Springfield Chapter Missouri Pilots Association

August 2004

Flying Journal - "Beyond Go-to-Getting" TO Oshkosh 2004

I admit it. I borrowed the phrase "beyond go-to" from a flyer I received from the AOPA Air Safety Foundation for some GPS Seminars around the area. Their question, "Do you just use your GPS with the Direct to button?" hit a sensitive spot with me as a flight instructor.

When I was instructing full-time at the FBO, with 13 single and multi-airplanes of 9 different types, I was often asked if I didn't get confused. I always answered, "not with the airplanes and instruments, but all those different AUDIO panels can really be confusing-and dangerous." The one time when I had the privilege to crawl through the EAA B-17 and B-29 restored bombers, I was struck by how familiar the controls and instruments looked, not at all different from what we still fly. Again, the huge difference was in the electronics.

The way I stayed out of trouble (most of the time) with all those different, non-standardized, jury-rigged and cobbled together audio and radio set-ups, was to "KISS." Keep it simple by normally just using the top radio. When you get really familiar with your own plane, you can have four frequencies set up in the active and standby modes of your dual radios, but it's all too easy for a pilot or instructor unfamiliar with your plane to hit the active button, but forget to also switch the mike button on the audio panel and transmit on the wrong channel, etc. I never had trouble keeping one frequency ahead using just one radio.

The same principle worked for a while regarding the constantly changing navigation systems, digital VOR receivers, LORAN, and now GPS systems. I also flew with many students who had their own planes besides the FBO planes. So I have thus far relied upon simple "Direct to" navigation. I have often said I could fly anywhere within one degree with just distance, groundspeed, heading and track. If you keep your track on the course to your destination, you will get there within one degree (compared to 4-6 for the VOR system). It always seemed to me that a lot of the complex features were just sales gimmicks. It's really frustrating to have your GPS locked into some flight plan or waypoint when you don't want it.

I did use other features as needed. I learned a lot about the Garmin 195 on the 1999 trip to Alaska. Much of the flying in the north is done under low-cloud decks. I would move the map cursor to the lat-long of the next tower or obstruction shown ahead on the chart and sure enough, we would soon see it looming ahead through the marginal VFR, just where the GPS showed it would be.

When we flew the three-hour leg from Anchorage to Dillingham, we had followed a local pilot in his bush plane through three mountain passes. Because of weather we returned a different route far to the north, north even of Denali, but we had wondered how we would have found the right three mountain passes again if we had had to fly that route unescorted. We had left in the GPS the line depicting the route we had flown on the first trip. We did not actually have to fly that line backwards, but the technology was there and we had discussed that possibility.
When I buy a new power tool or appliance, I always glance through the instructions. After all, part of my other job is to teach people the basics of writing instructions. I suppose since I have not yet owned a GPS of my own, I have never read through "the book" or played with a GPS in simulator mode. I should have been forewarned a few years ago when I lost an instrument student to another instructor because I didn't get up to speed on IFR GPS quick enough for him. But the generally intuitive designs of the systems, the "go-to" button, and a few extra keystrokes figured out here and there had served me well.

Now AOPA ASF was making fun of me and all the other pilots who were apparently also making do with the "go-to" button. I considered going to one of the seminars, but Oshkosh intervened.

Bolivar chapter member Roni Burns and I flew his club's Piper Arrow, with a new Garmin 430, to Oshkosh. Or rather, after George Bush and entourage left our airport, and after the ceiling came up from 200 feet to 800 feet and after almost solid IFR followed by a zesty approach into Quincy, Illinois, followed by waiting on the ground while we listened to pilots struggling in vain to get an IFR slot into OSH, followed by IFR most of the way to Madison, WI, followed by waiting till the air show was over so the airport would open again, and following holding several turns around Rush Lake, and being cut off twice by other planes while we were at exactly the assigned airspeed and altitude-THEN we flew to Oshkosh.

At Quincy, I thought I'd be a creative CFI and have my instrument student fly the VOR-DME approach, for training, so I dialed the VOR into the GPS for the distance. But at some point the distance didn't look correct and I realized the GPS had switched the waypoint by itself, without my knowledge or consent, to the airport! As we used to say in the country, "Too smart by half!"

Roni also had his little handheld on the yoke. At one point I wanted distance to some other point without changing the main GPS. We were startled to discover that the handheld was set the same as the panel mount, and when I tuned the 430, the handheld changed as well! We thought we were entering the "Twilight Zone."
But the mysteries were solved by a very knowledgeable Garmin rep in their booth at Oshkosh. He showed us how to shut off the feature that had changed destination automatically on us. He was also surprised our units were ganged together, because he said most installers don't know or don't bother, but that is a feature of Garmin GPS units. He also showed us how to shut that off, if we want them to work independently. We also learned a lot more and I finally learned I really need to study through the book.

Oh, yes, we saw lots of neat stuff at Oshkosh. I'll tell you all about it at the August chapter meeting and Bill Cheek and I both have some slides to show. It was great to see so many friends there, including our own chapter members Wendell and Ernestine Jones, their son, Mike, and Bolivar Chapter member Dean Jefferies. I was also pleased that Bolivar pilot Gene Engledow was also able to continue his streak, having attended every EAA convention ever held. Well done, Gene!

Fly safely, share the joy, and don't be shy about reading the directions!