Navigating from point A to B can be such a daunting prospect for newcomers to flight simulation. It can be a challenge for the more experienced amongst us too, but it’s a necessary skill that we all need to get a basic grasp of to get us to where we want to be and in an incident-free manner. As we usually enjoy our flight time alone (as we can’t afford a co-pilot), we need to have all of our navigational information at hand in order to help the experience become more realistic yet we crave something more organised to make the whole process of a flight easier.
Navigraph has been synonymous with flight simulation for over a decade. For a monthly fee or full yearly package, most of us rely on Navigraph to keep our favourite aircraft’s navigational systems up to date with the use of their AIRAC cycles. We also get the latest professional worldwide airport/terminal charts from Jeppesen. “The aim is to describe approach and departure procedures from airports with a clear presentation of altitudes, obstacles and landing minima during Instrument Flight Rules”.
My route planning go-to software is SimBrief which is a simple free-to-use website that can be used in conjunction with the latest Navigraph AIRAC cycle and the Navigraph Charts app. For those of you that use other route planning software, the route plans can be imported very easily from a saved file plan on your PC. If you don’t use any flight planning software, then a route can be entered manually. I will be looking at what the latest version of the Navigraph Charts app for Windows 10 has to offer and to determine whether this is a necessary utility for newcomers and the more experienced desktop pilots.
My usual routine with a simple IFR flight whilst using a single monitor is having a lot of windows open on my web browser for example; a route planner (SimBrief) and several airport charts which will include SIDS, STARS, parking and ground information, taxiways, runway information and ILS approaches. So as you can understand, it’s overwhelming and slightly disorganised. Navigraph Charts is a utility that aims to alleviate all of the “clutter” and give you all of the information you need at the click of a button (or two).
SIMPLE AND EASY TO USE
Downloading the Navigraph Charts app is a clear and straight forward process direct from the Navigraph website. The installation is simple with easy to follow instructions. Simlink will be installed which will connect with your simulator and enable the moving maps feature and sync your simulator with the app. You can also use Navigraph Charts Cloud on a web browser using any internet compatible device. This is a simple case of logging in with your Navigraph credentials and you are presented with an identical format to that of which you get with the app. Navigraph Charts supports iOS, Android and macOS.
My example flight is an IFR flight from East Midlands (EGNX), United Kingdom to Dubrovnik (LDDU), Croatia with the LIDO (operational flight plan) ready in SimBrief. First of all, we can tell Navigraph to search for the desired route from SimBrief, and within three easy clicks it searches for the SimBrief LIDO and the route is imported into the Navigraph Charts app. For extra convenience, you can manually input a route or import a compatible route file.
The route is presented on the screen clearly and shows an attractive, colourful world map. Depending on your type of flying, you can change the view of your flight plan into a high enroute mode which shows all of the high altitude airways and waypoints along with airports presented as ICAO codes. When flying at lower altitude, you can set the view to low enroute showing all of the information of the former. All of these views can be used in a night mode which is very useful in low light conditions or if you just simply prefer the look of it. I like most things in a dark mode where possible and this does not disappoint.
MAPPING OUR ROUTE
Once the route is loaded in and displayed on your map, the top of the page is where this app gets very convenient and intuitive. Everything here is customisable so you can edit your route, departures and arrivals as you see fit. You can also export the route in a variety of different formats.
When you click on the airport ICAO, you can access all of the charts corresponding to that airport. In fact, everything you click on impressively has important information attached to it. The airways have data which provides you with accurate minimum and maximum flying altitudes, the waypoints will give you information and coordinates, and the VORs will tell you everything you need to know including elevation and coordinates. If this could be improved, it would be nice to be able to hover the mouse over the waypoints, airports and VORs displayed on the map rather than having to guess what they are first in order to get the plethora of information attached to them. It’s well worth noting that all of the waypoints can be edited which means you can change them around your flight plan or delete them if necessary. You also have the option to input waypoints which is a welcome feature if you are creating your own flight plan.
If indeed you do wish to create your own flight plan, you can simply input your departure and destination airport and a simple direct route will be presented on the map. You can allow it to auto-generate a route for high or low airways or leave that blank and enter the route from scratch. After that is done, all that is required from you is to choose your preferred runway and departure procedure from the drop-down runway and departure menus at the top of the page.
