Take this opportunity to read many articles
Copy and Paste each below in Google search bar -
1 - Google: Vertical mag Bridging the Gap
2 - Google: HELICOPTERS mag Michael Bellamy articles 3 - Google: Vertical mag Ken Armstrong articles
4 - Google: HELICOPTERS mag Ken Armstrong articles
5 - Google: Andy Roe helicopter articles
6 - Google: Dan Gibson survival helicopters mag
7 - Google: Aviation Egress Systems Bryan Webster
8 - Find the feature movie Pilot Error (trailer only yet?)
9 - Search YouTube for many MAYDAY episodes
KEN ARMSTRONG ARTICLES -
CHOOSING A GPS
Capt. Ken's comments - November
Affordable GPS options
By now, most general aviations pilots will be abundantly aware of the benefits of Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation aids.
In combination with moving map displays, colour graphics and co-packaged with a communications radio, sales of GPS units have soared.
Many of us have already acquired one or more of these amazing aids as we chase the advances constantly achieved with these gadgets and prices from $4,000 to $9,000 (or more) are common for these multiple functions machines.
However many pilot have avoided purchasing this all-in-one navigation and approach aid because they are too complex for our pre-computer age minds or because they are too expensive or because they pride themselves on their map navigation – you have my respect.
Personally, I find the GPS greatly reduces my piloting work load and provides more time for other safety related considerations. For instance, my head isn’t buried in the cabin surveying a map that is taking over my cockpit.
Compared to maps, GPS promises: No folding, no worn out crevices that are hard to read and no flying of the edge of coverage. Besides, maps aren’t all that cheap either when one sets off on a cross country and needs to buy a dozen new maps. A couple of trips like that and a budget GPS more than pays its way.
Moreover, the GPS adds some really significant safety benefits beyond map reading that need evaluation before considering the true bottom line cost. Automatic calculations such as exact position, exact speed as well as instant bearing and distance data has major safety implications.
Picture any of the following scenarios and consider the additional challenges map reading would add to your stress level.
What if you were running low on fuel due to unforecast headwinds or crawling along low level due to inclement weather with few references to navigate by or a technical problem dictates you need to land as soon as possible at the closest airport.
These are but a few examples. On at least three occasions a GPS has gotten me out of a jackpot and paid for itself each time!
Although prices have come down for the basic units, manufacturers tend to add more and more features thereby keeping the price of feature rich units sky-high. This article will consider how to maximize your navigation needs with a minimally priced GPS.
Essentially, there are two issues here. The first is how to locate GPS receivers that provide adequate functions for day to day navigation and secondly how a pilot can use basic units to provide the necessary needs for navigation.
The aviation market is a small slice of GPS receiver sales. Let’s face it, there are very few aircraft compared to boats, cars and hikers in the world. As a result, the much larger markets get the research and development funds and by the simple law of supply and demand the price of their navigation units is much lower.
This means the less expensive GPS receivers will be from the boating or hiking marketplaces.
Of course, aviation units typically encompass a huge amount of information that we refer to as the aviation data base. In truth, there are many aviation data bases available.
A few examples might include only one region, one country or perhaps a continent or even world-wide database. Assembling all of this data is labour intensive and adds a great deal to the purchase price of aviation GPS.
Moreover, the information contained within is frequently subject to change necessitating frequent updates. These are not free.
Also, if you try to save money by failing to update your database, there may be regulatory and liability considerations.
Moreover, bells and whistles such as vertical navigation, WAAS capability, colour graphics and automatic log book capabilities may be additional cost fribaloes that are unnecessary and/or unused by most pilots.
In fact, extra features must be learned and quite frankly most of us are so busy we can’t set aside hours to learn how to use a new GPS and conduct a review every few months when we forget how to use the multitudinous features.
Oh sure, exotic GPS receivers may be good for show and tell in the airport coffee shop, but is it worth it when you are paying the price?
WHAT FEATURES DO YOU NEED?
Pilots flying VFR need to carry maps for many reasons. It’s a legal requirement. GPS units and their batteries can fail and we therefore need to keep our navigational skills honed.
So, given the fact one should be carrying current maps during flights, there is really no need for a horrendous number of GPS features – ones we typically forget how to program.
For me, the prime features for a GPS are readouts such as: the ground speed, distance and bearing to the waypoint entered, latitude/longitude readout and time to the waypoint at current speed.
Truth to tell, a lot of those other graphic depictions such as airspace is a hassle. I don’t know how many times I have had to take a hand off the controls to press “enter” to eliminate a message that was prioritizing itself and eliminating the navigation information.
I am also tired of taking the time to buy and update databases. After all, in Canada I am obliged to carry my current copy of the VFR supplement and it is full of all the data I need in terms of airport communications, frequencies and runway layout.
