[How-To] Read and Understand VFR Maps - Basic Knowledge

Hello Pilots,

Due to my VFR Flight Lesson How-To, I’ve received another request for a How-To about understanding VFR Map Material. In this guide, I want to talk about the most important and basic things when working with VFR Map Material. Have fun!

Different Maps and their Purposes:

There are different maps for flying VFR and every single one got a different purpose. We'll check out these kind of maps in this guide:

1. ICAO Map (VFR)
2. Visual Operation Chart out of the AIP

Let us have a quick look where the difference between those maps are.



As you can see, the ICAO Map is giving us information about airspaces, obstacles, navigation aids and geographical data.

The VOC is giving us information about airport approaches and departures. It’s more detailed and includes specific information for planning your flight close to your departure and arrival airport.


The ICAO Map contains topographical, geographical and navigation information, represented by colors. Water is shown in blue, big cities yellow, train tracks black, roads and highways red and vegetation green. Topographical details are hard to read. In order to spot the highest area in a mountainous area for example, a white box with altitude information indicates the highest spot.

Let´s talk about airports. Below you can see an airport (left side of the picture) together with its information attached on the right.

1. Row:

  • ICAO Code of the Airport
  • Elevation (1190 feet, above mean sea level)

2. Row:

  • Name / Location of the Airport

3. Row:

  • Radio Frequency for Communication (121.025 MHz)
  • Runway Length (540m)
  • Traffic Pattern Information (2 NM South West of the airport)

The airport marking itself gives you information about the runway.

Runway Surface

= Glider Airfield

= unpaved runway surface / grass runway

= solid runway surface

Markings and their included information:

Let us have a look at the following ICAO Map:

ICAO Map with Information

  1. This is a controlled airspace. If you are following the dashed line, you can see where exactly this airspace is located. The [D] is indicating that this is a Delta Airspace. The two numbers are indicating that the airspace is starting at ground and ends at 2700 feet. The [HX] means, that you have to monitor your radio all the time while flying in this airspace.

  2. This is a general airspace marking. The [E] is indicating that this is an Echo Airspace.
    The airspace starts at 1000 feet (Above Ground Level) and ends in 10,000 feet. Again, the blue line is showing you where the airspace is located.

  3. This is reporting point Sierra. These reporting points are used for departing or approaching airports. They are often also used for flying with VOC´s. For example, you can tell ATC that you are departing via Sierra, so your departure route will go to this point.

  4. This is the Maximum Elevation Figure. It is displaying the highest area for a rectangle inside the coordinate system of the map. Additional to the real height of the area, there is an additional height of 328 feet + 30 feet (= 358) added. The big red value indicates XYZ x 1000 feet. The small red value indicates XYZ x 100 feet. So, the indicated height on the upper map would be 3200 feet, including the additional obstacle height.

  5. These are obstacles together with their height.

  6. Here you can see the information for the lower located VOR. In the upper row the VOR name / location is shown. In the second row you see the VOR frequency and the VOR identifier. Lines and Dots below or next to the marking are providing information about audible Morse code, that you can tune in via NAV audio.

  7. The green information shows you which area is controlled by which ATC radar. The frequency and the green dashed lines are indicating the controlled area.

  8. TMZ means Transponder Mandatory Zone. While flying in this area, you have to monitor ATC all the time and you will possibly receive another Squawk then the VFR standard Squawk, until you leave the TMZ.


Now, let us have a deeper look on the VOC´s. This kind of map is made for flying near airport, taking off and approaching. Please have a look on the map. To get a better view, click the image.


The white bar in the middle of the map is the runway of EDFE. The numbers to the left and right of the bar are the runway identifiers. The blue circles are the traffic patterns for approaching and departing.

Green Markings:

The green markings are important for departing and approaching. The following description is based on a takeoff runway 08.

The green circles are indicating visual spots, where the traffic pattern is changing to downwind / base / final.

For example, the upper green circle in the east shows highway A661 (red dashed line). There we would turn to the north, going to the base of the pattern until we reach the lower eastern green circle, which shows a power line (marked with the red dashed line).

From there, we would fly to the west until we reach highway A5, again marked in red dashed lines.

There, we’d follow the A5 to the north using departure Delta.

The lower green circle in the west shows the city of Weiterstadt. Reaching that city would end our departure, because we already left the airspace of EDFE. The airspace of EDFE is marked with the blue dashed line that goes around the airport.

The green explanation mark shows the traffic pattern altitude.

At the top left of the map you can see reporting point Lima we spoke about in the upper ICAO section.

The orange line shows an airspace change. On the bottom left corner of the map there’s some blue information, telling us Frankfurt CTR 1500 MSL D. This is the controlled airspace of EDDF and also airspace Delta, where we aren´t allowed to fly VFR. Cause of that, there is also important information on the left middle side of the map. “Traffic circuits are not permitted W of the Autobahn”. Doing this, would result in entering the controlled airspace.

Final Words:

Thanks for reading my second How To! Feel free to contact me via DM, if you want to mention something!

Happy Flying!


VFR Map Material
Aeronautical Information Publication
International Civil Aviation Organization
__________________________________________________________________________________ VOC
Visual Operation Chart
__________________________________________________________________________________ TMZ
Transponder Mandatory Zone