VFR Introduction

FSA Learning Flight 1

Fun Fact

Located just two miles from Yellowstone National Park, KWYS is home to the West Yellowstone Interagency Fire Center, one of nine permanent smokejumper bases located throughout the western United States. During the summer, the base is home to 21 smokejumpers.

Source: USDA Forest Service
Screenshot by Elias S.

Flight Summary

In this first FSA Learning Flight, you’ll fly a few laps of the VFR closed traffic pattern at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (KBZN). Then, you'll learn about enroute VFR operations as you fly to Yellowstone Airport (KWYS), an untowered field, and ultimately land 132 NM away at Jackson Hole Airport (KJAC). This first flight discusses VFR operations while the remaining flights in the program are designed to be flown under IFR.

Concepts Discussed in this Flight:
  • Simulator Settings
  • VFR Flight Planning and Navigation
  • The VFR Closed Traffic Pattern
  • VFR Departures and Arrivals
  • Enroute VFR Navigation

Airports Visited in this Flight


Each of the Learning Flights is structured with a set of high-level objectives that introduce the concepts needed to successfully complete the flight. Throughout each flight, you’ll find the following resources:

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)
Ground School Seminar
Free flight simulator briefing sessions from real flight instructors that cover relevant topics. Produced by Boston Virtual ARTCC, these videos were designed in the context of flying online. However, the concepts are applicable to simmers flying without live air traffic control.
FSA Resource
References to related resources available on the FSA website.
Pilot Tip
Suggestions or recommendations describing common simulator or real-world practices that go beyond the minimum requirements.

These Learning Flights are designed to be living resources that are updated frequently in response to airspace and procedural changes, approach availability, and feedback. As you complete the flights, please don’t be shy! If you find typos, unclear or inaccurate information, broken links, out-of-date procedures, or you just want to share some ideas (like a great video you found online to explain a certain concept), please Contact Us. We're also interested in great freeware or payware scenery you come across.

We hope you enjoy the program, the learning, and the tour of an incredibly scenic area!

Objective 1

Load Your Aircraft and Set the Weather

To begin, select an aircraft you are familiar with. Because we’re planning for some VFR flying in one of the most scenic areas in the United States, you might opt for a General Aviation aircraft allowing you to fly slower and see the sights. However, make sure you pick something that’s got decent power to it: we’re going to be operating at airports above 6,000 ft. MSL and you’ll be flying in a region with terrain peaks above 11,000 ft.!

When you’re setting up the aircraft, be sure to set your callsign so that automated (or human-provided) ATC identifies you correctly. The way you choose your callsign is determined by the type of flight you plan to perform. Airliners, cargo flights, and private jet operators tend to use their flight numbers while private and general aviation flights use the registration of the aircraft.

Airline callsigns generally follow the same format around the world. However, aircraft registrations change by country. For example, in the United States, aircraft registrations begin with the letter "N" and are followed by:

  • Anywhere from one to five numbers (e.g., N24896, N5333, N243, N12, N2).
  • Anywhere from one to four numbers, followed by a letter (e.g., N2385P, N829P, N12A, N2A).
  • Anywhere from one to three numbers followed by two letters (e.g., N107KR, N70AF, N2AG).

Note that the letters "I" (India) and "O" (Oscar) are not used in these tail numbers to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 (one) and 0 (zero), and the numeric portion of these callsigns cannot begin with zero (for example, N032BC is incorrect).

Some examples of appropriate callsigns, by the type of operation, are provided below. Mouse over each image to see more.

General Aviation (USA)







General Aviation (International)

GA International 1


GA International 2


GA International 3


Passenger Airlines

Airline 1


"American 1253"
Airline 2


"Delta 15"
Airline 3


"JetBlue 410"

Corporate/Business Aviation

Corporate 1


"DotCom 120"
Corporate 2


"ExecJet 684"
Corporate 3


In your simulator, be sure to set your callsign so that automated ATC identifies you correctly.

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Given this is a VFR flight, you’ll want to pick a good-weather day or configure your simulator to good weather for VFR flying. Additionally, you’ll want to do the flight with daylight since you’ll be looking outside to help with navigation.

Pilot Tip
Many pilots use ActiveSky, a payware weather add-on that improves the depiction and fidelity of simulator weather. ActiveSky is available for Prepar3D and X-Plane.

A free alternative called FSrealWX lite is available from www.fsrealwx.de.