I also don’t care for the clutter of navaid locations, railways, roads and reservoirs etc. – after all, I have maps if I need to reference that geographical information.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having an aviation data base – if I don’t have to pay the premium for it and the cost of updates!
One super critical requirement is a reasonably large, well-lit screen with a high pixel count so this aging pilot has a chance to be able to see the data during a dim evening flight or in a sun-bleached cockpit.
Most units can be completely “glared-out” by the sun and virtually unreadable. Search for a lightweight, rugged unit with a highly reflective display that provides easy viewing in almost any lighting condition.
Transreflective TFT screens provide excellent viewing while maximizing your battery life (often 30 hours or more). A waterproof receiver is also prudent for open cockpit aircraft and ultralights in general to insure long term integrity.
When considering bargain basement GPS receivers, most of our market will be limited to the battery driven handhelds. Before you frown, let’s consider their advantages. Handhelds are portable and this means you can use them on your boat, during hikes, in the car and occasionally in your plane.
When you are finished for the day you can take your receiver home where it is safe and secure from elements and thieves. Folks with multi-function receivers in their panels must have sleepless nights.
Moreover, you can practise with the receiver in the comfort of your home to learn its more exotic uses. Nowadays, even the cheap units have a broad spectrum of seldom used capabilities.
Another benefit of the portable is it can run on its internal batteries or be charged from the aircraft 12V system whereas a panel mount needs the aircraft battery supply to energize.
Picture yourself making an emergency landing on a remote strip and trying to carry the aircraft battery and panel mounted GPS to hike out….! Portables can be hand held or mounted on simple supports with virtually no panel space requirements – a major plus for older aircraft and homebuilts with the generally smaller panels.
So, we have essentially decided the most basic hiking or boating GPS would be adequate for our needs and that we might be out of pocket in the range of $200-$400 to meet our goals. (My last handheld with an aviation database was $1400 US!).
Another benefit of the hiking and boating receivers is that they are often much more shock proof and water proof – and added bonus! (For more information on the advance uses of GPS receivers, see the author’s article in Aviation Quarterly issue 2000).
The industry and offerings are changing so quickly that new concepts frequently enter the market place – one of which is the Control Vision Anywhere Map®.
It’s a unique receiver as it combines an advanced colour GPS moving map, terrain and obstacle avoidance display with a robust flight management system, flight planner, airport guide, flight calculator, clearance recorder, and “co-pilot.”
This $895 US portable fits into a shirt-pocket and the company challenges: “Are you ready for extreme situational awareness?”
It used to be that budget boat or trekking receivers were not suitable for aviation use because of slower update rates or the inability to show the ground speeds aircraft are capable of.
This is no longer much of an issue; however, you should ensure that any unit you consider has the ability to show at least 150 per cent of your highest anticipated true airspeed (to allow for tailwinds).
Purchasers also need to ensure their purchase has adequate capability to store the locations of at least the 50 most common waypoints you will enter. For most pilots who never fly more than a province or two away, this will be more than enough.
One should remember that a boat or hiking GPS likely won’t have a horizontal situation indicator or other rather exotic aircraft functions. Mind you, many of the advanced features on high priced units are seldom used by many pilots. Still, you want to be sure you know what features are included with various units.
MY PERSONAL CHOICE
And now for something completely different.
My less than $200 solution to budget GPS (including free aviation data base updates) is the Handspring Visor Deluxe “hand held computer.”
This PDA equivalent was very popular for a time but when the company folded the unit prices plunged and they can subsequently be found on E Bay for well under $100.
Add to this a tiny plug-in GPS engine/antennae for slightly more than $100 (from the same source) and you have a rather advanced GPS package that fits in your shirt pocket, runs for hours on AAA batteries and contains all of the additional benefits of a PDA. Units come with a cradle/base that connects to your computer via USB cable for transferring aeronautical data.
Truth to tell, this great little unit is better in every way than the Precedus that was priced at $2000 Canadian a decade ago.
There is a broad selection of GPS receivers in the $200 range that will fit the “bill” for many budget limited aviators.
You can opt for my selection or perhaps an entry level Garmin Forerunner 201 Outdoor GPS for instance. It features: precise latitude, longitude, and altitude data for exact location information, waypoint input and selection, stopwatch modes, and the ability to download free Garmin software or transfer stored data from your GPS to your computer to name but a few of the features.
Throw more money at the salesman and the features increase – but you must decide if you really need them.
The sky is no limit and readers are invited to visit the websites listed below to view vendor offerings and also obtain information on the technology and features available in the market place. Happy navigating...
Ken is a former COPA director who lives in Victoria, BC. He provides services internationally in advanced training, expert witness, flight test and aircraft sales. He has logged 15,000 hours on 375 types of fixed wing and rotary aircraft. Soaring his Diamond Xtreme is what he does for pleasure.