faceboook logo
by WebMaster July 26, 2019

How Do Pilots Find Their Way?

Pilot Navigation SkillsIn the recent past, GPS has fast evolved into the main method to help pilots find their way. However, many aspiring fliers wonder what happens if the GPS goes down, or how the pros found their way back home before GPS. The truth is while some navigators can ably rely on their pilot navigation skills, several systems and alternatives remain in place today.


In fact, the methods and systems that a pilot relies on for navigation depend on the type of flight, where they’re flying, the type of aircraft around them, and the type of navigation systems used in their area. Nevertheless, our team from Aviation Medical Exams of Miami wants to outline some information on modern pilot navigation. 



Pilotage is one of the earliest, and one of the most foolproof pilot navigation skills that aspirant flying students learn. The method simply relies on the pilot looking at their surroundings to determine landmarks. A landmark could represent anything from a city, a lake, or even a mountain.


The pilot can utilize pilotage by comparing their real-life observations with a sectional chart that they keep on hand. Even in the dark of night, the pilot can rely on this approach by finding city lights. They may also make note of highways or airports. Although pilotage is an easy skill for pilots to learn, it is not the most accurate. This is why many flight students learn the following navigation method as well.


Dead Reckoning

Dead reckoning is a procedure that pilots use in navigation where they calculate distance and time based on the speed of their aircraft. For a pilot to employ dead reckoning, they must calculate the time it takes between checkpoints if they fly at a determined airtime.


When used in conjunction with pilotage and their pilot navigation skill, fliers can rely on dead reckoning as an efficient way to determine their position and maintain a planned flying course.


Radio Navigation (NBDS)

NBDS or the non-directional beacon system uses radio beacons to transmit radio signals to a receiver inside of the airplane. The instrument inside of the aircraft interprets the signal and even includes a visual arrow system. This helps to guide pilots to the neared NBD ground station.


As a result, the pilot will know where they reside in relation to the station. This means that the pilot can point the aircraft in the direction of the needle as they follow it to the station. While this was an extremely popular navigation method at one time, NBDS remains less popular in modern navigation as GPS continues to take over. Nevertheless, some pilots still rely on NBDS.


Modern Pilot Navigation Skills and Methods from Aviation Medical Exams of Miami

GPS remains the most common and accurate navigation technique implemented by pilots today. This is due to its reliance and implementation on precise satellite data relayed from the satellites to ground stations and then to the airplane’s GPS receiver.


Alternatively, all technology could invariably fail. For this reason, pilots will administer a combination of their pilot navigation skills, as well as the above techniques. GPS remains the most common navigation type. However, some airports and routes still require some of the aforementioned procedures as well.


Pilot Navigation Skills

To learn more about pilot navigation skills and pilot examinations, contact Aviation Medical Exams of Miami today, or direct your attention to our other articles on pilot skills during a loss of control accident, and night flight planning.

Categories: Aviation



[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]