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Fun Learning about Basic Navigation

Pro Member First Officer
Steve (SpiderWings) First Officer

Just wanted to mention a fun learning experience I had in a flight yesterday. In line with the Exciting Flight Simulator Flights Topic by CRJCapt (Kiosk group), I've also decided to do all the historic flights. Each one so far has supplied me with some new and unique experiences along with giving me an overall itinerary of flights as I not only fly the historic flight but also fly from the ending point of one to the starting point of the next in a modern a/c.

Yesterday's flight brought me face to face with the navigational techniques used by early aviators. The flight was retracing the first airmail flights in 1918 from Washington to Philadelphia to New York in a Curtiss Jenny.

The briefing suggested looking at the learning center's navigation section on the old methods. I've read through it before but with these two flights it all took on practical meaning. One reason is that you are flying low enough to the ground the whole way to make out individual houses and trees.

I went through each of the 4 basic navigation tools (pilotage, dead reckoning, chart reading, and using the compass) while flying and I gained a much better knowledge and understanding of them than ever.

I was most excited about using the compass to hold a heading at the low altitudes where I really got a good look at wind, aircraft heading, and ground track. I'm sure this is all old hat to most of you, and is somewhat to me as well. But being so low really made me see the effects in a whole new light.

I found myself developing a technique which I wonder is used by real life pilots of small planes.

The first part of the flights I was constantly looking at my compass reading and trying hard to hold to a certain reading with the movements of the stick. Then when I started getting an oblique angled tailwind I noticed that the compass heading wasn't keeping me on course. At this point I was able to see my next landmark and so just stopped looking at the compass and made sure the Jenny crossed over that landmark. That was much easier.

That got me thinking and then I pointed the plane into the desired heading to the next distant landmark, which I could not yet see, but with the plane pointed on that heading over the current landmark I picked out an object in the distance to fly to. Once there I did the same with a new object.... a tree or particular house or building.

At first I thought this bite size approach to ground track seemed a bit goofy... lacking sophistication that I usually identify with most elements of flying. But it worked. I looked at the sim map after doing it a while and my ground track line was straight as could be and it got me to the various landmarks that I was instructed to find along the way.

So... I'd like to hear from any of you that pilot small aircraft to see if this is a valid technique used.

I did mention it to my brother in law who is a scout leader and he says thats pretty much how you do it in hiking to. My hiking days came along with the gps and it kinda makes you skip over some of the basics on the ground.... perhaps in the air also?

Don Wood Guest

SpiderWings: This technique is one of the basics of pilotage (navigation without reference to electronics). Congratulations for discovering it on your own.

Your comment about skipping over the basics is also insighful. It is true in not only aviation and hiking but in many areas where electronic crutches have come into being. For instance, working with kids, I have found that, in this day of calculators, many of them do not understand the basic operations of math and can not sit down with pencil and paper anf figure out even fairly simple math problems.

You did not mention your age but, assuming you are fairly young, you are getting a good start on life.

Guest Ed Guest

SpiderWings,

I agree that the historic flights are a lot of fun, and a real challenge as well. I've done several of them, but sometimes I run out of time (and patience) because those old airplanes are SO SLOW! 😂 I just can't imagine doing a flight of thousands of miles in an airplane that only does about 70 miles per hour.

Somebody started a topic about taxiing the Vickers-Vimy recently, and that is the plane in a number of the historic flights. Just to refresh my memory, I set up a flight in that particular aircraft. I took off, flew for about 20 minutes, and when I looked back I was still in sight of the airport!!!

But you're right, when all you have is a compass and your eyes, you gain a new appreciation for what "navigation" means.

Ed

Pro Member First Officer
Tartanaviation First Officer

That got me thinking and then I pointed the plane into the desired heading to the next distant landmark, which I could not yet see, but with the plane pointed on that heading over the current landmark I picked out an object in the distance to fly to. Once there I did the same with a new object.... a tree or particular house or building.

Yeah I make the most of this when I do real life navigation exercises. It is far better i feel if you have the visibility to turn onto the desired heading for the next leg, and choose a ground landmark as you stated, in the far distance. I feel it takes away Unnecessary constant DI and AI checks during the leg, allowing you to keep a good visual, make simple gross error checks.

"Turn, Time, Talk" 😀 😀

Pro Member First Officer
Steve (SpiderWings) First Officer

Don Wood wrote:

...
You did not mention your age but, assuming you are fairly young, you are getting a good start on life.

😉

Guest Ed wrote:

... but sometimes I run out of time (and patience) because those old airplanes are SO SLOW! ...

I did compress time to fly the Spirit of St. Louis to Paris. It kept me right busy the whole way. And I also run out of time and have to pause a flight often. Some might say I'm not being realistic in doing that. But its a tradeoff I am willing to make to get the experience of some things where the amount of time just doesn't fit my life.

Guest Ed wrote:

... when all you have is a compass and your eyes, you gain a new appreciation for what "navigation" means.

Ed

And really a lot of fun. The next flight.. mail from NY to Bellfonte, Pa was one that took a while to complete the two legs. But I have to say that I've been flying sim's since 1987

Don Wood wrote:

...fairly young...

and have had a lot of fun times. But these two legs to Pennsylvania rank right up there near the top of the fun category. I really recommend this historic adventure!!!

I've flown the Curtiss Jenny a number of times and like you Ed I got to dreading how slow it was. But here... flying close to the ground... in rain and poor visibility... I found it a delight. I stayed quite busy looking for the landmarks in the briefing and setting and holding my ground track with only being able to look a mile or two ahead at a time in many places.

And I don't think I've ever had a greater sense of flying. Feeling the light plane, the proximity to the ground and hills that were hard to get high enough to look over... tail wind... it all came together to make a truly great flying adventure.

I got lost twice. And I refused to use the "nearest airport" list in the ATC window or the game map to see if I was in the right place. I had to circle back and look again to see what I'd missed. At the end of the 2nd leg I spent 2 full hours and over 60% of my fuel being lost after seeing an airport landmark described with turf runway in the briefing, that was paved when I saw it. So I assumed I wasn't at the right spot and had the dickens (but fun) of a time looking for other things I could find on my road atlas.

2nd LOST experience above.

Tartanaviation wrote:

...
Yeah I make the most of this when I do real life navigation exercises. It is far better i feel if you have the visibility to turn onto the desired heading for the next leg, and choose a ground landmark as you stated, in the far distance. I feel it takes away Unnecessary constant DI and AI checks during the leg, allowing you to keep a good visual, make simple gross error checks...
"Turn, Time, Talk" 😀 😀

Really appreciate knowing that I figured it out right. But boy... when its raining and you can only see 1 mile or less then you start wondering if it works. And during the times I was lost on the last trip (Pennsylvania) I really started doubting myself. But after I refound my way, got landed and then finally checked the map to see my route, I see that it was working very well indeed.[/quote]

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