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Terminal Area Charts Cover The Busiest Airspace In The Country. Here's How To Use Them.

Terminal Area Charts give you a zoomed-in view of a congested area, like a Class B airport at a major city. So what do you need to know about them?

Purpose And Coverage

VFR Terminal Area Charts, known as TACs, provide you more detail when you're flying in or near Class B Airspace.

TACs don't cover the entire US, but they do cover the busiest airspace in the country. You can tell where TAC coverage is by looking at a Sectional chart. If you see a white outline with the word "TAC" in it, there's a chart available for the area inside the white border.


TACs have a scale of 1 inch = 3.43NM, or 1:250,000, and they provide approximately twice as much scale detail as a sectional chart.


Greater Level Of Airport Detail

On TACs, airports with hard-surfaces runways that are 1500 feet or longer are drawn with a bold outline. That's important to remember, because sectional charts only outline runways that are longer than 8069 feet.

What does that mean? If you see an outlined runway on a TAC chart, it doesn't necessarily mean it's long enough for you to land or take off from.


Keep in mind, airports marked with a hollow circle still have "other than hard-surfaced" runways.

Class B Traffic Routes Are Marked

IFR arrival routes are marked on TACs with blue jets and blue arrows. In addition to the arrival route, common altitudes are marked next to the route. If you're flying VFR, you should try to stay away from these areas because of the heavy airliner traffic along the routes.


Departure routes are depicted on the charts too. IFR departure routes are marked with blue arrows, along with the typical altitude of the route. As with IFR arrival routes, you should try to avoid these areas when you're flying VFR.


VFR Transitions

VFR transition routes are common routes used to move air traffic through busy Class B airspace. They're like freeways in the sky, keeping planes organized and moving in the same direction. Keep in mind, you need an ATC clearance to fly a VFR transition route.

Unidirectional (one way) routes are marked with a hollow arrow pointing one direction.


Bidirectional VFR transition routes are marked with an arrow at both ends. These routes, like unidirectional routes, are used to keep air traffic flowing into and out of busy airports.


VFR flyways, like what you see in the image below, are marked with a thick blue border with arrows on either end. They also have altitudes marked on them.

So what are they? VFR flyways are routes that you can follow to avoid flying through Class B airspace. The advantage for you is that you don't need to get a clearance from ATC to fly a VFR flyway.


Flip TAC Charts Over To Use Flyway Charts

If you flip a TAC chart over, there's a VFR Flyway Planning Chart on the back. What's it there for? It's meant to help you plan VFR flight in and around Class B and Class C airports. Most of the ground detail is omitted, and things like preferred flight routes and recognizable landmarks are added.

As the chart says, it's "not to be used for navigation", but it's a very handy tool on the ground when you're planning your flight.


How To Use TAC Charts In ForeFlight

So if you use ForeFlight, how do you use TAC charts? It's easy. As you pinch to zoom in on a part of the map that has a TAC, ForeFlight automatically switches from sectional chart to TAC on its own:


Flyway Charts Are In "Documents"

And if you want to use flyway charts in ForeFlight, go to: Documents > Catalog > FAA.


Want to learn even more about TAC charts (and sectional charts too)? Sign up for our VFR Charts and Publications course here. You'll walk away with enough information to impress just about any pilot or flight instructor.

Swayne Martin

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and a First Officer on the Boeing 757/767 for a Major US Carrier. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines, and flew Embraer 145s at the beginning of his airline career. Swayne is an author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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