Laminating Maps for Navigation

May 15, 2014

As most Visual Terminal Charts (VTC’s) and Visual Navigation Charts (VNC’s) only cover a small area of land, in order to plan a flight of say 320nm, we need a map that covers a much larger area. This is why we use the World Aeronautical Chart (WAC), in fact, we are going to use 2 WACs stuck together to cover all of the area that we may potentially fly around during navigation training. Whilst the WAC has a lot of detail and covers a large area, it is missing aviation specific detail like Danger/Restricted/Controlled (DRC) areas and radio frequency borders. To help us plan effectively, we are going to be drawing these on the maps before laminating them. Whilst accuracy is important, the lines we draw are to be used as a guide only, for accuracy within DRC zones, we will also have the relevant VTC or VNC on hand in the cockpit. The reason why we laminate the map at the end is so we can draw all over it with china graph pencils during flight planning and in flight and then easily erase the markings after the flight is finished.


To create a map that can be used for flight planning and easy navigation in the cockpit that is able to be folded up and written on for flight planning and use in the cockpit.

Things you will need:

–          2B pencil (just a light pencil that is easy to erase)

–          Eraser

–          Blue pen, red pen and green pen

–          Light blue, red and green highlighters

–          Black, red and green Chinagraph pencils

–          30 cm ruler

–          Aviation ruler with WAC nm measurements on it

–          A compass that has an extension piece and is able to carry the blue, red and green biros as well as the pencil

–          A stanley knife, cutting board and cutting rule (or a pair of scissors)

–          Some anti-glare contact (at least 1.5m x 1.5m)

–          Sticky tape (the wider the better)

–          A pad of blank paper

–          WACS:

o   1 x Brisbane WAC (3340)

o   1 x Armidale WAC (3357)

–          Other Maps:

o   VTC

  • Brisbane-Sunshine Coast/Gold Coast
  • Rockhampton/Oakey/Brisbane (not essential but really helps)
  • Coffs Harbour/Tamworth (not essential but really helps)

o   VNC

  • Brisbane
  • Bundaberg (not essential but really helps)

Let’s get started:

To start with, put everything else aside and just have the two WAC’s on a large bench. For this purpose, a Stanley knife, straight edge and a cutting board are ideal, though if you don’t have access to these items, you can use a pair of scissors.

The end result we are looking for is to join the 2 maps together, you will notice that the top of the Armidale map joins up perfectly with the bottom of the Brisbane map. The only problem though is that there is a border in the way.

Step 1 – Cutting up and joining the maps:

  1. The first thing we are going to do is chop off the top border of the Armidale map and the bottom border of the Brisbane map. Make sure you cut perfectly along the line ensuring that the latitude marks are kept intact.
  2. Next, we are going to join the maps together. To do this we flip the maps over and join them up perfectly. To start with, just tac them together with a couple of bits of sticky tape. Flip the maps back over and make sure that everything is lining up perfectly. You may find they need to overlap a little bit at the corners due to the projection of the maps. If everything is lined up nicely, turn the maps back over and neatly run a line of tape down the join to fix them together permanently. At first they will seem a little fragile, though once we laminate the maps it will become a lot more rigid. For now, just be careful when moving the maps around.
  3. Now we need to trim up the other borders to make it smaller and neater to carry around. You’ll notice legend information scattered around the borders, for our purpose we don’t need any of this and can get rid of it. What you want to do is chop the borders off neatly making sure that you keep all latitude and longitude markings and numbers (it’s very important that you don’t chop these off). What you’re left with is a border of about 1.5 cm all the way around the maps.

Step 2 – Now you are ready to start drawing on the maps.

Start by drawing all lines in pencil only. Once the map is perfect, we will move to pen and highlighter. I started with the Control areas (the blue lines), then moved onto the danger and restricted areas (the red lines) and then finally the frequency borders (the green lines).

So let’s look at the control zones first. This is probably the hardest and most time consuming part. The way to do it is to use any maps you have at your disposal to get the longitude and latitude of each point and then join the points together, they might be straight lines, circles or a weird combination of both. A handy guide is to use the DME markings which indicate the distance from a major center i.e Brisbane. Just be careful you are using the correct scale as VTC’s, VNC’s and WAC’s all work on different scales. Take your time and try and get things perfect. For each line or circle that you draw, confirm that it is correct by looking at distance from landmarks, cities etc. Late at night it’s easy to stuff up a long or lat and end up way off the mark.

Work your way through all of the majors, i.e Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Coffs Harbour and Tamworth. You’ll notice (and should know by now) that each blue line indicates a control step which shows upper and lower limits of the steps. As our goal is to avoid entering airspace that larger aircraft operate in, we want to stay below the lower steps so these are the only numbers that we are interested in, upper limits don’t apply to us. We also don’t go above say 9000 feet so any steps above that aren’t relevant. I still added them in for finality sake but it’s really not necessary.

For each control area, neatly mark any important information in small writing in the relevant corner. The markings that you want are the lower limit altitudes i.e 1000, 2500, 3500, 4500 etc. This is so that you know your maximum altitudes whilst you are in that step. You can also mark in the DMEs as well so that you know the distances out from the major center (optional though).

Once all of the control zones are marked in, start on the danger and restricted zones. These will be exactly the same process as the control zones though this time you need to mark the D or R codes as well so that you know what to look up in the Notices to Airmen (NOTAM). The D&R zones you are looking for are; Amberley, Greenbank, Evans Head, Tenterfield, Tin Can Bay.

Now that all of the CDR zones are marked, you can move on to the frequency borders. These are the green lines on you maps. They are generally straight lines though there are some tricky shapes thrown in there as well. Mark as many of these in as you can, though try to avoid overcrowding your map as you still need to be able to read towns, features etc.

Ok, so now your map should be full of pencil lines and markings. Go over it 100 times and make sure that everything looks right and is correct. Once we mark it in pen, there’s no going back and by this time, I’m sure you can appreciate the time and effort that goes in to making this map. Once you are happy that everything is complete. Start the process of going over your work neatly with the different coloured pens. Remember – Control Zones are Blue, Danger and Restricted Zones are Red and Frequency Borders are Green. To keep things neat, don’t draw lines over towns. Simply stop when you get to the name of a town or feature and start again on the other side of it. Do this for all of your lines and words. After you draw a line in pen, carefully use an eraser and remove the pencil line underneath it.

At the completion of this step. Your map should now be complete and only once you are 100% happy with it, should you move onto the next step.

Step 3 – Laminating the map

Take your map and the sheet of laminate. You need to try and laminate it without any air bubbles or creases. If you have a squeegee I would suggest you use it. Personally, I used an air table and squeegee to laminate mine. If you can’t do that, I suggest using 3 people to complete the task. 2 to hold the laminate above the map and 1 to squeegee the laminate down. Start at one end and work your way down the map, not from the middle as many will tell you to do. Once the laminate is on the map, trim off the excess.

Step 4 – Congratulations! You’re done!

You should now have a nice laminated WAC with all of the control zones you will need for navigating. To use it, you will need to fold it up. I did this straight away to get it over and done with (it’s quite painful folding it up the first time because it feels like you are wrecking all of your hard work). Don’t worry, this map will do you for many years to come.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to comment below. I’m more than happy to help you out.

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