The traditional method of VFR flight planning consisted of two major tasks.
First, laying out the sectional charts on the floor or kitchen table and, taking a yardstick, drawing a straight line from departure point to destination. But not too dark, because after plotting the straight line, you commonly noted all of the areas that you did not want to over fly. And so, the next step was to make the line "less straight."
After drawing the line, it was time to locate good checkpoints. Turning points had to be included, of course, but also several easily discerned points roughly 10 or 15 flying minutes apart. Then, time to get out the plotter and measure distances and determine course lines. And then, after learning the strength of the winds aloft, it was time to compute groundspeeds, drift corrections, times between checkpoints and fuel bums.
Before takeoff you would spread out all of this information in the cramped space allowed on your lap, and after takeoff (time noted) you would set your heading for the first checkpoint. Checkpoint found? Note the time and compute the time to the next point. Continually look outside and match features on the ground with marks on the chart. And, in no time at all, the next checkpoint comes into view, right at the computed time.
I took a certain amount of satisfaction in neatly making all of the computations and markings, and then finding the points and checking to see how close my computed times came to my actual times. But times change, and many of us no longer pull out paper and pencil.
According to the current Private Pilot Airman Certification Standards (ACS), these planning tasks are still required. Regarding pre-flight planning and cross-country planning the applicant is still required to understand:
Use appropriate and current charts.
Compute headings. flight times and fuel requirements.
But of course, the means we compute all of this information is different. And the appropriate charts might be electronic, not paper. Now, we establish an aircraft
identity in our flight-planning app, together with true airspeed and fuel burns. Then select that airplane, type in the identifiers for the departure, destination and enroute airports, and click "Enter."