Thursday, December 15, 2011

Use the tools you have available

On an instrument flight lesson yesterday, while shooting a non-precision approach under the hood (at least as I remember it): 

Instructor: "Look at your GPS here, see where you are? Wait, are you ever looking at your GPS?"
Me: "No, I thought I wasn't allowed to."
Instructor: "Oh gosh no, look at it. I mean, you can't use it as primary means of navigation but yeesh it makes your life easier so use it."

Hah. Good point. There I was flying the approach, looking only at the VOR indicators, and he pointed out that there's more info on the panel that I might find useful. In my mind, using the information on the portable aviation GPS (A Garmin 396), which is not legal to use for IFR flight primary navigation, would be cheating. The proper instruments to use, again in my mind, were the IFR-certified ones: The VOR indicators. But in reality, using the information from the GPS (which, ironically, provides more accurate information than the VOR radios and indicators) enhances situational awareness substantially.

For that matter, if my autopilot worked properly (it just came back from the repair shop and is going to be re-installed I think later today), I could also use that to help fly headings and keep the plane going in the right direction, not to mention wings-level.

Conversely, I suppose there's something to be said for using just the basic tools and becoming proficient with those, rather than relying on the extras early in the training. I looked at the GPS a couple times after that, but honestly it still felt like cheating. So, I think I might ask if we can just turn it off sometimes. Call me a rebel... :)

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