Even if you’re an IFR pilot there are times you just feel like flying a trip as VFR. There are many ways to digitally plan such a flight — AOPA has a very nice online flight planner for members — but my preference is to do it the old school way: waypoints, courses and distances plotted out on a sectional. I feel that this method gets me more in touch with the details of the route than any of the online planners, and I’ve come to enjoy the map work.

But if you’re comfortably beyond your student-pilot days, the last thing you should be doing is using your E6B to figure wind correction angles and groundspeeds; it’s far too time consuming. If you *really know you know* how to do this, then there’s no point in wasting that time; let a computer do it. (And if you don’t feel that confidence, get some practice.)

Excel, well, excels at this kind of number crunching. My Excel-based VFR planner worksheet looks and acts a lot like the paper planners you’ve worked with, and prints beautifully on a regular sheet of paper. But unlike a paper planner, Excel takes care of all the math for you. You just supply the waypoint and distance information.

This planner is particularly elegant because once you fold it, it hides the nonessential information and presents you with **only what you need at a glance** to fly the route: altitude, compass heading, distance, timing information. Plus there’s a handy place to record departure and destination airport info, ATIS at both ends, and various important times. I’ve been using this planner for quite a while, putting improvements into it over many iterations. It’s become a truly handy little tool.

Instructions:

- Determine and plot your waypoints, courses and distances on a sectional like you normally would.
- Fill in the yellow-background cells of the spreadsheet. For this you’ll need your waypoint data, wind data from aviationweather.gov., and POH data such as “Cruise Performance” and “Time, Fuel and Distance to Climb”.
- White cells such as
**WCA**(Wind Correction Angle) auto-populate for you. Note the**MC**column: it’s your Magnetic Course, useful for planning your altitude via the hemispheric rule. - Fill in the Airport Info block for quick reference in flight. I also like to sketch the destination runway and traffic pattern in the blank area below that.
- Fold it twice so that the two big, bold vertical lines meet; I then like to tape the fold down. The
**Alt**and**CH**columns meet and the interstitial columns are neatly tucked away. It’s now ready to be hole-punched for your binder or clipped to your kneeboard. - Fill in the
**ATE**(Actual Time Enroute) and other information en route.

Remember, garbage in, garbage out. The tool is only as useful and accurate as the data fed into it, not to mention the inevitable real-world variations that you’ll encounter. So keep in mind, predicted winds change, fuel consumption isn’t exact, and so on. Like any planning tool, its value only goes so far when compared with the real world.

I hope that you enjoy this tool. If you think of any ways I can improve it, please let me know.

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Hi:

Great spreadsheet, the best I have found. I located one error in the fuel calculation. The formulas in column “R” are incorrect (total fuel). Let me know if you want the specifics.

Thanks again,

Jourdi

Jourdi, thank you for reporting the bug. You’re right, there was a math error in the fuel-remaining total — I corrected the sheet and uploaded it.

Chris P.

Hi:

Your sheet is really nice. I added some columns to automatically calculate pressure altitude, density altitude, and true air speed. If you want I can send it to you.

Brian

Hi

would love to have the added columns version of Brian.

Thanks

Marty

Could I get a copy of your spreadsheet with the presure altitude, density altitude and true air speed added? Many thanks. John

Hey Brian is there anyway i could get your download from you? Please

Brian

I would like to get a copy with pressure altitude, density ect. also

thanks

would love to have it too😉

Cheers

Hi Brian, would you be able to share your added columns? Would be awesome and make life much more easier:)

Hi Brian – If you would please email me a copy of the planner with the columns that calc pressure & density altitude and true air speed, it would be appreciated.

Dave

Brian… Could you please send me the version with corrections for pressure and density altitude?

Hey Brian,

If you’re still sending out those versions with the extra columns I’d like one as well!

Thanks

Hi Chris – this is a great sheet, thank for sharing it. Is there an easy way to have the time be in mm:ss format?

Hmm, I guess you could do this in Excel’s ‘format cells’ capability. But in actuality, are you planning your legs down to the second? I think that’s overkill.

Love the spreadsheet. There is an error in cell N18 which throws off the dist. rem.

Thanks for the heads-up… I’ve corrected the N18 glitch.

i think some of the WCA & TAS formulae are missing on the downloadable form. also – how about an extra column for Minimum Safe Altitude for each leg/sector? thanks, John Matthews, England

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Looks extremely wll thought-out. I’ll try it this weekend and let you know…

Greetings from Munich, Germany

Used this sheet for the first time. It is a real time saver! One question; today I flew from an island 20 miles offshore. I performed a circling ascent to gain the altitude I needed before heading offshore (in case I lose the engine). As a student I had difficulty figuring out how to enter that in the distance column. It took me 12 min to climb to 5000 but only put 3 miles between me and the airport. Is there a way to calculate that in this sheet? Thanks

Circling climb is a special case so I would just override the white values in the spreadsheet.

If you really want to keep the formulas in tact, you could plug in 3 miles for the leg and a ground speed of 15knots, which would give you 12 minutes for the leg, but you’d still have to work out ahead of time that it was going to take 12 minutes using your POH climb performance calcs.

2016 Jan 04 – I think some of the formuale are missing

It’s a great spreadsheet. However, I see a few comments that allude to some enhancements. Could someone please email me the “latest and greatest”?

Other folks have made customized it with their own alterations. My latest-and-greatest is still the one linked from the article.

Hoping this is still active. Have attempted to download via multiple browsers and host connectivity errors. Thank you.

Apologies, there was server maintenance at 4am last night, right about when you tried. Please try now.

Was able to get. Thank you.

Is there still a copy of this with the altitude calculations included? I’d love to get a copy of it if possible