Nationwide Sectionals—Free!

Dave Parsons, one of our readers, wrote to compliment the aviation weather web site review in the May 2008 issue of KITPLANES. We left out his “personal favorite” so I thought I’d go check it out. Runway Finder is worth a look.

Instead of being just another map, this is the entire USA displayed as sectionals. It also shows satellite photos, terrain charts and road maps. But it’s the sectional that’s most interesting in that TFRs are displayed. Be aware that it’s not a “legal” source of information on the subject, so whether or not you see one, you should still check other sources.


To use Runway Finder, go to the vertical slider in the upper left corner, move the slider to the mid-point; now go to the lower right corner and put your cursor in the little blue inset square. Hold a left-click and move the blue square. Note that if you are not within the blue square when you do the click/drag you'll be moving the map, not the square. It makes no difference to the end-result, though.


In the lower left corner you’ll see a search-the-map box. Type in the airport identifier, hit return, and the map jumps there, displaying a balloon with a hyperlink if you go to a major or well-known airport.


If, on the other hand, you type in the identifier for PuddleJumper International, the map will still jump there but the search box will also provide a listing of results from a simultaneous Google search.

What’s unique here is that you get a virtual data-dump of information about those tiny airports. It's no longer hard to find them or information about them.


But wait! There’s more!

Go to the Settings pull-down and salivate over the choices. Here you can cause it to display navaids, fixes and several other default values including being able to center on your home field at startup.


Now, look to the extreme right and there are two tabs: Ads and Legend. Click Legend and you’ll get a series of balloons with symbols including High Wind, Rain and a most intriguing Future TFR.


For the final topping on the cake, at the very top right of the chart you can put in your route identifiers. This puts a line on the map so you can read those balloons along your route.

For those of us who go out for the $100 hamburger, the only drawback is that it doesn't show which way the storm is going. But using Runway Finder along with www.weather.gov/forecasts/graphical/sectors/ is a great way to make sure that lunch doesn't include a hotel for the night.

This is a definite must-bookmark site for pilots. Thanks, Dave!

Senior Editor Bob Fritz is the author of the popular “The Home Machinist” series in KITPLANES along with numerous articles on a variety of subjects. He completed a Jabiru J250 kit aircraft and wrote a series about building it.

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