VFR stands for Visual Flight Rules, meaning that pilots must navigate visually when operating under those conditions. Visual navigation requires certain atmospheric visibility and the ability to maintain clearance from clouds. While the specific VFR minima vary by country and airspace type, the atmospheric visibility must generally be greater than 3 NM and pilots must be able to remain 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above, and 2,000 feet laterally from clouds.

A full list of United States VFR weather minima is listed in FAA publications. Note that within certain types of airspace, special VFR clearance may be obtained, which allows pilots to operate VFR even when the weather is below VFR minima.

Ground School Seminar: Weather
For more information on weather and how it applies to flight simmers, check out Boston Virtual ARTCC’s 1-hour Weather Ground School briefing, presented by real-world flight instructors.

Finally, choose a good starting point for your flight. At airports with commercial airline service, the terminal building is often a highly secured place. You dump out liquids and take off your shoes each time you enter the “secured” area of the airport to fly commercially. A pilot being able to taxi their Cessna 172 into this highly secured area would somewhat defeat the purpose of the TSA! Instead, General Aviation aircraft—including corporate jets or even airliners if they’re flying sports teams or firefighters—park at other places on the airport.

General Aviation aircraft based on the airport typically have hangars or tie-down locations for parking. Transient aircraft that might be stopping for lunch or overnight will usually park at a Fixed-Base Operator, or FBO. Think of an FBO like a "terminal" for private and charter flights. In most flight simulators, you can select a parking location like “GA PARKING” to avoid spawning at the terminal. If you do spawn at the terminal, re-locate your aircraft to a more appropriate location before you get started. We’ll talk more about using Airport Diagrams and other charts to locate proper parking spots later in this flight.

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Objective 2

Plan Your Route

Before beginning any flight, it is important to conduct a thorough flight planning process, which includes gathering the appropriate charts, reviewing airport information, and checking the weather. We won't talk too much more about weather in this flight, since you'll be conducting it in VFR conditions.

After flying two laps in the pattern at KBZN, the plan is to fly to KWYS and then on to KJAC.

We’ll begin the flight planning process by looking at some considerations specific to the airports. When you look at an airport you plan to fly into or out of, you’ll want to:

  • Access the appropriate charts.
  • Review notes applicable to the airport, including Airport Remarks.
  • Determine where to park at the airport.

Click each of the tabs to the left to explore these three subjects in more detail.

Learn More About Charts
For more information on how to obtain charts for flight simulation, visit our Charts Guide.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) publishes aeronautical charts for free. Our Learning Flights will reference FAA charts. However, you are also welcome to use payware charts such as those provided by Jeppesen, which are accessible from Navigraph or real-world sources like ForeFlight.

FAA charts are available from a variety of resources. This Learning Flight series will make use of one of the most popular sources, called AirNav. To access charts:

  1. Visit www.airnav.com
  2. In the top left of the page, click "Airports"
  3. Type the ICAO code of the airport of interest in the text box, and then click "Get Airport Information"

Start by gathering airport information for KBZN. Using the instructions above, you should reach the following URL: https://www.airnav.com/airport/KBZN. In addition to listing airport charts (near the bottom of the page), AirNav also provides a great overview of the airport, including airport elevation, runway details, airport notes, and more.

Another resource we'll rely on in this series is SkyVector. This free website allows you to access FAA VFR and IFR enroute charts with ease. Visit the website and type "KBZN" into the text box at the top left of the page. Then, click the "World VFR" tab in the top right, and you’ll be looking at the VFR chart for the Bozeman area (referred to as a "sectional chart" in the United States).

Spend some time reviewing the information provided on AirNav’s website, which includes details regarding airport operations, runway information, and special remarks. The airport diagram is linked halfway down the page on the right side, and all instrument approach procedures are listed towards the bottom of the page.

Pilot Tip
The official source for the notes on AirNav’s website is the FAA's Chart Supplement. If you search "KBZN", you’ll find a link to the "Airport Listing" that includes same information shown on the AirNav page.

There are two notes of particular interest. First, note the pattern altitude under the "Airport Operations" section.

Next, read the "Additional Remarks" section, which includes the following statement:


We’ll use both pieces of information later in the flight.

Finding an FBO isn’t always as easy as it seems! The easiest way to locate an FBO on the airport is to use another resource on AirNav. About halfway down the page, on the right side, you’ll see a small Airport Diagram that shows the location of the FBO. At KBZN, three FBOs are shown. In real life, you might call each to compare handling fees and services. For flight simulation purposes, it’s just helpful to know that this area is considered the "general aviation parking" location.