The really useful feature here is when you have high or low enroute maps selected; this is where you can add waypoints to your route. All you have to do is zoom in on the waypoint you require, click on it, and select ‘Add to Route’. This method will then ask you where to put this into your flight plan and you can enter this before or after another waypoint, all of which are conveniently listed for you.
If that particular method doesn’t appeal, then just simply find your desired waypoint, select ‘Type Route’ at the top of the page and type it in manually. If you have placed the waypoint in the wrong place then this is covered too. Simply click on the waypoint you have entered at the top of the page and move it left or right, or manually type in the before or after waypoint field. This is a wonderful way to create a flight plan without the use of third party software and will also benefit newcomers to Navigraph.
The real icing on the cake for me is the SIDs and STARs feature that works best with the moving maps feature enabled. To be clear, the moving maps feature shows your aircraft in real-time relevant to the map. When you click on your SID you are presented with an option to have a chart overlay. The relevant Jeppesen SID chart for your chosen runway (intelligent procedure selection) is then presented onto the map and your flight plan and will clearly show you how the aircraft will depart from the airport. The chart itself is as real as it gets providing you with real-world information regarding aircraft headings and minimum altitudes along with surrounding terrain information to avoid potential disaster. If you choose to change your selected runway at the last minute, the intelligent procedure selection feature will guide you towards the required SIDs available for the selected runway by clicking on the departures icon at the top of the page.
What impresses me most is that this will be valuable information for newcomers wishing to learn how the relevant charts work and in a uniquely visual way. It’s quite impressive to watch your aircraft perform the procedure whilst following your route. You can set the opacity of the chart so that it blends in with the map which enables you to see exactly where you are flying. All of this information is also, of course, available for your approach into your destination.
Another feature that I feel helps you better understand how SIDs and STARs work is represented as an eye icon next to the departures, arrivals and approaches buttons. This shows you in a colourful way how all of the departures, arrivals and approaches work for the runways at all airports. It’s truly a fantastic addition that I use and enjoy very much.
To have all of this information, and in my case, on the same monitor as my simulator is really useful, convenient and easy to use. Every piece of information you request is presented on a single screen page with all additional information popping up on the right or left side of the screen. It’s an important utility which would benefit pilots on online air traffic control networks and solo flight simmers alike. This app is perfect for an extra screen or tablet or for your smartphone. For newcomers to flight simulation, it’s a purchase that will not let you down. It will help with your confidence and understanding of navigation and with the fantastic visual aspects of departures and arrivals, it will make the learning process a lot easier and quicker to understand.
VALUE FOR MONEY
As with all monthly subscription services, it is important that we get value for money. I am a firm believer that if you use something regularly and you can’t do without it then eventually it becomes a bargain.
At €8.30 per month or €74.90 per year, you can purchase the ultimate package which provides access to FMS data and charts and is the package that I use for the best Navigraph experience. For the standard charts package, there is a yearly fee of €62.90. All prices do not include VAT. You will need either of these packages for full use of the Navigraph Charts apps.
For some people, this can be an expensive investment but for the serious simmer this is a product that is unrivaled for the information it provides. It enhances the simulation experience and provides real-world data for our favourite aircraft and airports, with a convenient click of a few buttons.
As flying from point A to B plays a big part in what we do, navigating around an airfield is another important part of our flight scenarios and is sometimes overlooked.
Whilst Navigraph provides us with the airport ground information swiftly and conveniently, it would have been a wonderful addition to have the moving maps feature used around airports to help us understand airside operations more clearly. They provide accurate real-world tools for us to navigate to our destination and they do this perfectly and now very easily. Other software is available for such features but they have provided this convenient one-screen solution.
It’s a must-have piece of software that de-clutters my desktop and gives me all of the information I need in one convenient desktop app or on my web browser. I have downloaded it for my Android phone and now I can track my flight anywhere I go. Everything you need is in the right place, it’s easy to use and the important information is easy to find. All of this and you can even watch your aircraft do what you asked it to on a world map. This utility is always being improved with regular updates which justifies the monthly fee. Definitely think about this app as one of your top 5 add-ons for your simulator.
- Single screen presentation of all navigational and airport information
- The placement of the SID's and STAR's charts on your route
- The moving map feature
- Available on most internet-enabled devices
- Just about everything you click on has information attached to it
- The recurring monthly fee could discourage newcomers
- No ground ops for the moving map feature