Avoiding GPS traps

I just finished reading “Avoiding GPS traps,” in Mark Grady’s December column. I thought that your article and advice were right on the money. In my opinion, the greatest danger with GPS navigation is that most pilots don’t read the manuals that come with their GPS systems.

I have several friends and acquaintances who are very experienced pilots with a long list of ratings and credentials. I have flown with several of them on cross country trips where they have used GPS equipment as a source of navigation. In one case, there were two experienced pilots in the front seat and I was riding in the back seat, hoping to pick up a few pointers. These guys scared the hell out of me. During the three-hour flight, neither pilot looked out through the windshield. They were both heads down fiddling with their brand new “do everything” GPS until it was time to shoot the coupled approach, which was also done using the GPS and autopilot.

I was duly impressed with the capabilities of the hardware involved. The accuracy and flawless interface with the autopilot were impressive. I was not the least bit impressed with the pilots’ lack of operational knowledge of the system and the amount of attention spent screwing around with the system to get the desired results.

One of the things that really needs to be communicated to all GPS users is to read and understand the book before you go. If you don’t know how to use the equipment, get qualified help before you depart. Just because your aircraft is GPS equipped does not relieve the pilot in command of the time tested “see and avoid” rule. If you don’t know how to operate the equipment in your aircraft, you are not qualified to fly it, period.

I was also impressed with your “gotcha” about lack of preflight planning and relying on the Go To feature. Our local airport is in close proximity to several military restricted areas and you can guess what happens to the hapless individual who relies on the Go To feature without first checking out just where that course will lead him.

Thank you for “Avoiding GPS Traps.” It should be required reading for all GPS users.

Bill Brink
Lompoc, Calif.

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