Clicking the "Download PDF" link allows you to access the official FAA Airport Diagram for KBZN. Notice that the FBO location isn’t mentioned. However, you can see that both the “Jet Aviation” and “Yellowstone Jet Center” FBOs are located in the area marked on the Airport Diagram as “G.A. APRON”. That’s a good place to start.

Take a moment to locate the AirNav page for KWYS and KJAC, review notes, and download the Airport Diagrams. Amongst other things, you’ll notice an important safety note about runway incursions at KJAC and that KWYS is closed from October 31 through May 7. More on those notes later.

Now that you have an idea of the airports you'll be visiting, let’s start planning the route of flight. After two laps in the pattern at KBZN, we’ll use a technique called "pilotage" to get to KWYS. Pilotage involves using visual references on the ground to navigate from one place to another; in other words, we’ll use a series of landmarks to get us to KWYS. Of course, if you have a GPS on board, that’s a great situational awareness tool to have too.

After takeoff, we’ll climb until we can see the town of Bozeman. From there, we’ll turn south until we see US Route 191, shown as a gray line on the sectional. Follow that, and the Gallatin River, as it curves through the mountains. You’ll see KWYS just after passing Hebgen Lake.

To help with navigation, we can plot this route on SkyVector. First, click the "Flight Plan" link at the top left, then enter the three airports we plan to fly to. You’ll get magenta lines connecting the three airports, which you can click and drag to plot a route:

The end result should look like this:

For now, leave the route segment between KWYS and KJAC as a straight line. We’re going to use "dead reckoning" to navigate that segment and discuss that later in this flight.

The last decision to make before flying is choosing a cruising altitude. When flying VFR above 3,000 ft. AGL, your cruising altitude must be at altitudes on the thousands, plus 500 feet.

  • For VFR flights eastbound (0° to 179° magnetic track), fly at an odd altitude plus 500 feet (i.e. 7,500 ft. MSL; 11,500 ft. MSL).
  • For VFR flights westbound (180° to 359° magnetic track), fly at an even altitude plus 500 feet (i.e. 8,500 ft. MSL; 12,500 ft. MSL).

You might have noticed when plotting the "direct" routing between KBZN and KWYS that the track between the airports is 167°. Thus, we need an odd altitude, plus 500 feet. We could choose to either fly above the mountains at 13,500 ft. MSL or fly in the river valley at a much lower altitude. Pick an altitude that suites your preference.

Pilot Tip
The higher you fly, the thinner the air gets. This affects the aircraft and you (if your airplane isn’t pressurized). In real life, there are also rules about what altitudes you can climb to before you need to have oxygen available. In general, any time you’re flying above 5,000 ft. MSL in an unpressurized aircraft, the FAA recommends having supplemental oxygen. Since the elevation at KWYS is more than 6,500 ft. MSL, using a pressurized aircraft or having oxygen available might be a good idea for this flight. Some simulators or add-ons actually simulate the effects of hypoxia so be ready for it, especially if you choose to cruise above 10,000 ft. MSL!

Objective 3

Taxi to the Active Runway

Before we worry about navigating in the air, we need to make it to the runway! First, determine which runway you’ll use for departure. In general, you want to select a runway that is facing into the wind and that is long enough for what you need. Runways are numbered based on their magnetic heading (i.e., Runway 12 is roughly on magnetic heading 120, Runway 3 is roughly magnetic heading 030). The wind is reported based on the direction it’s coming from. Thus, pick the runway number closest to the wind.

For example, if the wind at KBZN is reported as 030 at 5 knots, then Runway 3 (heading 030) is going to be the most into-wind runway. That said, it’s also important to consider obstacles, noise abatement rules, and the direction of flight. For example, the AirNav page for KBZN notes:


So, although Runway 3 might be the most into-wind runway in the example given, Runway 12 would be preferred for noise abatement reasons.

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Once you know what runway you'll be using, getting there is as easy as cross-referencing the Airport Diagram with taxiway signage:

Add-ons like Navigraph exist that will connect your simulator to a tablet, allowing you to see your aircraft's position overlayed on a chart application running on your tablet. See Connecting Your Tablet for more information.

