You Left Coast and fly-over Heartland pilots will probably not understand the relevance of this post, because you usually file IFR>direct to your destination. But, for the rest of us East Coast IFR guys (and girls), filing Victor airways as a /G is still a fact of life, due to busy skies and tons of Special Use Airspace. In many cases, if you file direct, expect radar vectors to a VOR or intersection for ATC’s convenience.
With that understanding, an important, but little known, ForeFlight improvement on both the iPad and iPhone in the v3.9 upgrade is Victor airway support. Victor airways are simply charted “highways in the sky” or lines, between two ground stations, typically VORs. Not all airways are straight. Longer ones may have many bends or turns, as little as a few degrees, denoted by an intersection or intermediate VOR station(s). These turn-points will require a heading change. With airway support in ForeFlight, there is now an option to show only those waypoints that actually identify “bends”, or turn-points, in the Victor airways, leaving extraneous intersections out. To turn this feature on, open ForeFlight>Settings>Airway Decoding>Bends Only.
Why is this important?
Previously, when entering a flight plan into ForeFlight, every waypoint on the route was listed in the drop-down nav-log screen. Since the Garmin 430/530 GPS navigators also do not provide Victor airway support, the pilot had to determine which of those waypoints actually required a heading change, and which ones were simply irrelevant intersections along the route. This involved lots of time spent consulting an IFR en route chart.
Getting an IFR re-route from Center when airborne, while IMC in the bumps, made this particularly challenging for the single pilot. It also made the entry of your flight plan into your 430/530 GPS navigator overly complicated and time-consuming, and subject to error.
For example, consider this IFR low-airway route from Leesburg, Florida, (KLEE) to Charleston, SC, (KCHS), a favorite destination of mine:
The filed route with ATC is simply
KLEE WORMS V267 CRG V1 ROOFS KCHS
Unfortunately, your Garmin panel mount or portable navigator does not understand the terms “V267” or “V1”; only airports, VORs, NDBs and intersections. The full route is:
KLEE WORMS GUANO BARBS ROYES MATEO BRADO CRG LLIPS OCNOP STARY TYBEE RUBYS BASSO HONAP ROOFS KCHS
Who has the time to enter all those waypoints? There is a lot of irrelevant information in that route, and totally unnecessary in order to program into your Garmin 430/530. But which waypoints can you ignore?
With ForeFlight airway support, these are the only waypoints needing entry into your GPS to define your route and that actually involve a heading change:
KLEE WORMS CRG TYBEE ROOFS KCHS
Much easier! The remainder of the waypoints are ignored, saving the Single Pilot IFR captain a lot of programming time.
Here is a screenshot showing how this route looks overlaid on an IFR en route chart:
Isn’t it odd that you pay a $10,000 to $20,000 to Garmin for IFR-certified panel mount navigator that does not support Victor airways?** Ironically, this problem is solved by a $500 iPad and a $75 per year ForeFlight subscription.
** Yes, I know the original GNS 480 box did support Victor airways. Garmin obtained the technology in 2003 that came with the CNX80, as part of the acquisition of UPS-AT. While still supported service-wise, Garmin discontinued GNS480 production in early 2008, much to the disappointment of many customers. The just realeased Garmin Magic boxes GTN 650 and 750 now offer airway support, but at a price.