Sometimes the important thing is not what you say, but how you say it. Thats the secret behind Jepps new VFR+GPS charts. Its not that the information is that different than what you get from a sectional chart, but its in a form that makes it much easier to use.
Forget the “VFR+GPS” title. While there is some GPS-specific data such as lat-long info for commonly-used reporting points, these charts are really replacements for
your Sectional and Terminal-Area charts.
Accentuate What Matters
Years of flying with looking at muted greens and browns make the first glance at these charts a bit jarring. Theyre much higher contrast and use a wider range of color. But that color is applied for maximum effect.
The background color for terrain is much lighter than government charts. This makes all the text easier to read. In place of the faint minimum elevation figures (MEFs) on sectional charts that provide 100-300 feet of obstacle clearance for each quadrangle, the Jepp charts publish a Minimum Grid Area Altitudes that represent 1000 or 2000 feet above terrain and obstacles. The numbers are in red, so theres no missing them whether youre planning on flying airways or GPS direct.
Busy airspace is where the information density of charts is highest, and where keeping all that data readable is most important. The new charts shine here in several subtle ways. Class B and C airspace boundaries have their altitudes written on the border lines where its easy to find and mentally connect to the area in question rather than floating in the middle of that area. Frequencies for approaching these airspaces also appear clearly on the chart, as well as in a black and white table on the back of the chart. Visual waypoints, common GPS fixes and even interstate highways are marked on the chart, so when the Tower asks you to report crossing I-70, you can do so with some confidence.
Some things take a moment to understand. Towered airports all have their Class D airspace (or Class B airspace that reaches the surface) shaded with a salmon-colored fill. At a glance, you can see where all the control towers are. Jepp chose to make all public-use airports blue, however, so those of us used to blue meaning tower and magenta meaning uncontrolled have to make a switch. Also, restricted and prohibited areas are in reddish-brown, while MOAs are in blue-essentially backwards of sectional symbology.
The charts are only one-sided, so theres no flipping charts back and forth for flight planning. It also means there is a bunch of space on the back for other items, which Jepp fills with frequencies, coordinates for reporting points and intersections, airport information and map legends.
As impressed as we were, we still found a few nits to pick. The number-one problem is that the red ink (grid altitudes, fill for towered airports and airspace boarders) disappears under a red LED. We hope Jepp will change their ink on this.
The charts heavily accentuate Class E airspace, but our thinking is that few pilots regularly exploit the differences between controlled and uncontrolled airspace to justify such visual dominance. On the flip side, the charts differentiate between Class C and B airspace too subtly. Wed like to see that clearer.
Jepp has filled some of the space on the chart back with ads for Jeppesen products, and they may open this space to other companies. We find selling ad space on our charts vaguely offensive.
The charts are at the same scale as sectionals, which means it will take more one-sided charts to cover the country. There are 37 sectional charts for the CONUS. When Jepp finishes its CONUS coverage by early 2010, it will encompass about 100 charts. Before you shout foul at this, note that the charts dont follow the tiled grid used by the government. Jepp analyzed VFR flight plans and took pilot input to orient the charts around common VFR routes. This means some common routes are covered by one chart where two or three were required in the past. Charts for Alaska are also in the works for late 2010, and theyre making plans for Canada by 2011.
The data is sourced from the government, so updates will appear in the NOTAM
chain and the AF/D just as they always have. You can also get the charts (as well as suggest changes to the chart) from the website at www.jeppesen.com/vfrgps.
Money Well Spent
Technically, these charts are about twice as expensive as the government alternative: $14.99 for en route (sectional) charts and $7.99 for terminal-area charts. But, were talking about something youll purchase every six months (if that often) and whose primary purpose is to give you quick access to important information-such a forgotten frequency or airspace boundary-usually minutes before (or sometimes after) that information is needed.
To our mind, spending a few extra bucks for a better chart makes sense so long as you dont need to buy every chart for the country. And for serious, long-distance planning, we prefer WAC charts anyway-until someone comes along with an equally compelling replacement, that is.