If you’re parked at the "G.A. APRON" and are planning to use Runway 12 for departure, you’ll need go taxi northbound on "A" and turn right onto "A5":

Pilot Tip
Airport scenery files in your simulator determine how the runways and taxiways are depicted. If the real-world airport has changed since your simulator was released, the taxiways you see may differ from the chart. Fortunately, there are plenty of free and payware scenery products available for most simulators that provide updated airport layouts. If you are using one of the recommended scenery products for these flights, you shouldn’t need to worry about out-of-date airports. Read our Airport Scenery Guide for more information.
Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Objective 4

Complete 2 VFR Closed Traffic Patterns at Bozeman

The traffic pattern is the standard method by which VFR aircraft depart and arrive at an airport. As shown in the diagram below, the pattern is rectangular in shape and is flown so that the airport is always within sight. Normally, this means you won’t get further than about 2 miles from the airport at any time. The maximum altitude reached during the pattern, called the "pattern altitude", is 1,000 ft. AGL for light aircraft, unless otherwise published. Twin engine aircraft, turboprops, and small jets may fly the pattern at altitudes up to 1,500 ft. AGL.

The traffic pattern is normally flown using "left traffic", demonstrated in the diagram, meaning that all turns are made to the left. However, in some instances, "right traffic" may be assigned or prescribed due to specific runway configurations, terrain, or other factors. Unless air traffic control or an airport-specific procedure specifies otherwise, the traffic pattern should always be flown using left traffic.

Looking Around
Being able to turn your head and look out the left or right window makes traffic pattern flying much easier. Head tracking software like TrackIR or Virtual Reality goggles have an incredible impact on your flying experience. View our Head Tracking and Virtual Reality Guide for details.

You may have noticed during your review of the airport details that the Traffic Pattern Altitude (TPA) is non-standard at KBZN. Instead of the usual 1,000 ft. AGL, the published altitude is:


The airport elevation is 4,473 ft. MSL (also found on AirNav). Normally, for single-engine aircraft, the pattern would be flown at 1,000 ft. AGL, or around 5,500 ft. MSL (4,473 ft. + 1,000 ft.). However, based on the note, 829 ft. AGL should be used, so your pattern should be flown at about 5,300 ft. MSL (4,473 ft. + 829 ft.). For multi-engine or turbojet aircraft, the pattern should be flown at 5,800 ft. MSL.

Pilot Tip
This airport is situated at 4,500’; that will have a big impact on aircraft performance. You’ll likely use more runway than usual and, if you’re in a piston aircraft, will likely need a leaner mixture than you would use for a departure from a sea level airport.
Pilot Tip
The distance of the downwind leg from the airport depends on your aircraft type. For most single-engine propeller aircraft, a typical downwind is 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the runway. You want to be close enough to the runway that, should you experience an engine failure, you could safely glide to and land at the airport.

Once you’re ready to go, you’ll takeoff and fly two laps of the pattern at KBZN. When airborne, climb straight out on the extended runway centerline to approximately 500 ft. AGL. Then, begin a 90 degree left turn onto the crosswind leg. Start the second 90 degree turn onto the downwind leg just prior to reaching pattern altitude.

On the downwind leg, you should be level at pattern altitude and flying parallel to the runway at a distance no greater than 3 NM from the airport. Once you're abeam the runway threshold, reduce power and begin descending, using flaps as appropriate. Make the third 90 degree turn to the base leg when the runway threshold is at a 45 degree angle behind you. On the base leg, continue reducing to your final approach speed. At the appropriate time, make the last 90 degree turn onto final and line up with the runway. For a small, general aviation aircraft, the final approach segment is normally no longer than 2 NM.

Conduct a full stop landing, touch-and-go, or stop-and-go, do one more lap in the pattern, and then—after your second landing—you’ll start winging your way toward Yellowstone!

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Objective 5

Depart Bozeman and Fly to Yellowstone

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Since you’ve already done the flight planning legwork, navigating to Yellowstone should be as simple as following the route you plotted on SkyVector. The most challenging part is getting oriented immediately following the departure. You can never really know which runway will be active and what other traffic or ATC instructions may do to your planned initial climb. That’s why the first point to find is the town of Bozeman, which should be easily visible to the south of the airport. Use your heading indicator and your situational awareness from the departure to find it. Then, navigate south until you see US-191 and follow it to the southwest while climbing to your planned cruising altitude.

Depending how high you decide to cruise, you’ll want to start descending a little south of the Montana-Wyoming border. You should aim to be at, or close to, the TPA for KWYS when you reach the northern shore of Hebgen Lake.

