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Should basic use of navaids be taught before first solo cross-country training/

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Should basic use of navaids be taught before first solo cross-country training/

Old 29th Sep 2016, 14:40
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Should basic use of navaids be taught before first solo cross-country training/

A report in the latest ATSB short investigation document discussed an incident where a Cessna 172 operating on a VFR cross-country from Gold Coast (19 March 2016) inadvertently entered cloud. ATC were helpful and the pilot soon became VFR again.
An extract from the ATSB investigation said:

At the time of the incident, the pilot had logged about 46 flying hours. Three hours of this was instrument3 flight training.
The pilot provided the following comments:
• The weather had changed very quickly, and that it was different to that expected.
• They felt no pressure to conduct the flight. They had been briefed to ‘turn back’ to the Gold Coast if at any time they felt uncomfortable with the weather.
• They did not specifically alert ATC that they had entered cloud. They had however, advised ATC that they were uncertain of the aircraft’s position, and accepted assistance in that regard.
• They had attempted to program the “Direct To” function on the KLN89B GPS installed in the aircraft, but had not been able to get this to work. They were not confident in the use of the navigation aids (VOR and ADF).
............................................................ .................................

Apart from the annoying and distracting Public Service use of "they" instead of he or she, it is surprising that the ATSB missed a good opportunity to comment on the last line where "they were not confident in the use of navigation aids (VOR and ADF)

The pilot had about 46 hours which no doubt included dual cross country time. Surely, before being sent on a solo cross-country trip his instructor(s) should have taught him the in-flight use of VOR and ADF as a back-up to map reading? The report mentioned the pilot also had problems using his GPS.

I have sympathy for the student who was dispatched on a solo cross country flight without being certified competent in basic use of VOR/ADF/GPS operation as a cross check against possible map reading errors. Instructors need to do better than this. There would have been ample opportunities to practice obtaining position lines during dual cross country flying. If these aids to navigation are installed in the aircraft, then I would think common sense and logic would dictate that students should be given instruction and tested on how to use them before flying in command on cross country navigation flights.

That said, maybe his/her/ instructors did not know how to use them, either

Last edited by Centaurus; 29th Sep 2016 at 14:51.
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Old 29th Sep 2016, 15:32
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IMHO you have raised a couple of very important points in your post. What's the point in flying an aircraft, of any size or configuration, maybe fitted with all the latest 'gadgets', if you don't understand them...or how to make them work for you?

I'm just a pedantic old fart who has been flying all sorts of flying machines since I was about 18yo...I'm 68 and a bit now., but one of my rules has always been...I don't fly anything that has anything U/S and I won't undertake a flight if the aircraft is fitted with anything I don't understand or can't operate to it's full capacity.

My log books show around 8500 hrs and I'm still around to bore the socks off you all, so I guess my system works to some degree.

The comment regarding instructors not knowing how things work is something I have come across in the past....sad, but true!
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Old 29th Sep 2016, 19:33
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Well, there was a foreign student training with the RN/RAF. On his first solo cross country - despite all the checks and measures - he flew into a cloud on an otherwise nice day, and ended up bailing out. There is no question that he had the correct training, and just like everyone else he appeared to be ready for the sortie. And yet he got himself into a right pickle.
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Old 29th Sep 2016, 23:09
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Concur - we just need to face the reality that DR is basically guessing where you are. DR navigation significantly increases cockpit workload, requires more flying currency, is subject to mental errors and does not allow the flexibility to safely divert around weather in a lot of circumstances. It's not fit for purpose in 2016.

DR is unsafe. There - I said it!

GPS should be normal. DR should be the endorsement.
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Old 29th Sep 2016, 23:31
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DR is unsafe. There - I said it!

GPS should be normal. DR should be the endorsement.
Completely agree with this statement. While basic DR and timing is essential to navigation, I think there is way too much emphasis placed on it in the early phases of training to the detriment of being trained in the appropriate use of GPS/Navaids.

A pilot's (especially a rookie) mental capacity to perform DR tasks in an abnormal sitation is far more likely to fail than the aircrafts GPS.
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Old 29th Sep 2016, 23:41
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All good points being raised here.

I took up flying late in life and was taken aback when it became clear that the training focused on using DR and wiz wheels rather than the modern technology. I wasn't shown nor encouraged to use the GPS until after completing my PPL. Of course now all my flight planning is done with Oz runways and navigation with the GPS albeit maintaining a look out for expected land marks (although my passengers think this is sight seeing).

I'd be interested to know how many pilots actually use DR and mechanical flight computers once their training is completed?

Herein lies a danger. EFB and GPS systems are complex and it is not difficult to make an error. For example, it is very easy to make mistake entering the correct W&B envelope in, say Oz runways, leading to a risk of taking off over weight. If training is intended to make us safer pilots then failing to train people in the use of these common aids seems a major oversight. Having said this, I haven't yet read a safety bulletin suggesting the incorrect use (as opposed to the non-use) of a GPS or ELB to be cause of incident so maybe it is not problem.

