GPS: Makes everyone a pilot.
We went through a lot of air maps back in
the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
Pilots who flew back then know all about
navigation by drawing lines on the map
and following them with their finger.
It didnt take long before there
were so many pencil lines and then erased
pencil lines that the map became useless
and it was time for a new one. Depending
on who you flew for, or your own map
budget, sometimes you flew with a map
that was unreadable. These charts
are not and were never really cheap, but
they were necessary. So you or
your employer always coughed up the
money. Even with radio nav like VOR
and ADF, the map was still required to
ensure you didnt get lost.
should be carried for the flight
youre conducting, but unless
youre a student pilot, I doubt that
anyone draws the lines. In fact
Im not sure instructors are still
required to teach that type of flight
Personally, I always have the map handy,
folded to the area Ill be in, and
refer to it often, even with the GPS
doing all the work. Over the past
few years, Ive been fortunate to
have experimented with at least four
different GPS models. They all have
features that some pilots love and come
to depend on, while many functions are
nothing but overkill for other pilots.
I dont think there is a
out there on the market. Best
advice if youre purchasing, is
define your needs first, carefully
consider the options it has and decide if
they can be applied to what youre
doing, then buy the appropriate model.
Last summer most of my work involved
flying grid patterns for forestry
surveys. I needed nothing more than
a GPS that could keep me on an east-west
track regardless of winds. I could
set up to fly on a line of latitude, stay
right on it for 30 miles, then turn north
or south for a few miles to pick up the
next line, and go straight back the other
way. Any model can give you that
kind of information in numerical format
which eliminates the need to follow the
map line or even look out the window.
Recently I obtained a street-map GPS for
my vehicle. Everyone had been
talking about them but to an old pilot
who prides himself on the ability to read
a map, I balked at technology that helps
follow a road. But this was a gift,
so why not. It didnt take
long for this little gizmo to become my
If youve never tried one in your
car or truck, all I can say is you must.
Lets look at some of the features
and what it can do. First of all,
it talks to me. A female voice (I
call her the first officer) tells me when
and where to turn, which way to turn,
where Im going to, and even
politely lets me know when Im
exceeding the speed limit. If I
make a mistake and go the wrong way, she
immediately and without complaining,
re-calculates the route and tells me
about the detour.
The route planning takes only seconds,
and I dont need to draw a line on a
map. There are no VORs or
ADFs to consider. I simply
tap an address or location on the screen,
and then go to. The
machine does the rest. If I
dont know the exact address I want
to get to, the GPS takes care of that
too, sometimes with a point of
interest which is already stored in
its large data base. Look up
restaurants, shopping, fuel stations,
recreation facilities, entertainment
stops, among several other categories,
and simply make your choice with a tap on
the screen. Mine is supposed to
have over two million points of interest.
How does a driver get lost on an
Interstate road or the Trans Canada
Highway? Why would you need a GPS
traveling from city to city? Well,
it will never forget the exit you need.
It always knows where the next gas
station or rest stop is. It always
displays the distance and time to the
destination. You should never get
another speeding ticket. If
thats not reason enough to own one,
just think of the stress relief when you
find yourself in a strange city looking
for the freeway out of town. These
machines guide you through the streets
with ease, and get you back on track
without maps, and without bickering with
your wife. Enter the address of an
airport youre looking for, it will
take you there in time to meet your
mother-in-laws flight. For
the stress saving capabilities alone, a
GPS is worth owning.
Theres more than enough going on
while driving in a strange city. Unfamiliar
roads, landmarks, speed limits, traffic
patterns and rude drivers will distract
you from the navigation part of the load.
So why not leave that up to the GPS?
If youre still not convinced you
need one of these things, get a friend
who owns one to take you for a demo ride.
You will be sold! And the
more you use it, the more youll
love and depend on it. Just like
the one in your airplane. What
pilot would go back to the pre-GPS days
and start drawing lines on maps again?
One more thing about the street map GPS
devices. Theyre cheap.
For an aviation model, youll pay at
least five or six hundred bucks (and much
more). These street models are as
low as a hundred dollars. Even less
on e-Bay. Serious drivers need
serious navigators. So what are you
waiting for? Many dealers offer
refunds if youre not happy. But
they know you wont be back.