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Objective 6

Arrive and Depart Yellowstone

Unlike Bozeman, Yellowstone is an untowered airport. That means that, whether or not you are flying with ATC, you are "on your own" to enter the pattern. Like with KBZN, have a look through the airport notes, either on AirNav, in the Chart Supplement, or anywhere else you access airport information. You’ll notice the airport is actually closed October 31 through May 7 because there is no snow removal. Fortunately, this doesn’t affect us in the flight simulation world. (If you want to add the extra bit of realism, if you’re flying between October 31 to May 7, fly a low approach but don’t actually land at KWYS.)

Although KWYS doesn’t have a tower, there are still procedures pilots follow to ensure orderly traffic flow at the airport. If you’re interested in learning more about operations at airports without control towers in the United States, Boston Virtual ARTCC has provided a briefing for Untowered Airports. Or, if you prefer to hear it from an instructor, you can listen to BVA’s recorded seminar on VFR Procedures, which covers both towered and untowered airport operations.

Ground School Seminar: VFR Procedures
To hear a briefing from a CFI about VFR departures and arrivals at towered and untowered airports, watch Boston Virtual ARTCC’s VFR Procedures Ground School briefing.

There is one runway at KWYS, numbered 1-19. Landing to the north (on approximately heading 010) would mean you’re landing on Runway 1. To the south (heading 190) would be Runway 19. Determine which side you want to approach from. This will primarily be based on the wind, although traffic, terrain, and other factors might change this decision.

You can obtain the wind for KWYS in several ways:

  • You can listen to the automated weather information on frequency 118.10.
  • You can fly over or close to the airport, at a safe altitude, and observe the wind socks (one on the east side of Runway 19, and another around midfield on the west side).
  • You can call the real-world weather system at 406-646-7727.
  • You can get real-world METARs (weather reports) and base your decision on the actual wind.

Remember, you generally want to select the runway with the number closest to where the wind is coming from.

Of course, if you’re going to obtain the weather from a real-world source, you will also want to ensure your simulator is set to real-world weather conditions. For users of Prepar3D or X-Plane, an add-on called ActiveSky helps ensure your weather matches real-world conditions.

As you descend toward Yellowstone, select the runway you wish to use. Because this is an untowered airport, whether or not you are online, it’s your choice which runway to use. If you decide to approach Runway 1, turn a few degrees left to overfly Hebgen Lake. Then, maneuver so you enter the left traffic pattern on a 45 degree downwind. Then, turn base and final as you did in the pattern at KBZN:

Alternatively, if you decide to use Runway 19, descend to the TPA over Hebgen Lake. Since nothing is explicitly published, the TPA for KWYS is 1,000 ft. AGL for single-engine aircraft and 1,500 ft. AGL for multi-engine aircraft. This means you would fly the pattern at 7,600 ft. MSL in a single-engine aircraft or 8,100 ft. MSL in a multi-engine aircraft. Cross the airport at midfield, wings level, then make a left turn to enter the downwind. From there, make two more left turns to base and final until you are aligned with the runway:

From midfield, the approach should be the same as the VFR closed traffic you flew at KBZN. You are welcome to land and taxi off the runway for a quick break or make it a touch-and-go, stop-and-go, or low approach and keep on going!

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Departing from Yellowstone is a little easier than the approach. After takeoff, climb to at least 7,300 ft. (300 ft. below pattern altitude) on runway heading. After that, you can start turning toward Jackson Hole and flying the final leg of this Learning Flight.

Objective 7

Navigate to Jackson Hole

To get from Yellowstone to Jackson Hole, we’re going to use another technique for visual flying: dead reckoning. In this technique, you draw a straight line between two points to determine the heading. You fly over the starting point, set your heading, and then use a combination of pre-flight math and visual references to ensure you’re tracking it correctly.

Using SkyVector, plot the direct track between KWYS and KJAC. Now, click and drag the line to the west to create a GPS point over Henrys Lake.

You should now have a line from Henrys Lake to Jackson Hole on an approximately 143 heading.

On departure from KWYS, you’ll navigate visually toward Henrys Lake and then, once over the lake, fly heading 143. In no-wind conditions, that heading should bring you directly to KJAC. Along the way, you’ll look at landmarks to make sure you’re tracking correctly. For example, you should cross I-20 right where the power lines cross the highway. Later on, you’ll see the town of Tetonia on your left and Jackson Lake on the right. You’ll likely also see Grand Teton (peak of 13,770 ft.) for most of the flight. Since your route of flight almost crosses it, keeping the aircraft pointed toward the peak will help ensure you’re on course.