Cheers FT
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 00:15
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Surely, before being sent on a solo cross-country trip his instructor(s) should have taught him the in-flight use of VOR and ADF as a back-up to map reading?
Learning VOR and ADF would be a complete waste of time and money.

The GOTO button is your friend!

I have carried at least one GPS when flying since 1991.

In the 43 years I have been flying the 3 greatest advances in GA have been GPS, digital fuel flow and all cylinder engine monitors.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 00:38
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Agree with the sentiments above......however..... While the CASA licence testing procedures wallow in the mid 20th century and insist that the CPL test be flown using predominantly DR techniques then the instructor has little choice but to teach these arguably outdated methods.

Couple this with the fact that competition for the student pilot dollar means that the school syllabus has to be comprehensive enough to meet the CASA requirements, yet trim enough to avoid extra costs that make you more expensive than the next school. There is precious little "fat" to ensure an in depth teaching of navaid & GPS use at the PPL level.

I prefer to prepare the student pilot to the best of my abilities as I'm sure any good instructor would. Part of the problem is that those abilities can vary widely between instructors and usually with no fault of the instructor.

An often heard phrase in recent times is "the race to the bottom" when talking of training standards and this is becoming more and more evident as the years roll on.

Instructors need CASA to get into the 21st century and not only allow navaid/GPS use as an aid to visual nav (as is the case at present), but to actively encourage the uptake of modern technology and methods and their use in licence testing. That would be a sure step towards increased safety as opposed to some of the stuff that has been foisted on us in recent years in the name of "safety".
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 02:30
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GPS is obviously the way of the present and future and I agree it should be taught at base CPL level - show me one charter aeroplane up north (IFR or otherwise) that's navigating using anything but GPS, or any pilot flying them that can remember or demonstrate any good visual DR technique.

It's also worrying the number of times I've encountered weekend warriors bumbling through CTAFs off-frequency due to hitting Direct-To then switching their brains off. GPS needs to be taught properly at CPL level, as another navaid, not as a completely bulletproof replacement for every other principle of navigation and airmanship, which quite a few seem to treat it as.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 02:37
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Ted, Raven,

Herein lies a danger. EFB and GPS systems are complex and it is not difficult to make an error. ... I haven't yet read a safety bulletin suggesting the incorrect use (as opposed to the non-use) of a GPS or ELB to be cause of incident so maybe it is not problem.
I'd go further than not difficult - It is difficult to use modern avionics correctly and takes significant training. At RPL/PPL level, students are still getting used to the rate at which things happen - at least "look out and go there" doesn't involve lots of new skills.

And regarding incorrect use - not so much so at RPL/PPL/CPL level (because most incidents are not investigated) but it seems like every second airline incident is related to incorrect use of FMS/autopilot, or misunderstanding what it is/is-not doing. Again, the technology is not easy to use correctly.

Sure we could have RPL/PPL students using it - but that will take training = time and money.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 02:48
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What's being taught here, VFR cross country nav skills or the basics of IFR navigation?

I think there's too much emphasis on the use of technology and not enough on the basic VFR nav skills.

I don't think it's a good idea to teach the use of nav aids before VFR cross country solo flights. Students will spend time using the nav aids rather than honing the VFR DR nav skills.

There are too many accidents where pilots have allowed the GPS to give them the confidence to do stuff they shouldn't have been doing. I'm talking about PPL's here not students, but you have to wonder that if their basic VFR nav skills were better they wouldn't be relying on the GPS and may not have ended up coming to grief.

On a slight tangent I think there's too much eyes inside rather than eyes outside when pilots are flying VFR these days. It's a well recognised fact that students spend far too much time gazing at their C172's G1000 screens in the circuit rather than looking outside.

There's too many distractions inside the cockpit, multiple hand help GPS's, iPads etc, no wonder some end up in cloud inadvertently.

On the subject of flying into cloud the use of nav aids wont stop this. Proper instruction on judging whether or not you're above or below the base of an approaching cloud bank and assessing what the weather conditions are in your general vicinity and what your actions will be if the weather goes below your personal minimums (assuming you have some) would be much more use.

As one instructor told me the fast closing weather usually closes in at about 110 knots, i.e. the speed of your average light aircraft. In other words the weather very rarely changes that fast, you fly into the weather.

I'd be interested to know how many pilots actually use DR and mechanical flight computers once their training is completed?
I'd hope everyone does. Even with the use of technology you need to keep those skills practiced for the day the technology stops working. While I don't fly VFR very often these days I still enjoy doing the DR calcs during the flight. It's a good way to pass the time and keep you in the loop and it's helps guard against the old garbage in garbage out problem you face with modern technology.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 02:52
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Originally Posted by Flying Ted View Post
All good points being raised here.

