-- Put that GPS away! --

  Recently on the newsgroup rec.aviation.student more than one person was saying "Gee I'll NEVER fly without my GPS ever". So what's the problem? Well, first, I'll say from which angle I'm coming from. First off, I'm not a Luddite in any shape or form. I love technology. I derive great pleasure from my work as a software developer and I like having the latest computer on my desk. I enjoy hacking up my web pages using the Vim text editor. I also think that handheld GPS receivers are truly excellent value. So why the rant? Well I've discovered that there are too many people out there who are totally dependent on electronic naviads and are so frightened of getting lost they won't ever leave the ground without their GPS. The "never leave home without the GPS" group IMHO don't know how to navigate even if they claim to use GPS only as a backup to their chart and eyeball. I'll explain why. Of course, IFR is a completely different kettle of fish, and I'm not instrument rated yet, so I won't comment on IFR navigation. I'm ranting here purely about VFR navigation.

  It all started when I flew the Musketeer on a student cross country. I flew one leg on VOR's. One leg on GPS, and the final leg (which I was worried about) on DR/pilotage. You know what? I had about ten times more fun on that last leg and learned ten times as much about air navigation. Since then I have done many cross countries using nothing but Mk I eyeball, a sectional chart and a clock. I discovered that this is the fun way to do a VFR trip; it has challenge to it.

  After discovering this, I've been getting frustrated with the amount of people who say "Oh yes, I'm doing DR and pilotage, the GPS turned on and within easy viewing reach is just for confimration. Really! Honest guv'nor!"
Well I got news for you buddy! This is exactly what I used to say. It's wrong. Navigating this way is using the GPS (or other electronic navaids) as a crutch. It took me a few flights after that discovery of mine in the Musketeer to get really proficient at pilotage and DR.

  Someone on the newsgroup related learning to do pilotage/DR whilst having a GPS handy is like teaching first-year students arithmetic with a calculator as a backup - they use it as a crutch and don't learn arithmetic at all properly. I agree with her, she's absolutely right. One of the "never leave home without the GPS" people retorted with a post practically making it look like suicide for student pilot to go out on a pilotage/DR trip without a GPS or any navaids. What complete and utter nonsense! A good instructor would have taught pilotage/DR well enough that the trip was never really in doubt. A good instructor will also teach a student that if he or she gets lost to do the three C's. Control (ie fly the airplane), Climb and Confess. Climbing gives better radio coverage. Confess means either call Mayday on 121.5 if it's desperate, or at the minimum contact ATC for vectors or the FSS for a DF steer. Half the problem with the GPS crowd is that their instructors allowed them (or either the GPS'ers didn't tell their instructors) to use the GPS on their cross countries. They never actually learned pilotage/DR at all.

  If you are in the GPS-always camp, you have no idea what you're missing. I get a feeling of deep satisfaction when I navigate on my own initiative, not being directed by an electronic navaid, and arrive with minimum course deviation. To me, navigation is one of the most fun parts of flying - and you're missing out (not to mention leaving yourself in the lurch if that GPS actually quits) if you don't do it. I intend to fly the Club's 170 from here in SE Texas to Illinois in May by pilotage/DR for the Pinckneyville Flyin. It promises to be lots of fun - fun that people who rely on electronic nav gear would miss!

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