Pilot Tip
We select Henrys Lake as the starting point for accuracy. You could use KWYS but if you depart and end up further north than you expect, the starting point for your dead reckoning might be off. One option if you choose to use KWYS as your starting point would be to depart, climb above the TPA, and then overfly the airport to begin the dead reckoning heading.
Pilot Tip
Real pilots also calculate the impacts of the wind on their dead reckoning heading. They also use timed checkpoints to ensure they are tracking correctly against the plan. For example, in a crosswind, the pilot would have to fly a few degrees toward the direction of the wind to continue to remain on a 143 track across the ground.

If you’re familiar with VOR navigation, you’ll notice the JAC VOR-DME is located on the airport. You could track the VOR-DME to aid in navigation, or just use your GPS to plot a course to use for reference. However, this is a VFR flight: don’t forget to look outside! You’re flying over one of the world’s prettiest areas.

As part of the flight planning process, it’s a good practice to look at the area you’ll be flying over. For example, shortly after departure we’ll be overflying Henrys Lake Airport (U53). It’s an untowered airport so while we don’t have to worry about airspace, there could be other traffic operating in the area. We’ll want to cross the airport well above its TPA to ensure we don’t conflict. A good practice is to cross at least 2,500’ over the airport and to keep an eye out for traffic.

Near the state boundary, you’ll notice the flight takes you into Yellowstone National Park and then Grand Teton National Park, the boundaries of which are denoted with:

The FAA requests pilots maintain at least 2,000 ft. AGL while crossing National Parks and other similar areas, to help protect wildlife. Accordingly, you’ll want to select an altitude that’s at least 2,000 ft. above the ground for this flight. Of course, there is an exception allowing you to descend into KJAC, which is located within a National Park.

You’ll also pass the TARGO (LO) NDB, and you’ll find the Dunoir (DNW) VOR and Jackson (JAC) VOR-DME nearby too. If you’re ever wondering what a symbol means, there is a legend on the side of each sectional chart. To see it, switch from the "World VFR" tab to "Salt Lake City" on SkyVector. If you zoom out far enough, you’ll find the legend on the left side of the chart, which has definitions for the common symbols.

The same authorities who produce charts also provide guides explaining the symbols. Since we’re looking at an FAA chart, you’ll find information in the FAA’s Aeronautical Chart Users' Guide.

Being able to interpret different airspace classifications on a sectional chart is an essential skill for any VFR pilot, especially when flying around busy airspaces. It is also equally important to understand the requirements for entering these airspace types and knowing when you are required to talk to air traffic control. Hover over each of the airspace types below to learn more about airspace classes in the United States:

Class A Airspace

Location: Everywhere, 18,000 ft. MSL to 60,000 ft. MSL.

Flight Rules: IFR Only. All aircraft must obtain an IFR clearance from ATC prior to entry.

Class B Airspace

Location: Around busy international airports, shaped like an "upside-down wedding cake" with multiple layers.

Flight Rules: IFR or VFR with clearance. All aircraft must obtain a clearance (IFR or VFR) to enter.

Class C Airspace

Location: Around regional airports; similar structure to Class B but with fewer layers.

Flight Rules: IFR and VFR. VFR aircraft must establish two-way radio communications with the ATC facility controlling the area.

Class D Airspace

Location: Encircles smaller airports with a control tower but that are not Class B or C. Normally extends to 2,500 ft. AGL.

Flight Rules: VFR and IFR. VFR aircraft must establish two-way radio communications with the Tower.

Class E Airspace

Surface Area

Location: Encircles some smaller airports, generally without an operating control tower.

Flight Rules: Any VFR aircraft are generally not required to contact ATC in Class E airspace.

Class E Airspace


Class E airspace generally exists from 1,200 ft. AGL and up, unless designated otherwise. The image here shows Class E airspace with a floor of 700 ft. AGL, instead of 1,200 ft. AGL. VFR aircraft are generally not required to contact ATC in Class E airspace.

Class G Airspace

Class G airspace is all airspace not otherwise classified extending to 14,500 ft. MSL. (At and above this altitude is generally Class E.) ATC does not control Class G airspace.

