We are in the air and on the way to Shelbyville! In part one and part two of our three part flight simulator cross country series, we started up our Cessna 172 in Smyrna (KMQY), just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. We listened to the weather, taxied to the runway, completed our engine runup and took off. For our final segment and video, we’ll navigate to the Shelbyville airport (KSYI) for our long awaited barbecue lunch. We’ll cover some various navigation techniques, land, and shut down the airplane. Let’s break down a few of the topics here before getting into the video.


Navigation – Pilotage
There are several methods to use to navigate, but today we will be using a combination of pilotage and radio navigation. Pilotage is simply using the visual references we see outside on the ground to tell us where we are. By looking at our sectional chart (our map of the area) and finding the landmarks we see outside, we can keep good tabs on our location and progress as we fly. We’ll look for things like roads and airports to help us navigate. Basically, pilotage is a fancy version of “turn left when you see the old barn.”

Our sectional chart shows a private air strip just south of Smyrna. With Murfreesboro off our left wing, looking down below and seeing the airstrip we see on the map confirms our position with pilotage.


Radio Navigation – VOR
VOR stands for Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range, so you can see why it was packaged down to an acronym. The VOR is a piece of equipment on the ground that looks like a little building with a big white cone on top. Many times they are on the airport grounds, but not always. The VOR broadcasts a signal in each direction that can be received by an instrument in our cockpit called a CDI, or Course Deviation Indicator. I visualize the VOR signal like a big bicycle tire with spokes coming out in every direction. We use it to navigate by tuning our navigation radio to the correct frequency and then flying along whichever spoke of the wheel will take us where we want to go. Our CDI allows us to spin a card around to select the degree of radial we wish to track and a needle on the instrument centers when we are on the correct spoke. I’ll show you more in the video.

The vertical needle on the CDI (the upper left instrument) tells us that we are slightly to the right of the course tracking the 175 bearing TO the VOR station at Shelbyville.  We can adjust our heading to the left a few degrees to bring the needle back to the center.


Descent and Landing
As we approach the airport, we’ll start to get busier with things to do. First, we’ll tune in and listen to the weather at Shelbyville as we did back in Smyrna. This will give us an idea of the winds and which runway to use. As we descend, we’ll use a checklist for the descent (download the checklist from part one) and then again before landing. Based on the wind conditions, we’ll decide on the traffic pattern we’ll fly. Much like an onramp or an exit to a highway, we’ll fly a specific pattern around the airport so we control our coordination with any other airplanes flying in the area. Shelbyville is an uncontrolled (now often referred to as pilot-controlled) airport. This means that there is no control tower, so we will simply announce our position and intentions on the radio at various points. Once we land, we’ll pull out our Shelbyville airport diagram and taxi over to the Fixed Based Operator (FBO) where we can park, shut down, get fuel and find a ride into town.

Our flaps are down on final approach into Shelbyville. The Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) lights tell us if we are high or low of the glide path to the runway.  Four red lights mean “too low,” and four whites mean “too high.”  Two red and two white would be ideal and tell us that we are on glide path – we are a little high here with three whites and one red.


Pile On The Barbecue!
Many airports have a courtesy car that pilots and crew can use to get into town while they are there. The general rule is to bring it back better than you found it – and with gas. The mission we will complete today is often called a “hundred dollar hamburger,” which just refers to flying to a location to have a bite to eat or explore – a tradition many pilots enjoy where the fun truly is in the flight and the adventure of flying there is much more valuable than what lies in the destination. Today, we only have virtual barbecue waiting for us on the other end, but even if we were flying this trip in real life, the barbecue is really just an excuse to go fly. Good barbecue would be the icing on the cake – or perhaps the sauce on the hog. Fly along and watch the video below!

Subscribe to our mailing list for great content each week! Follow us at facebook.com/Clayviation and Twitter/Instagram @clayviation


  1. Andrew Merriam

    That BBQ was delicious. Thanks again for the videos.

    • Clay

      Thanks – I stood over a hot stove all day making it :). I’ll have more videos to come. I’m open to requests for flight sim video topics, too!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Clayviation

Get Clayviation content delivered to your inbox weekly!

Welcome to Clayviation!