The best (and only) Excel-based VFR flight planner you’ll ever need

Screen shot of the planner with sample data filled in (click to zoom).

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.


    1. Determine and plot your waypoints, courses and distances on a sectional like you normally would.
    2. Fill in the yellow-background cells of the spreadsheet. For this you’ll need your waypoint data, wind data from, and POH data such as “Cruise Performance” and “Time, Fuel and Distance to Climb”.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

Folded, taped, punched and ready to use (click to zoom).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Click here to download the planner.


53 thoughts on “The best (and only) Excel-based VFR flight planner you’ll ever need

  1. Pingback: The best (and only) Excel-based VFR flight planner you’ll ever need (via I Have A Black Belt In Geek.) « Calgary Recreational and Ultralight Flying Club

  2. 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, 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.

  3. 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.


    • 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.

  4. Pingback: Plantilla OPF (Operational Flight Plan)

  5. Looks extremely wll thought-out. I’ll try it this weekend and let you know…
    Greetings from Munich, Germany 🙂

  6. 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.

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

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

  9. Just wanted to say this has saved me from so many 300 am wind spinning sessions.

    For my program you must complete 4 paper navlogs to go on your cross countries and I’ve been doing for years by hand. So when I was this it brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for the extra sleep!

  10. Pingback: Excel Flight Planner |

  11. Thanks to the Formulas utilized within the sheet, I was able to Autofill the values for almost everything into my Primary Flight Schools Nav Log. This was a MAJOR time saver that in which I’ve never said Thank-YOU for. I was able to integrate a Winds&Temp Aloft sheet into the sheet to the point in which once a flight plan is set, I only have to update the Winds and Temps aloft right before the flight. The only update is on the Winds and Temp Sheet with the data from Sheet extrapolates the data for altitudes in-between, and NavLog sheet grabs the right cells data. Oh, and if you have to change the W&T data source (i.e RKS to SLC….), that’s a simple change to the cells being selected.

    I’ve watched MANY students preparing for their Stage and Checkrides take HOURS to calculate this out, because they don’t understand how EASY it really can be! I even have multiple pages that link cells together for longer(more detailed) flight planning.

  12. Thanks for putting this together and sharing but I’m stumped…

    What happened to Column P? I can’t Unhide the column to see what’s going on.Unlocking isn’t the answer either.

    I was attempting to display Column R as blank when the leg is blank but it uses Column Q to calculate.

  13. Great spreadsheet! I used this all the way through my PPL training. Instructor was impressed. A few mods that I did:
    1) I didn’t offset the waypoints in Column A, B & C to the rest of the spreadsheet. Personal preference that I just like to know what waypoint I’m going to and how long it will take. I just leave the departure point out of the Checkpoint column.
    2) Instead of using VOR Freqs and radials in Column C, I enter the side of the aircraft that my waypoint will be on and the distance. So, the Highway intersection that is my Check Point #4 is L (left) @ 1.5NM, etc.
    3) Under the Airport Info on the right side, I added some basic information for Climbout and Descent (Elevation Change [Cruise Altitude – Departure Field elevations {opposite for the descent}]; Distance to Climb/Descend, Time to Climb/descend, Fuel Used to Climb/Descend). Pretty handy for helping to find where you are at the top of the climb and when you need to start descending.
    4) Created an identical Spreadsheet in a second tab that deletes all calculations related to wind. I print one of these out in case my winds shift on me and I need to recalculate everything by hand at the airport. But, it keeps all of my distance information, etc.
    5) Instead printing it on an 8.5″x11″ paper and folding it in half, I do the following:
    a) Cut two pieces of 8.5″x11″ paper in half to make four pieces of 8.5″ x 5.5″ pieces of paper.
    b) Print Columns A-L on one piece of small paper using the A5 paper setting on your printer.
    c) Print Columns M-R on the back side of that first piece of paper flipped on the short edge so it’s upside down related to the Column A-L sheet.
    d) Print Columns S-V on another small sheet of paper.
    e) Viola! Kneeboard cards! I prefer to use card stock for mine, for what it’s worth.

    It helps to copy Columns A, B & C and paste them just to the left of Column M so that all you really need to use for your in-flight navigation is the second page that you just printed. Keep that on top of your kneeboard and just flip that page up to see the back side of it, along with your ATIS, Airport and Climb info underneath.

    One last thing: The person, Barry, asking for the mm:ss format for times is/was most likely in military training. In Navy NFO training, we used to have to plan these runs down to every 6 seconds. Time-on-top matters for dropping bombs. Also, it gives you a much more accurate fix on your current ground speed and future estimations without adding any real work. But, the formulas in this sheet do quite a bit of rounding so it really doesn’t work to format the cells.

  14. Dear Chris,
    Your spreadsheet is excellent.
    It seems that O5, Q5, R5 and R6 cells do not reflect changes in other cells.
    I would appreciate it if you would fix the cells to reflect changes in other cells.

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