Special Use Airspace

Airspace reserved for specific uses like military operations or training. Airspace could be restricted or it could simply be charted as a warning to pilots. For more information on Special Use Airspace, check out BVA’s guide.

If you’re flying IFR with ATC, then ATC is generally responsible for ensuring you don’t enter airspace without authorization. However, as a VFR pilot, you are responsible for your own navigation and ensuring you don’t enter airspace you shouldn’t.

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

When airborne from KWYS, climb to within 300 ft. of the TPA, then turn southwestbound (approximately heading 245) until you see Henrys Lake. The lake will become more visible as you climb. From over the middle of the lake, turn left to a heading of 143. Using a combination of that heading, visual references, Grand Teton, the JAC VOR-DME, and your GPS, navigate to KJAC. You should overfly the point where the powerlines cross I-20 and will be able to see several of the peaks within Yellowstone National Park to your left. You should pass over several small lakes near the Winegar Hole Wilderness Area and might notice the town (and airport) of Driggs on your right as you get set to approach Jackson Hole.

Objective 8

Land at Jackson Hole and Find the FBO

As you approach KJAC, you should be familiar with the notes, runway layout, and other information about the airport. Some of the notes that should catch your eye include:


In fact, this is a very challenging airport; located at more than 6,000 ft. MSL, a 6,300 ft. runway can disappear very quickly behind you. That’s what happened to an American Airlines Boeing 757 attempting to land in Jackson Hole on December 29, 2010, which ran off the end of Runway 19 and came to a stop in deep snow. Fortunately, the occupants were not injured and the aircraft sustained only minor damage. The cause: inadequate pilot training and some unlucky timing in the way the aircraft’s systems interact. You’re probably flying something a little smaller than a Boeing 757 but either way—this airport is not for the feint of heart! (Don’t worry, we have some even more intense approaches coming later in this series.)

Another interesting point you’ll find is:


You’ll often find that small airports—especially those located near cities or wildlife—will publish noise abatement procedures. Sometimes they are voluntary and other times they are mandatory. You’ll find some noise abatement procedures in the front pages of the Chart Supplement if they are published by the FAA. Otherwise, you can often find them on the airport’s website. Scroll down to the section on “Noise Abatement and Monitoring” and you’ll find a link to the airport’s Noise Abatement Procedures. Complying with these procedures is a great practice for those looking to add some realism (and getting into the habit of looking for them is a polite thing to do if you’re a real-world pilot who wants to be a good neighbor!).

As you are considering how to approach the airport and deciding which runway to land on, you should also be thinking about where you’ll park. The last thing you want is to land, exit the runway, and then realize you have no idea where to go! Fortunately, this is a very simple airport and the FBO is denoted on the Airport Diagram (between Taxiways “C” and “D”).

The Jackson Hole Noise Abatement Procedures provide fairly detailed guidance for landing on either runway. Once again, if you are flying offline, the choice of runway and approach is yours. You may elect to use Runway 1, since it’s the preferred arrival runway:

However, if the wind, traffic, or other factors favor Runway 19, there are also instructions for arriving on that runway:

Conduct a normal approach and landing, complying with the noise abatement for the bonus realism.

Air Traffic Control (Click to Expand) (Click to Collapse)

Once you’ve landed, slow to a safe taxi speed and exit the runway. Remember, it’s never a good idea to stop on the runway; you never know who is behind you. Your landing clearance includes authorization to exit the runway on the first-available taxiway after you reach a safe speed. Find your way to the FBO, set the parking brake, and congratulate yourself on completing this first Learning Flight!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the scenic views of Flight 1 and have learned a thing or two about VFR flying in the United States. The remainder of the program discusses IFR flying.

Go Flying

Start at KBZN, selecting an appropriate parking spot and ensuring you have good visual, daytime conditions. Then, to complete this first flight:

  1. Plan your route between KBZN, KWYS, and KJAC, using pilotage, dead reckoning, or both.
  2. Select an appropriate altitude for this eastbound VFR flight.
  3. Taxi to an appropriate runway at KBZN and complete two laps of the VFR traffic pattern.
  4. Depart KBZN and fly to KWYS.
  5. Do a touch-and-go, stop-and-go, or full stop/taxi back at KWYS, then depart the area toward KJAC.
  6. Land at KJAC and find the FBO.

Once you’ve parked at KJAC, grab a refreshing beverage...you’ve earned it! While enjoying the scenic views of Learning Flight 1, you’ve just received a complete overview of flight simulator VFR flying in the United States.