Practice Pilotage

The introduction of GPS into airplanes, whether in a panel-mounted or portable format, has made general aviation flying more efficient and more safe particularly with the inclusion of traffic, weather and terrain information. And while playing around with cockpit gadgets is also a lot of fun, we should never forget to look outside. While you can rest assured that the information displayed on your avionics is most likely correct, the LCD screens will never be as accurate as the real world.

Don’t just look outside to enjoy the view or to look for traffic. Look with purpose and track your progress using prominent landmarks on the ground. You may have forgotten the word pilotage. But using pilotage consistently as a backup to keep track of your position and to make sure you’re on the right track pays off in spades if you lose the satellite signal to your GPS unit.

Pilotage also will protect you from getting off track should you mistakenly enter incorrect data into your flight plan. A flight plan entry error could potentially take you into an area with higher than expected terrain or into airspace that you’re not supposed to be in.

So take a look outside on a regular basis to verify that the sights you see match the landmarks you planned to overfly. Aviation technology is terrific, but we should never let go of the basics.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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