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Tips for Using GPS for VFR Operations

by Flight Learnings

in Navigation

Always check to see if the unit has RAIM capability. If no RAIM capability exists, be suspicious of a GPS displayed position when any disagreement exists with the position derived from other radio navigation systems, pilotage, or dead reckoning.

Check the currency of the database, if any. If expired, update the database using the current revision. If an update of an expired database is not possible, disregard any moving map display of airspace for critical navigation decisions. Be aware that named waypoints may no longer exist or may have been relocated since the database expired. At a minimum, the waypoints planned to be used should be checked against a current official source, such as the A/FD, or a Sectional Aeronautical Chart.

While a hand-held GPS receiver can provide excellent navigation capability to VFR pilots, be prepared for intermittent loss of navigation signal, possibly with no RAIM warning to the pilot. If mounting the receiver in the aircraft, be sure to comply with 14 CFR part 43.

Plan flights carefully before taking off. If navigating to user-defined waypoints, enter them before flight, not on the fly. Verify the planned flight against a current source, such as a current sectional chart. There have been cases in which one pilot used waypoints created by another pilot that were not where the pilot flying was expecting. This generally resulted in a navigation error. Minimize head-down time in the aircraft and keep a sharp lookout for traffic, terrain, and obstacles. Just a few minutes of preparation and planning on the ground makes a great difference in the air.

Another way to minimize head-down time is to become very familiar with the receiver’s operation. Most receivers are not intuitive. The pilot must take the time to learn the various keystrokes, knob functions, and displays that are used in the operation of the receiver. Some manufacturers provide computer-based tutorials or simulations of their receivers. Take the time to learn about the particular unit before using it in flight.

In summary, be careful not to rely on GPS to solve all VFR navigational problems. Unless an IFR receiver is installed in accordance with IFR requirements, no standard of accuracy or integrity has been assured. While the practicality of GPS is compelling, the fact remains that only the pilot can navigate the aircraft, and GPS is just one of the pilot’s tools to do the job.

51+CmORESYL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about flight navigation with the Aviator’s Guide to Navigation. One of the best books on the market to refine your navigation skills. The Fourth Edition of this comprehensive guide explains the full range of air navigation innovations, covering all the new technologies and tools that have emerged in the past ten years.

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