Approach charts on tapA pilot beginning his or her instrument training is often required to make a substantial investment in instrument approach charts, when all that's really needed (especially at first) is a few charts. There is a source for approach charts that's both free and convenient.
By visiting AOPA's Airport Directory Online, you can download and print the approach charts for the specific lesson being flown on any given day. Simply type in the airport identifier in the quick search box, then click on the U.S. Terminal Procedures link. You'll be taken to a page with all the current instrument approach procedures, standard instrument departures, standard terminal arrival routes, and diagrams for that specific airport. And it's all free. Download and print.
The benefit here is that you can print out the most current approach charts for any airport (or many of them) prior to your flight. This often beats running to the pilot shop for the latest chart booklet. And in the event that your last visit to the optometrist put you officially at three lenses away from being a fly, you can always print these charts out at a slightly larger size (depending on your printer's capabilities), making them easier to see. And no, there's no law prohibiting you from making the charts larger if you like (but I wouldn't recommend making them the size of a carpet, since that won't fly).
If you haven't taken a look at the government's National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO) charts lately, do so. These charts now employ a new charting format, making them as useful and as easy to interpret as other approach charts on the market. Try them. I think you'll like them.
By Rod Machado