Noob looking for pilot insight RE: Sectional Charts


Could someone explain to me why the airport symbols are different for this airport (KVAY)

Than for this one (KGWB)

Both airports have a single, solid-surface runway between 1500 and 8069 feet, but KGWB is represented by a thin line surrounded by a solid circle (correct, according to my sectional) while KVAY is represented by a thick line surrounded by a solid rectangle (which according to my sectional represents a hard surfaced runway GREATER than 8069 feet).

Is the chart excerpt for KVAY from an IFR chart? The excerpt for KGWB is identical to my own VFR chart and I’ve not seen an IFR chart…did I answer my own question here? There is a decidedly different appearance between the two excerpts…

Hoping this isn’t a ‘google is your friend’ case :slight_smile:


Not in this case. Looks to be a “type of chart” issue.

Looks to me you took your KVAY screenshot off of a TAC and not a standard sectional.

Check out the legend on the VFR Terminal Area chart for Philadelphia.


Yep - Allen’s right. The sectional shows KVAY as a magenta circle.


I don’t have any TAC either, so thanks for clearing that up.

Any reason this difference in symbol sets among charts could ever cause a problem? Let your imagination go wild, if you have to…I can’t think of any, but I’m not a pilot :slight_smile:

Well, FlightGear thinks I’m a pilot, but evidently those ratings don’t carry over with the FAA. Ho hum. Gotta add that it’s fascinating how accurately you can fly IFR with a free Sim! Whooda thunk it?


I’m just posting this so that I can have the honor of the 20,000th post in the General Discussions…hey, we noobs gotta do what we can to stand out.


Welcome to FA!!


Aww, my first official welcome…thanks!

I feel like I should have had an acceptance speech all planned out…oh, wait, I do!

Honored to be part of the forums here and am VERY impressed at the wide base of knowledge and (more importantly [maybe]) humor represented. My compliments to the staff and mods for keeping trolling and spam to a minimum, which evidently is a daunting task for any discussion website with FREE membership. I’ve looked long and hard to find somewhere to feed my aviation fetish and think I’ve found my niche.

Hey, maybe some day I’ll be a real pilot (or pro pilot, as I think the term is around here) and be on the answering side of these questions.

Hoping to soon make a few enemies and start some heated arguments (just kidding),



Actually you had TAC, maybe that’s what confused you! :stuck_out_tongue:


Allen is right- the chart on the top is a Terminal Area Chart.


Screenshots in original post courtesy of That’s where I noticed the discrepancy. My personal (paper) chart is the Chicago Sectional.

Thanks again for your patience with the noob and I’ll do a little more research in the future before posting, as I googled ‘IFR sectional’ and discovered I was WAY off with that particular guess.

As for the differences between TAC and Sectionals, I’ll chalk it up to ‘one of those things’ you get accustomed to.


Not really.

The TAC is exactly what it means. It’s an chart based around the terminal area of the major airport in question, whereas the Sectioanl chart is going to be a huge area around the city the sectional is based on.

For example, KCDC (Cedar City) and KMLF (Milford) are on the Las Vegas Sectional, but are no-where near the terminal area for Las Vegas.

The TAC will include information that is crucial to the Terminal Area around the major airport. In this case, the Las Vegas TAC includes information for visual points/fixes any VFR Transitional routes through the airspace around the airport. Those wouldn’t be readily available on a sectional. Case in point: the Redrock and Cortez routes through Class B airspace.

TACs are relative to the immediate area around the airport in question. The sectionals are relative to a huge area around the city in question (that should be about right).



I’ll jump in too…

The main purpose of TACs are to provide a “map” of visual landmarks in a highly congested area for VFR flight. They’re normally only used for navigating during the approach and departure phase from an airport in the area, and for general situational awareness in such a busy area. Hence the airports are depicted showing the appropriate runway heading and relative length/size so that the pilot can just quickly glance down at the TAC and match it up to what he’s seeing outside the window.

Sectionals are meant more for long-distance cross country planning and navigating so the airports are depicted more in a way to show their overall position and type of airspace etc rather than their appearance from the air.

Every FAA chart you could ever want:


One other use of the TAC charts is the provision of approach control frequencies. You would use these if you were trying to fly VFR into Philly for example. These are noted on the TAC charts which you’ll see set out different frequencies around Philly depending on the direction you’re approaching from as well as your altitude. Have fun!


The TACs I have used in the past explicitly state that the chart is not to be used for navigation, so to answer your question above, this would not result in some sort of mix-up.

I would take the previous poster up on their suggestion and check out SkyVector. They have all sectionals and TAC available for you to view.


:laughing: That may well be the funniest statement I’ve ever read on this site!!! :laughing:

That’s funny on soooooooo many levels…


the AIM recommends that you use a Terminal Area Chart while operating VFR with in class Bravo airspace.


Yes, really, but there was a whole train of thought there that didn’t make it through the synapses onto the keyboard. :slight_smile: What I meant to say (I think) is that it’s one of those things you get accustomed to after having learned and used and worked with them, not that it’s just some arbitrary difference between the two simply to make a pilot’s job more difficult; would the FAA do something so atrocious?. I do appreciate the extra info, though.

I laugh a little harder every time I read that :smiley:


What made you look up KVAY? I worked there in high school, and if you look closely you can see “Flying W”, my home airport, but the airport depiction is just off the screen.


From the AIM: “2. VFR Terminal Area Charts (TAC). TACs depict the airspace designated as Class B airspace. While similar to sectional charts, TACs have more detail because the scale is larger. The TAC should be used by pilots intending to operate to or from airfields within or near Class B or Class C airspace”, etc.

Sure, it says to use it, but doesn’t say what to use it for. :slight_smile: I’m still giggling about that one.


I was reading through the forums earlier today and checking out where everybody is from, although I can’t remember who exactly was at KVAY. Now that it’s being thrown around (KVAY, that is), I’m sure he’ll poke his head in here and say hello.

Edited for BAD grammar :slight_smile: