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Tony Smith
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GPS and aviation navigation.
09/24/18 at 03:25:28
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I was a fairly early adopter of GPS in aviation, along with two friends I bought one of the first Trimble GPS  units in Australia- $AU10,000 if you please, it was the size of two encyclopedias ran on either a cigarette lighter socket or (from memory and may be exaggerating) around 30 AA batteries (for not very long). It was a tremendous navigation aid, but at the time could not be relied upon due to SA. Never the less on a black moonless night in the middle of the GAFA (Great Australian F'all) it was a comfort to have your dead reckoning and the few fixes from radio aids backed up.

To my great annoyance as GPS became cheaper (rapidly) and smaller, more and more pilots came to rely on the things to the detriment of their navigation skills. I was once tasked to go with a young pilot doing his last solo nav-exes prior to obtaining a commercial licence. Little did I realize that his instructor had set him up with me for a very particular reason.

The particular exercise involved a night flight from Townsville to the old mining town of Chillagoe, from there to another old mining town of Charters Towers and then home to Townsville.

Although I was not flying in command I familiarised myself with the planned route and spent some time looking at the map and thinking about what I would expect to see on the ground. As it happened the route (as was cunningly planned by the instructor) passed over or very near to a large number of things that would be viable, even at night  - stuff like big lakes, islands, small towns etc.

About 35 minutes after we left it was full dark and I noticed that the pilot flying was watching his GPS constantly and had not once put his eyes out of the aeroplane to match the planned course to what was on the ground.

I reached over, turned off the GPS and took the batteries out and put them in my pocket. After a couple of minutes when t was obvious that he was all at sea I offered to take over whilst he oriented himself to the ground and worked out what he should be seeing going forward.

After handing back the aeroplane he did OK, but it was obvious he had become overly dependant on his GPS.

Not much was said in the plane but during his debrief the next day I heard that he had told the instructor that I wa sa complete bastard and that I had taken his GPS batteries out and made him navigate using radio aids and ground features.

The instructor's comment - "I thought Tony might do something like that and if you learn the lesson, he has probably saved your life one day."

I felt that I'd paid something forward as I was trained to instrument navigate by a former Mosquito pathfinder navigator. Mr Sugar saved my life quite a few times.
  

1978 R100RS| 1984 R65 | 1984 XT350 | 1992 KLE500 | 2002 R1150GSA
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Justin B.
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #1 - 09/24/18 at 12:20:26
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Yeah, flying at night can sometimes be rather interesting.  I was flying with my neighbor, once, in his Piper Cherokee 180 and coming back the instrument light went out and we had to keep an eye on things with a small flashlight!  Good thing we had roads to follow...
  

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Tony Smith
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #2 - 09/24/18 at 16:19:51
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Justin B. wrote on 09/24/18 at 12:20:26:
Yeah, flying at night can sometimes be rather interesting.  I was flying with my neighbor, once, in his Piper Cherokee 180 and coming back the instrument light went out and we had to keep an eye on things with a small flashlight!  Good thing we had roads to follow...


It is amazing how often panel lighting fails. hopefully they are now all converted to LED and last forever now. The cunningly written IFR rules effectively required a pilot flying at night to carry a blasted Magmite. These were/are great torches, right up to the point where you have t stick one in your mouth. Consequently every night/IFR rated pilot used to carry two torches - the Maglite to meet the equipment list and a cheap plastic "Ever-ready" one which was far more pleasant to stick in your mouth.

And, as I am sure you know, IFR stands for "I Follow Railways (Roads).
  

1978 R100RS| 1984 R65 | 1984 XT350 | 1992 KLE500 | 2002 R1150GSA
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Justin B.
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #3 - 09/24/18 at 19:45:08
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Yeah, my neighbor said he was really good at IFR flying.  I was impressed until he told me the "humorous" definition! 

After our little light failure he bought a whole box of 'em and kept them in his flight bag - never had to change another.  He said having me along to hold the flashlight made things a lot easier.  He'd just tell me what to point it at and, voila!  Never saw a setup with one bulb illuminating everything before, even my old '57 Chevy has at least one bulb per instrument!
  

Justin B.

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DeeG
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #4 - 10/04/18 at 12:34:19
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I remember the beginning days of civilian GPS.  They were the ohhh! ahhh! gadgets that some pilots had to have.  But what scared the crap out of me was some pilots making up GPS approaches (back before civilian GPS was certified for IFR use).   These guys would fly their made up routes, in the clouds, in the Los Angeles basin.   I can only imagine the panic stricken ATC guys when some blip appears on their screen that shouldn't be there and isn't talking to them.

And much like Tony Smiths student, the ones that couldn't navigate around the pattern with out the GPS. grrrr.....  Was flying with a friend in his Arrow one afternoon, took off from Bakersfield, CA heading back to Mojave, CA.  It was a typical smoggy, smokey day in the central valley. visibility barely legal for VFR.  I got my head on a swivel and he is busy futzing with the danged thing.  he was so focused on it, that he failed to hear ATC telling us of conflicting traffic, and then got upset when I wrenched the controls away from him, to comply with ATC's instructions.


  

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Tony Smith
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #5 - 10/05/18 at 00:26:59
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Two things that i remember with horror (and totally agree with you on). 1/. Self invented unapproved GPS approaches and pilots "futzing" (I would have said "pissing about") with ancillary things instead of flying the damn plane.

Mr Sugar, who I have mentioned previously, had a simple mantra he enforced on his students:- "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate" in that order. I am glad he didn't live to see the arrival of GPS devices in the hands of student pilots. More than once I know he took control of an aircraft and on arrival back at base sat down with the student pilot and suggested, in his gentle and non-confrontational manner, that perhaps absent a major outlook and attitude adjustment perhaps they were simply not cut out to be a pilot.

I hasten to add that his approach was not to get students to the standard to pass the formal flight test, rather he tried to instil skills to keep people alive in adverse circumstances.

  

1978 R100RS| 1984 R65 | 1984 XT350 | 1992 KLE500 | 2002 R1150GSA
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DonC
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #6 - 10/06/18 at 07:53:37
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Distracted drivers, now distracted pilots! What happened to the plain old JOY of driving, riding, or flying? Guys, we must be getting old. FWIW, I don't even have a cell phone.
  
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Burt
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #7 - 10/13/18 at 20:50:22
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A friend of mine whom I met through riding BMW motorcycles, also flies for a major international airline (not an Oz one though) and was departing Rome recently.  Their IT dept. had thrust some new Ipads on them a few months ago which contains an airline specific package which is used as part of their flight planning. 

As they were preparing to shove off the forms package disappeared.  In a desperate hurry to meet their take off slot, they managed to find a backup package after the primary one completely disappeared. 

Consequently, they did get off but after a delay.  So in future if a pilot says they are delayed for "x" reason and you can see no obvious reason for that, you may want to take their explanation with a grain of salt.   Grin
« Last Edit: 10/14/18 at 02:04:12 by Burt »  

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Tony Smith
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Re: GPS and aviation navigation.
Reply #8 - 10/13/18 at 21:13:14
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Burt wrote on 10/13/18 at 20:50:22:
As they were preparing to shove off the forms package disappeared.  In a desperate hurry to meet their take off slot, they managed to find a backup package after the primary one completely disappeared. 




Computer says No!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJQ3TM-p2QI
  

1978 R100RS| 1984 R65 | 1984 XT350 | 1992 KLE500 | 2002 R1150GSA
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