The Newberry

Mapping Movement

New Mexico State Aeronautical Chart, 1964

Referenced by Essay: 

Thirty-four states publish their own aeronautical charts.  States began issuing convenient single sheet aeronautical charts of their areas shortly after World War II as general aviation rebounded.  Light plane manufacturers such as Beech, Cessna, and Piper introduced a variety of high-performance single and twin-engine small aircraft that were soon used for a variety of tasks that created a market for such charts, ranging from airborne ranchers checking livestock and fence lines to business firms flying executives to meetings, construction firms transporting survey crews, and federal agencies conducting wildlife inventories.

State aeronautical charts are generally based on the same government data used to produce federal aeronautical charts, but they are updated with information provided by the states.  Their scale (1:500,000 or 1:1Million), projection (Lambert conformal conic), and flight symbols are the same found on the aeronautical charts produced formerly by the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Federal Aviation Administration. Differences generally include the base map and selected details.  A number of the aeronautical charts issued by Western states, such as this chart of New Mexico, used a base map designed by Hal Shelton, chief cartographic artist for Jeppesen and Company. Shelton’s combined a system of blended colors and physiographic features that provided pilots with a more realistic image of the landscape than the standard contour lines found on most aeronautical charts.  This chart also included other details not found on the standard government charts, notably ranch airports (often designated by an open circle with the letters “R” or “W”), mines and quarries, and three categories of railroads (particularly useful for visual flying).

The Very High Frequency OMNI Range (VOR) compass roses are more clearly illuminated than on standard charts, highlighting their significance for private aircraft. While the VOR network system had been initially developed for scheduled airline use, low-cost, lightweight VOR radio equipment was introduced by the early 1960s providing general aviators with the means for bad weather and night flying.

Like state published road maps, state aeronautical charts are designed primarily to promote state tourism and safety, particularly for out-of-state pilots. State aeronautical chart covers almost always include a compelling picture of a small aircraft flying over a beautiful landmark or feature of the state, with additional panels of similar photographs on the map’s verso devised to entice readers to explore their state. A picture of the current governor with a signed letter addressed to the reader and a panel listing “Things to do in New Mexico” reinforces this message. Panels related to aviation safety are also included on the verso, most notably one devoted to “How to Fly New Mexico’s Mountains.”  Mountain flying remains particularly hazardous to novice pilots, and state aeronautical charts often are the only official documents that address this issue.