

VFR Terminal Area Charts

VFR terminal area charts are helpful when flying in or near Class B airspace. They have a scale of 1:250,000 (1 inch = 3.43 NM or approximately 4 SM). These charts provide a more detailed display of topographical information and are revised semiannually, except for several Alaskan and Caribbean charts. [Figure 2]

Aeronautical Charts
Figure 2. VFR Terminal Area Chart and legend

World Aeronautical Charts

World aeronautical charts are designed to provide a standard series of aeronautical charts, covering land areas of the world, at a size and scale convenient for navigation by moderate speed aircraft. They are produced at a scale of 1:1,000,000 (1 inch = 13.7 NM or approximately 16 SM). These charts are similar to sectional charts, and the symbols are the same except there is less detail due to the smaller scale. [Figure 3] These charts are revised annually except several Alaskan charts and the Mexican/Caribbean charts, which are revised every 2 years.

Aeronautical Charts
Figure 3. World aeronautical chart