Pablo's Mission Planning Website
Greetings Mission Planners,
Way too much news to mention because I've been too slow, so I'll just give one highlight:
Have to go check out Google Maps (http://maps.google.com). Check out these great shots of Whiteman AFB (they hide the B-2's to keep them from getting a suntan), Hill AFB, nonexistent airfield in "the box" and Bagram Afghanistan (count the A-10's and check out all those helicopters). Of course not all the imagery is this good. Google Maps uses a combination of USGS Digital Ortho Quads (1 Meter, US Only), USGS urban areas (1 foot color), GeoCover NaturalVue (14.25 Meter Worldwide base) and pan sharpened Digital Globe data (0.61 Meter, worldwide spot coverage). To put it politely, if you think that you've got the best, most complete coverage in your data library, you're flat out wrong. Also keep in mind that all this imagery is available to anyone. You, your mom, Kim Jong Il etc. If it's visible from the air you need to assume it can be seen by your most bitter enemy. Of course Microsoft is close on Google's tail with their Virtual Earth. Of course they're still a bit behind, but I do like their progressive render as you zoom in.
MP Tip: CADRG Sectionals
Of course one of the biggest pieces of news is the arrival of CADRG Sectionals from NGA. Some said we'd mate cats and dogs before this would happen, but the long awaited day has finally arrived. There are certainly a lot of people to thank, including Fred Aronson at ACC, multiple people in AF/XOIRY as well as LtGen Walt Buchanan (now CENTAF/CC but once a BGen pushing this at the Pentagon). Of course none of this would have happened without the hard work of NGA's CADRG team and SAIC, their CADRG production contractor. There have been other digitized sectionals in GeoTiff format before, but so far all the users seem fairly happy with what they're getting from NGA.
Now for the nitty gritty. You'll get the Sectional CD every month, likely in the same mailing with the CADRG supplement set and the LFC/TFC CD. Each CD will include the complete set of Sectionals. The Sectionals cover all of the US including Alaska and Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa. Strangely enough there's no coverage of Puerto Rico.
The sectionals are encoded in CADRG as day Low Fly Charts (LFCs). For those of you not familiar, LFCs are 1:500K charts covering most of Europe produced by the various host nations and updated on a fairly short update cycle. Sounds a lot like Sectionals don't they? FalconView will see your Sectional CD as soon as you insert it. As you scale in and out you'll see the Sectionals just like any other chart type:
In addition to the 1:500K Sectionals there is a handful of 1:250K chart coverage, encoded as Tactical Flight Charts (TFCs). These are inserts published on the Sectionals, not the Terminal Area Charts that cover high traffic areas:
There is some overlap between the Sectional "LFCs" covering the CONUS and some older host nation charts that were produced over Canada many years ago. These Canadian charts are way noncurrent so don't worry about losing them. Strangely enough, our biggest data hole seems to exist just north of our border.
While a Sectional looks a lot like our other NGA charts, there are some significant differences. For example take a look at O'Hare airport with the DAFIF airports overlaid on FalconView:
Looking at this image you might think that NGA dorked up the Sectionals and that they've been misregistered. After all, on most NGA charts the DAFIF airfields line up fairly closely with the chart:
What's going on here? Remember that Sectionals are produced by National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO). NACO has their own standards for producing charts, and it seems that precisely locating airports in the correct location isn't judged as important as depicting it clearly. However, not everything can be displaced. Look at the same Sectional with the airspace boundaries overlaid:
You can see the boundaries are nearly coincidental. Not all airfields are displaced - some match DAFIF perfectly. Remember a Sectional is designed to be a visual use chart. By the time a pilot gets close enough for the scale of the cartographic license to matter they should already be in sight of the airport.
Many people aren't aware of it, but Sectionals have CHUM! Even though they're updated every six months there are still changes that happen between updates. NACO publishes updates to the Sectionals on a 56 day cycle and their updates can be found here. NGA takes those updates and translates them into CHUM and ECHUM and you download the data with every ECHUM download. At this point you may have noticed a mismatch between NACO's 56 day cycle and NGA's monthly ECHUM cycle - not to mention the time it takes NGA to translate NACO's data from pdf files into ECHUM. NGA wants to move to a 56 day cycle to get in sync with NACO, but the Services will have to agree. Until they do so, exercise caution as even a "CHUMMED" Sectional may not include all updates. The only way to be sure is to review against the NACO data. What is really needed is a way to import the updates directly from NACO and cut out NGA. (believe me, they wouldn't mind)
If you've got FalconView 3.3 and beyond you're in luck because you can display Sectional ECHUM:
A quick check of one of the yellow CHUM towers shows that despite it's yellow color, it is an "in sync" CHUM item:
Mission Planning and NGA are working out the details to get the towers to turn red and hopefully this will be worked out over the next few months. In any case, yellow CHUM beats no CHUM. An eagle eyed aviator might notice that both of the CHUM towers already seem to be on the chart. A review of the NACO doesn't provide much insight:
It seems that some CHUM towers that may have been applied to an earlier Sectional haven't been removed. As you can see, only three towers have been added to the 76th Edition of the New Orleans Sectional and none appear to be near Pensacola. If you do have to manually CHUM the charts go to the NACO site since the data is more current and you'll likely find a smaller list.
Thanks to NGA for making digital Sectionals a reality!