How to plan a flight

Disclaimer: This page is NOT intended to publicise or harm the reputation of any product or tool in any form. We are just presenting what we have learnt from our experience to help those which are currently trying to gain some knowledge in the world of flight simulation. If you believe something could be expressed in a better way, feel free to contact us.

As in reality, flying an aircraft is a matter of training. But while flying, we aren't alone in the air. In order to prevent mid-air collisions, not only is there Air Traffic Controllers, but also navigational aids such as VORs, NDBs or FIXs, which can be combined with DMEs (Distance Measuring Equipment). Guess what this does!?

Nowadays though, GPS is used as the main tool for navigation. It is able to follow routes which are already set and are made up by joining points (FIX to FIX for example).


There are several ways of planning routes:

  1. Have a look at SkyVector. On the top-right corner of the map, you can select between showing higher or lower airspace routes (<FL245 or >FL245 generally) or VFR charts. This tool is most useful and complete around America, but it can also be used to a certain extent in Europe. To start planning your route, click 'Flight Plan' on the top left of the map. Enter the ICAO codes for your depature and arrival airports and try to find the most apropriate routing. It is worth mentioning that the first and last points in your route should be one of the available from the SID/STAR charts for the airports.
  2. Use some free tools like RouteFinder or Online Flight Planner together with Fuelplanner, which are normally the best option for people not willing to pay a couple of bucks. Even though they are usually updated to the last AIRAC, they are not able to ensure a high level of reliability; in other words, you will find yourself more than once flying an airway in an incorrect direction, at an incorrect flight level or even just flying directs, not to mention arriving at your last waypoint and realizing there is no standard arrival for your airport from there.
  3. Using downloadable software like vRoute or PFPX.
  4. Sites like SimBrief, which do cost money if you want to have the latest AIRAC. They are the most reliable tools for use on flight-simming, as they offer several different routes in case the others don't meet your needs. Furthermore, you can get a sort of 'flight briefing' following real world operators formats, with which you can simulate the cost index, weight, balance, fuel and many other things for each flight using real-world data. In addition, you usually get the posibility of validating the routes by using EuroControl's route validation system. And the best thing... you are able to file each flightplan directly to VATSIM!
A VATSIM Europe Division service.
Content updated: 29. April 2018.