I took up flying late in life and was taken aback when it became clear that the training focused on using DR and wiz wheels rather than the modern technology. I wasn't shown nor encouraged to use the GPS until after completing my PPL. Of course now all my flight planning is done with Oz runways and navigation with the GPS albeit maintaining a look out for expected land marks (although my passengers think this is sight seeing).

I'd be interested to know how many pilots actually use DR and mechanical flight computers once their training is completed?

Herein lies a danger. EFB and GPS systems are complex and it is not difficult to make an error. For example, it is very easy to make mistake entering the correct W&B envelope in, say Oz runways, leading to a risk of taking off over weight. If training is intended to make us safer pilots then failing to train people in the use of these common aids seems a major oversight. Having said this, I haven't yet read a safety bulletin suggesting the incorrect use (as opposed to the non-use) of a GPS or ELB to be cause of incident so maybe it is not problem.

Cheers FT
For example, it is very easy to make mistake entering the correct W&B envelope in, say Oz runways, leading to a risk of taking off over weight.
Why do you think this is so? Whether you are entering numbers on a keypad, on a screen or writing it on paper if you are slack with whatever form of input you use then you will make mistakes, a poorly written 5 mistaken as an 8 or a decimal place missed etc. I would surmise that a lot less errors are made with computer input as apposed to the old pen and paper.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 02:53
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To be able to make use of VOR/NDB there must actually be a VOR/NDB.

ASA powered-off another 179 ground-based navaids in May 2016.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 08:59
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Interesting discussion

A few observations on various comments.

ravan, I think we can all appreciate what is or isn't taught is a role for CASA in setting the syllabus. As you rightly say the instructors are teaching to standardize program.

27/09 I couldn’t agree more that there is a tendency to fly inside the cockpit. I do this myself. I wonder if I was actually trained to fully use the features of a glass cockpit and EFB from the get go, this would help establish the correct balance between eyes up or eyes down?

Dexta, you raise a good point as to whether or not an EFB is safer than the old wiz wheel. If it is safer we may need to keep this on a NTK basis otherwise it will become mandated.

Cheers FT
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 12:21
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As an old clock and compass, stick and pencil man, no reason why modern students shouldnt have a grasp of basic nav principles....with a map AND map reading, which seems to be a lost art
Great to have all that modern picture stuff but when it does a fizzer that other nav aid perspex comes in handy. You can use it to look at the terrain and relate it to the map..if you have one, since the screen went blank.
Have had a couple of times out in the wide brown yonder when ye olde GPS took time out....so back to basics, map, clock and compass..it still gets you home.

You wont feel too lost these days if you draw a magenta line on the paper map.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 13:38
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Because map reading is an art there can be a quiet sense of achievement when a pin-point comes up on time as calculated. Not much achievement in hitting the Go-To button. When on cross-country flights it is a simple precaution before starting engines to draw a line of bearing from a nearby NDB or VOR to each appropriate pin point. Believe it or not, you don't have to be instrument rated to tune to a navaid frequency and use it as a plotted position line over any pin point on the chart. Handy to know if a pin point is hard to find while flying in haze or toward the setting sun.


Most flying schools have a synthetic training device. Students should be taught how to tune and identify a navaid, and obtain a bearing by ADF or VOR even before starting their first dual cross-country flight. Money well spent.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 19:50
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Judd: Believe it or not, you don't have to be instrument rated to tune to a navaid frequency and use it as a plotted position line over any pin point on the chart. Handy to know if a pin point is hard to find while flying in haze or toward the setting sun.
Very true. The OP was talking about a student pilot doing his/her X/country training for a PPL. Their instructor should not be sending them out in conditions where it's hard to pin point a position on a chart.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 22:22
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Without basic DR and map reading skills, you are building on sand. Successful DR requires an in depth understanding of basic navigational and map reading principles. There is no quicker and cheaper way to demonstrate mastery of those vital basic competencies than performing DR.

Furthermore, without those basic DR skills, what chance has our little button pusher got of detecting a GPS failure or wrong button push?

If you want to know real terror, wait till you loose all those avionics you relied on when a battery or alternator fails and you have not got access to a map, pencil, watch and magnetic compass.
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Old 30th Sep 2016, 22:47
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If you want to know real terror, wait till you loose all those avionics you relied on when a battery or alternator fails and you have not got access to a map, pencil, watch and magnetic compass.
That's when your fully charged iPad running a current database in OzRunways will come in very handy
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Old 1st Oct 2016, 00:18
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wishiwasupthere: Would be pretty bad luck for my 2 iPads and iPhone running OzRunways go kaput at the same time as an alternator failure!
All you need is something like this, FAA Warns That Mystery Military Tests May Lead To Widespread West Coast GPS Disruptions | Zero Hedge or some idiot with an illegal jammer and it won't matter how many alternators, batteries or GPS receivers you have.
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