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Mapping the Cockpit

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

BIG map, small space - my favourite map folding technique!

There is nothing worse than an impractically folded map in a small cockpit. If you can follow this chart folding method, then you certainly have my vote in favour of being PIC. It is not all that tough, but requires a certain level of sobriety and commitment for successful completion.

The following Marvellous Method of Map-Folding was originally posted by Duncan McKillop on the Flyer magazine forums/mailing list. Enjoy.

Map folding method


  • Practice on a sheet of A4 first (stuff on one side, blank on the other), this will help you avoid making a cock-up with the real thing.

  • Buy a nice shiny new chart from so that you don't get your old and new folds mixed up. Besides which, they were good enough to produce the natty little badges, so we should make it worth their while!

  • Break the back of all the folds, i.e. make the fold one way and then turn the sheet over and make it the other way, this helps the finished chart to lie flatter.

  • Finish each map folding by running along it with a lump of plastic, this makes a fold a fold, not a bend.

  • Give yourself plenty of room on a nice big table and get a pal to help you keep the folds from going wonky.

  • Be prepared to modify the instructions for charts that are taller than they are wide, Scottish chart for example.

  • If you never want to look at the key panel across the bottom of the chart, simply fold it back out of the way and treat the remaining area as per the following instructions.

  • If you get it right you will end up with three horizontal and seven vertical folds.

Right, if you're ready here we go.

Fold 1. With the chart printed side down, fold the two longest edges of the chart together so that you get a nice fold running east west along the middle.

Fold 2 & 3. Open out the chart and fold the lower edge up to the centre fold, repeat for the top edge.

You should now have three horizontal folds running east west across the chart. (If you haven't, give up and go down the pub!)

Fold 4, 5 & 6. Open out the chart and repeat the previous process, only this time make the folds north south.

You should now have three horizontal and three vertical folds dividing the chart up into sixteen little squares. (Fun isn't it).

All of the remaining map folding will be north south.

Fold 7. Open out the chart printed side down and take the left-hand edge and position it on the first fold in from the right-hand side. Take a soft pencil and write "not this one dummy" along the resulting fold. (You'll see why next).

Fold 8. Open out the chart again and repeat step seven again only this time from the other end. By writing along the previous fold it will hopefully stop you making fold 8 in the wrong place! Remember to fold the edge to the FIRST fold at the other end.

You should now have five vertical and three horizontal folds, if not, the pub option will apply.

Fold 9 & 10. Open out the chart and fold the left-hand edge in to the first fold on the left-hand side. Repeat for the right-hand edge to the first fold on the right-hand side.

You should now have completed all seven vertical and three horizontal folds and all the vertical folds will be the same distance apart. No? Pub!

Final assembly. Open the chart out flat on the table printed side down and fold the top and bottom segments into the middle. Turn the chart over with the open edges away from you. Starting with the top fold, make the first fold away from you. Next fold towards you, next away and so on until you have a series of concertina folds.

Open the folds out between the second and third peaks of the concertina, turn it through 90 degrees and fold the top away from you.

The job is now finished (yippeee).

To use, flip the chart open so that there is an equal number of concertinas each side and page left and right through the concertinas to see the centre portion of the chart. To see the upper and lower portions of the chart, flip it over towards you and page left and right through the concertinas.

This concludes my favourite map folding technique. I hope you find it as useful as I have!

You can buy a new map from your local pilot shop, or get it from your flight school.  Personally, I prefer laminating my maps with a matt finish on the chart side only.  This way I can still fold it easily, write on it in pen or pencil, and remove the marks without damaging the map.  Always laminate BEFORE folding the map.

HOT TIP: SA aviation maps are seldom cut square. It is possible, however, to still get a good fold, just make sure none of your folds cross over each other.

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John Arkley
John Arkley
Aug 11, 2020

Mapping the Cockpit. Phew, need a bigger aircraft or a smaller map

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