June 27, 2007 | Section III Mastering The Sport | Chapter 17

See also Airspace for Paramotor Pilots

These instructions show how to overlay a sectional chart onto a Google Earth map. This allows you to pinpoint your launch site with Google Earth then overlay the sectional chart to see if the airspace is legal. The downloadable charts used for this are out of date so you must verify the airspace with a current sectional (www.Skyvector.com is close).

Thanks to Adam Bell for suggesting this one from wikiHow—it worked on my first try so it’s probably fairly reliable.

Before you start, make sure you have:

  • A reasonably high-speed internet connection. If you can use Google Earth, your connection is fast enough. Dial-up would require extreme patience.

  • The latest version of Google Earth (4 or higher). From the help menu, select “Check for Updates Online.” Besides supporting these features, the new version of Google earth also seems more stable with less memory leakage.

Use Google Earth to find your launch site and put a “push-pin” on it. That’ll let you see your site when the chart covers up Google’s aerial image. Then:

  • Open Google Earth and set it up so your place names show up on the left side. Either menu select View | Sidebar or press CTRL-ALT-B.

  • Download the sectional data from here.

  • Open the download file. Google Earth will automatically capture the download and, within a minute or so you should see outlines of each sectional chart and terminal area chart map appear as blue lines (see image above left). You can zoom in to bring the map names into view.

  • Check the box next to the map name listed under the Places menu to load that particular map. It will load from the sectional data site (thanks to them for providing this free service).

Terminal Area Charts and 3D airspace are also available if you’re zoomed in to within 500 miles—check under the Places Menu. Like the rest of Google Earth, the sectional overlays will become clearer as you zoom in.

3D airspace is not accurate vertically meaning there is a lot of area under the B and C airspace where you could launch from that the 3D illustration shows as consumed. Use the chart to determine the floors. It’s useful the way it is, however, because it shows the outlines. So even if you’re below the floor of an overlying B airspace, it’s nice to see where the boundary outlines relate to your launch location for determining how how you can legally climb.

Be careful, the sectionals are old and cannot be relied upon for determining airspace legality. Use a current chart to verify that the data hasn’t changed as airspace changes do get made periodically. Always check for temporary flight restrictions (TFR’s) before flying. These pop up with little notice.