Friday, August 17, 2018
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter COPA Corner—Those Darn Charts: How Do We Update Them?

COPA Corner—Those Darn Charts: How Do We Update Them?

by John Quarterman, Manager, Member Assistance and Programs, Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA)

As pilots, we are all aware from our flight training that we are required by regulation to equip ourselves with up-to-date charts, databases, the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS), weather information and NOTAMs before we take off. This requirement is stipulated in the following sections of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs):

602.71 The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall, before commencing a flight, be familiar with the available information that is appropriate to the intended flight.

602.72 The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall, before commencing a flight, be familiar with the available weather information that is appropriate to the intended flight.

Most pilots are diligent and make a credible effort to achieve this standard on each flight. We obtain weather information and NOTAMs from the NAV CANADA Web site. We contact the flight information centre (FIC) for a last-minute update, then grab our flight bag full of the latest (or nearly latest) visual flight rules (VFR) navigation charts (VNCs) and recent CFS. We often include our VFR global positioning system (GPS), which most pilots update once a year. Then we go flying—usually with great success. Adding to the implicit safety factor is the fact that we normally fly locally, and local conditions are passed on throughout the pilot population by word-of-mouth, without necessarily referring to official sources. Pilots often receive informal reports about local aviation information, even critical NOTAMs, from other pilots. Of course, there is nothing wrong with passing on information to each other, provided we do not stop reading and updating the official sources of information that we are required to use.

So, we are safe…right? Of course, the local grapevine in the flying club or flight school that helps pilots stay informed may obscure the fact that a pilot has become somewhat lax about their sources of aviation information. We all know, or have heard of, pilots who carry a twoyear- old CFS, or who fly with 1969 highway maps, or who use the Weather Network as their weather source. Fortunately, this does not always show up as a problem, as long as these individuals stick close to home; however, it can lead to disastrous circumstances when pilots travel far from their home base.

The informal system that pilots sometimes get away with locally certainly breaks down as soon as pilots wander away from their familiar haunts, territory and airspace. Now the pilot has no word-of-mouth sources, and suddenly has to revert back to basics and use official sources. This requires a bit of understanding on how aeronautical charts are updated.

Since May 2003, NAV CANADA has been selling and distributing aeronautical publications. In March 2007, they became responsible for all aeronautical publications, including VFR charts, which had previously been published by Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN). VFR charts include aeronautical VNCs, aeronautical VFR terminal area charts (VTA) and world aeronautical charts (WAC). VTAs are published once a year and VNCs are revised on a one-year, two-year or five-year cycle. This means, for example, that a one-year chart revised in January can be expected to be revised again at approximately the same time the following year. The same applies to two- and five-year charts. WACs are on a similar cycle, but have not been updated in many years. NAV CANADA will begin updating them in 2008. All VFR charts include an edition number, the month and year that they are issued, and the effective date for airspace amendments. Changes to a VFR chart, after it has been published, are compiled throughout the year(s) for inclusion in the next edition (see below for more information). The current VFR chart list is available on NAV CANADA’s Aeronautical Publication, Sales and Distribution Unit (AEROPUBS) Web site: Publications/AeronauticalInfoProducts/Charts/default.xml

The last word—VFR chart updating data
Most pilots consider an up-to-date chart as the last word in aviation data, along with pertinent NOTAMs. Many do not know that this is not quite the last word. In fact, the CFS, which is issued every 56 days, has a section called Planning (Section C). If you look up the table of contents under the Planning section, you will find a heading called “VFR Chart Updating Data.” In this subsection, the latest changes to VFR charts are listed by province. Under Ontario, for example, the heading “ONTARIO – DANGER, RESTRICTED & ADVISORY AREAS” might provide you with information such as:

CYA532(A) Lake Simcoe – Time of Designation changed to Ocsl (Occasional) by NOTAM.”

If a change is listed in the CFS, it means that the information on the (current) chart is out of date, and a notation and correction need to be made to the chart. Of course, the longer a chart circulates before it is replaced, the longer the potential list of corrections to the chart. Many of these changes may be critical to flight safety, such as a new antenna that creates an obstruction close to an airport. Normally, a NOTAM that lists a correction or addition to a chart is cancelled when the information is added to CFS Section C, so until a new chart is issued, the CFS is the only place where the information is available.

It is not appropriate for NOTAMs to communicate temporary changes that will be in effect for a long period (three months or longer) or information that is relevant for a short period, which contains extensive text or graphics. In these instances, the changes shall be published as AIP Canada (ICAO) supplements, which are available on the NAV CANADA Web site on Aeronautical Information Products.

What, then, is the correct approach to planning and flying VFR (even for local flights)?

Obtain, read and carry the latest CFS and the latest chart.

Familiarize yourself with corrections from CFS Section C and transcribe them onto the VNC chart.

Check and incorporate the following into your planning, before you decide to take off:

  1. NOTAMs;
  2. aviation information circulars and supplements:
    AeronauticalInfoProducts/ AIP/Current/PDF/EN/part_5_aic/5aic_eng.pdf);
  3. weather information.

With proper planning and the right information to plan with, every flight will be that much safer! Have a great flight. For more information on COPA, visit:


This article was published by Transport Canada in TP 185 Issue 3/2008 -. Reprinted with permission

Add comment

Security code