Saturday, February 8, 2014

Navigating Away

The automated observation at the airport where I fly gliders was insisting, repeatedly, that the ceiling was 6,000'AGL, but those of us who fly the ridge there knew it was below 3,000'.

I was doing a high-performance checkout and today's lesson plan included stall recognition and recovery.  The standard minimum altitude to be recovered from a stall is 1,500', which might be OK in a Cessna 150, but 3,000' is on the edge of "high enough" for a plane with higher wing loading.

It was the pilot's first flight in the airplane, too, which pretty much guaranteed that we would be climbing higher than I specified.  The chance of accidentally entering the clouds was low, but higher than normal.

But another part of the lesson was using the GPS in the airplane.  For too many pilots GPS use doesn't get much beyond the DIRECT button, and while this pilot would have the opportunity to revert to that behavior after the checkout, I wanted to be sure that he had seen what the unit could do.  (The FAA defines learning as a change in behavior based on experience, so I guess if the experience wasn't going to change his behavior then he wasn't going to learn anything.)

So after the runup I gave the pilot a GPS exercise: program a route from a waypoint on one of the instrument approaches to the south, through the airport, to one of the waypoints to the north.  This gave the pilot a line on the moving map that he had absolutely no intention of following, except if we lost visibility, in which case that line would show us which way to fly to safety.  After the flight, we plotted the "route" using, and it looked like this:
As you can see, the "route" would have kept us away from the mountains to the East and to the West.

I have written before about ideas like this: see here, for instance.  This post's end copies that one:

The conclusion is that, going back to Bowditch, a wise navigator uses every available resource. Even without the equipment to fly those approaches, you can use the data to make your flying safer and more efficient.