3 Rare Symbols on Instrument Approach Charts, and Why You Should Know Them

Alright guys, I'm studying for CFII lately (which by the way I hate studying for check rides) and have gotten to the stage of practicing teaching approach charts.

I noticed in doing practice group sessions with students that everyone knows how to read the basic things like localizer frequency, final approach fix, missed approach instructions etc...the IMPORTANT stuff. The meat and potatoes of the approach. But you HAVE to know how to read EVERYTHING on that approach chart to be a good instrument pilot. 

Another reason you need to know how to break that approach chart down is because it factors into your plane performance-can you accept the approach along with missed approach instructions? This is something to keep in mind as well with departures. In instrument training you're likely flying something like a Cessna 172 where you don't usually accept SID's or even look at any "complicated" (so to speak) approach charts. So let's talk about 3 different symbols on approach charts that I find are commonly not taught/known.

1) VDP

VDP stands for visual descent point. It's not found on ALL approach charts but more instead on straight-in approaches to specific runways. If the approach chart has one, what this means is you should not descend below the MDA prior to this point. 

To be specific, it's the bold V circled on this chart from Telluride, Colorado. Check out the terrain in this area...might be important to know what this V means!

2) Maltese Cross

The circled "lightning bolt" pointing to ROVEZ on the RNAV 30 for KBPT is the maltese cross for this approach. It indicates the final approach fix on a nonprecision approach. Its purpose is to point out where the final approach segment begins. 

3) Cold Weather Corrections

Cold weather corrections are important to know to ensure that you're flying at the corrected altitude. If the system isn't operating to automatically compute this then it has to be done by hand by the corrections chart on page 5-19 of the Digital Terminal Procedures Supplement (pictured beneath the approach chart). 

In addition to this post, you may see some new blogs written on our blog page by our newest writer Nicole Lund! Nicole wowed us last year with an awesome scholarship application and proceeded to have very well written blog posts throughout the year with interesting topics & experiences. One of her craziest stories is she had an engine failure on a solo xc as a student pilot and had to land in a nearby field. A few days later, she was back flying and so was the plane because she was able to set it down without any damage (except for whatever caused the failure). Imagine getting that phone call as an instructor....

SO congrats Nicole and welcome to the team! 

Thanks for reading, hopefully these charts help point out some rare symbols for you to stay proficient on!

Questions or comments? Post below!