VFR Navigation

Objective: Comprehend the different types of navigation and appropriate navigational facilities. Explain how to cope with unforeseen inoperative navigational situations in flight.

Attention: A helicopter was flying around above Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation equipment. Due to the clouds and haze the pilot could not determine his position or course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign and held it in the helicopter’s window. The sign said “WHERE AM I?”
People quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign said, “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map and determined the course to steer to SEATAC (Seattle/Tacoma) airport and landed safely.
After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, “I knew that had to be the MICROSOFT building because they gave me a technically correct but completely useless reply.

Motivation: By understanding multiple aids to navigation, and navigational resources, one can avoid being lost and loosing situational awareness.

Overview: Review the fundamentals of pilotage and dead reckoning. Review different aids to navigation and how to utilize them best. Review lost procedures.



Pilotage: navigation by visual landmarks

Visual checkpoints may include

1. Distinct cities
2. Lakes
3. Rivers
4. Roads
5. Railroads
6. Etc.

At night, you won’t be able to see as many things you’ll see at day, so use objects that are lit:

1. Distinct cities
2. Power plants
3. Populated highways/freeways (headlights and taillights)
4. Tower beacons
5. Etc.

Show features of Aeronautical Chart

1. Importance of using proper and current aeronautical charts

Dead Reckoning: navigation or position finding using calculations of time, speed, distance, and direction

Record actual times on your flight log
Use your flight planning calculations to find either errors in the planning, or changes in the actual conditions
Make additional corrections for wind with power, heading, etc.

Aids to Navigation

VOR: VHF (Very high frequency) Omni-directional Range; a navigational ground facility that broadcasts a signal that relates directions to or from the station, receivable by an instrument in the aircraft

1. Lighthouse strobe analogy
2. Using the VOR receiver in the aircraft, you can maintain a ground track direct to the station
3. You can also set your instrument to track a ground track directly away from the station
4. You can use two VOR’s to determine your relative location
5. VOR’s are limited in range depending on their service volume; see AIM 1-1-8 figures
6. Transmits Morse code identifier (FFU)
• Test signals
• DME not working if 3-letter Morse code is transmitted only 30 seconds apart
7. Many allow voice transmission and receiving for FSS’s
8. CDI: Course Deviation Indicator; the instrument in the airplane that receives the VOR signal
• CDI needle (left-right needle)
• TO/FROM indicator
• OBS: Omni-Bearing Selector; the course selector
• “If I fly the indicated heading, I will go TO/FROM the station”
• Course intercept procedures

DME: Distance Measuring Equipment; aircraft and ground equipment to determine distance from a [ground] station

1. Equipment in the aircraft sends a pair of signal pulses out to a ground station
2. The ground station transmits pair pulses back to the aircraft on a different frequency
3. The aircraft calculates time required for the signal round trip and give a distance in nautical miles
4. Distance is line of site and gives slant range distance, apt to greater error at closer proximity
VORTAC: unified navigational aid combining VOR azimuth, TACAN azimuth, and TACAN distance (DME)
NDB: Nondirectional Radio Beacon; [ground] radio beacon and equipment that gives the pilot an indication of the direction “home” to the station
1. [Blue needles in the G1000]

LORAN: The LOng RAnge Navigation-C system is a hyperbolic, terrestrial-based navigation system operating in the 90-110 kHz frequency band. LORAN, operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, has been in service for over 50 years; used for enroute navigation. Used vastly in Canada, and provides a feasible backup to GPS failures for navigation. (AIM 1-1-15)

Satellite-based navigation system—GPS

1. Using “space noise”, GPS receivers receive a synchronized encoded time from different orbiting satellites to triangulate a position and give a readout on a display.

Radar and services

o Primary radar
o Secondary radar
o Transponder
o Radar traffic advisories

Lost Procedures

o Don’t panic
o Fly the aircraft, reference instruments; heading, speed, altitude, power
o Reference aeronautical chart—where was your last known position?
1. Which direction are you going?
o 5 C’s:
1. Confess to yourself that you are lost
2. Climb to the route ceiling or above minimum safe altitude
3. Conserve fuel (slow down)
4. Communicate to appropriate controlling agency
5. Comply with controller’s instructions (fuel permitting)

Diversion to an alternate

1. Select possible solutions using the DECIDE model
2. Make sure you can make it to the alternate safely
3. Keep as many options open as possible

Conclusion and Evaluation:
Understanding how navigational facilities work is critical to using them properly. If a ground facility is not working, it is imperative that you always have a backup means of navigating to your destination safely.