Point-to-Point Navigation

IMG_4012I learned to fly in a C152 with a single VOR and single COM unit. No DME or GPS. It was not certified for IFR. When I flew long cross country with flight following, I normally got permission to switch radios to get ATIS. Navigating with a single VOR? Let’s not even talk about it.

All my VFR flights in California included either following the coastline or the 101 freeway! Anything beyond…. was touch and go 🙂
That is until I migrated to the dual VOR/COM radio units and obtained an instrument rating, that gave me confidence to navigate away from my comfort zone.

Consider the following airport pair: Manassas Regional Airport (HEF) and Cambridge Airport (CGE). The greater circle distance (GCD) between these two airports is 70nm.Technically if you fly a single engine airplane you could fly this direct route in under an hour. But I doubt if you would, even if you wanted to, for the simple reason that the direct route crosses the Washington DC No Fly Zone.

If you were flying this airport pair using conventional navigation and wanted to avoid all the restricted areas along the way, this would mean you would need to fly a whooping 298 nmi!


Convoluted and long. Almost more than four times the direct route. Instead if you could fly this on an IFR flight plan, you just may be able to fly  only 131 nm:


Even this requires a clearance over the restricted PAX River airspace. If you sneak in VFR, between two restricted areas,  you just might be able to achieve this in under 150 nm.


The marvel of technology, the availability of GPS,  and on-board avionics, the absolute best you can do for this route is 73nm:


Even this, it seems you need to ask. And you just might get it. For any flight out of HEF you need to file a flight plan. So worst case you might not get it. But it still is worth a try.

Believe me, the first time I flew to CGE, I chose the longer route. I did not want to mess with the SFRA and the No Fly Zone. It seemed simpler to fly the easy, longer VFR route.

But more recently what I ‘ve realized is that ATC are happy to let me fly this route. What with GPS and the marvel of technology. I can almost fly point-to-point!

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