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Are you a student pilot or a seasoned pilot, but don't get to fly as often? and you are having a hard time trying to pick good VFR checkpoints on a sectional chart for a cross- country flight? We have all been there, so we put together a few tips to help you out.

What is a VFR checkpoint and a VFR waypoint?

VFR checkpoints are geographical point that can easily be identified from the air, which is preselected by the pilot during the preflight planning. VFR checkpoints are also identified on sectional charts by a magenta flag and are not found in the GPS database.

Whereas VFR waypoints are identified on sectional charts by a magenta flag and assigned with a five-letter designator, which are found in the GPS database. The waypoints all begin with the letters “VP” and have three additional letters.

As you look at your sectional chart, pick out points that you are sure you can easily identify. Once you reach your cruising altitude point, pick checkpoints that are 10-15 miles apart and are large and easily indefinable. Keep in mind, if the visibility is low due to haze but still within legal VFR conditions, some checkpoints that are 20 miles away may be harder to find. You might want to pick checkpoints that are closer together. Also, avoid picking a checkpoint that is too far laterally from your route of flight.

Generally speaking, 15-20 miles apart may work if you are flying at high VFR altitudes, such as 7,500 feet MSL or higher.

Let’s take a look and discuss some examples of checkpoints to avoid and ones that are very good.


  • Private Airports – these airports are usually harder to find, due to being smaller and often tucked away.

  • Grass Runways/Strips – are hard to find from the air. Usually, they are surrounded be large trees, others blend into fields.

  • Cell Towers – are too small and blend into the terrain and surrounding area.

  • Small bodies of Water – Such as lakes or streams don’t have a defined shape and depending on the surrounding area may be hidden by mountains and trees.

  • Individual Mountains – unless you are familiar with the local mountains, not a good choice.


  • VOR stations primary means of navigation, and the best checkpoint to use by using the radials and distance to determine your location. Otherwise, most VOR stations are in a circular clearing with the white cone in the center.

  • Public airports – especially larger busy airports are very visible due to the large clearings. The runways and taxiways contrast to the grass or dirt surrounding them.

  • Large bodies of Water – lakes or rivers. Lakes that have a distinct shape or visible features such as dams. Large rivers will have areas of open water.

  • Highways large multi-lane highways are easy to spot from the air.

  • Wind or solar farms wind farms, multiple wind turbines and solar farms with multiple mirrors usually in a circle with a tower in the middle. Us common sense.


Almost all of the checkpoints that you would normally use for a daily VFR flight will be unusable or unseen from the air during a night VFR cross-country flight.

Now let’s talk about a few good checkpoints for a night cross-country.

  • VOR stations – should be the primary and safest choice to use at night, by using the radials and associated victor airways. Avoid unseen terrain (mountains) and obstacles (trees, power lines).

  • Airports and Beacons – airport lighting and especially airport beacons are very visible from many miles away.

  • Wind farms – are also a good one due to them having multiple red beacon lights clustered together.

  • Highways - large multi-lane highways are easy to spot from the air at night.

Picking good VFR checkpoints should be a breeze for your cross-country flights.


VFR Sectional Chart / TAC (Terminal Area Chart)

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