In his most recent posting, Moncton Centre controller Michael Oxner makes some friendly but justifiable complaints about summer recreational pilots who don’t bring paper charts in the plane and tie up ATC time when their handheld GPS’s fail (for those pilots’ sake, I hope that their GPS’s had terrain information when they were working — there are mountains pushing above 5,000 ft MSL in Maine on the way from central Canada to the Maritimes).
Here’s a trick I thought of after arriving at the airport once for a long (VFR) family trip, loading up the plane, then realizing that I had left my charts at home: I always, always, carry a couple of 1:1,000,000 scale World Aeronautical Charts (WACs) in my flight bag. WACs have lousy detail but very wide coverage — just two Canadian WACs (F-21 and F-22) cover nearly any single-day trip I’d fly inside Canadian airspace, and add no appreciable bulk or weight. The problem with Canadian WACs, though, is that they’re not updated very often — they may be legal, but most of them haven’t been amended for 10 years or more, so their airspace information is of historical interest only. For that reason, I actually carry American WACs (CF-18 and CF-19), which are updated regularly and happen to include a lot of Canadian airspace.
Since I own my own plane, I also keep a bunch of charts and approach plates for Ontario and Quebec in a small bag under the pilot’s seat — the WACs are actually the backup to my backup now — but for a renter, a couple of WACs in the flight bag seems like a no-brainer, though 1:500,000 scale VNCs/Sectionals and 1:250,000 scale terminal-area charts are, obviously, preferable.
For anyone with time to kill, a high-speed Internet connection, and no concept of the cost of inkjet toner, you can download the U.S. sectional charts here and print them out on your own.