Let me start by saying that I am not a pilot. I dont fly A320s, I dont fly Cessnas and some days Im just lucky to be flying my computer but I think that sometimes its important for someone who is less professional to provide information for those who are newer or struggling with a certain concept. Its always a bummer when the Neurologist is spouting off about the Globus Pallidus and the descending Cerebellar tracks when all you want to know is why Grandpa is falling down. Cant they just speak normally? So here is my attempt to speak normally about some navigation concepts.
Get into the air:
First of all, you need to do some homework because Im not going to teach you how to fly or how to land. This is not an ILS or autopilot tutorial because I already did that one:
FlightSim.Com has provided you MANY tutorials and How Tos as well as other articles Im not going to give you a link to each of those because you can go back, even way back, and find a plethora of information yourself right here. (There is a reason FlightSim.Com is the worlds leading Flight Sim website, you just need to dig around a little bit).
There are also links like these out there on the web for easy picking:
And Im sure that are MANY others.
Pick the right plane for the job:
Finally, you can use any aircraft that makes you feel comfortable but if you are new to the world of IFR or navigation I might suggest something stable and not too sporty (read as default Caravan?). I took the F.S Flight Club International Dash-8 (www.toomuchfs.com) on this tutorial. I also assigned a panel which maybe isnt as real as it gets, but I thought it would be good for screenshots. (Although its lacking a NAV2 which is a bummer).
Class 1 - NDBs: Hailey to Boise:
I thought the place to start might be with NDBs, non-directional beacons. These radio towers emit a signal on a certain frequency and if a pilot dials in that frequency on his ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) an arrow should point to where that radio tower is. The range on these is not great, maybe 50 miles or less? But you can fly headings to/from NDBs to get from one place to another. NDBs have also been really useful for me, in setting up for landings as there are sometimes NDBs on or near the approach path. NDBs do not give you distance measurements so you have to use a stopwatch to do distance calculations. (For me, anytime the word calculation is in a sentence I tend to stop listening).
Another great concept with NDBs is Push the nose, Pull the tail. This speaks of the arrow that displays on your panel. If you want to fly a heading of 330 degrees TOWARD the NDB, but your arrow is pointing at 300, you need to fly a heading of about 280 to PUSH the nose of the arrow TOWARD 330. Similarly, if you are flying AWAY from the NDB you need to PULL the tail of the arrow toward the heading you want to be on.
Set up your flight for northwest departure (runway 31) from Hailey, ID/Sun Valley airport (KSUN) and dial the ADF to 220. At this point I noticed that there is no arrow but Ill tell you, the NDB is behind you! (Okay, I did this just to be mean you can depart on runway 13 instead if youd like!) I went ahead and departed 31 and the arrow showed up at about 300 feet (See Screenshot A) then I turned back TOWARD the NDB. Whatever you do, fly TO THE NDB while climbing to 9,000 feet.
On the screenshot (above), near the top, you will see on the radio that I have dialed 220.0 into the ADF box. Im flying a heading of 311 (climbing at 700 fpm) but the blue ADF arrow is pointing back. In the gauge on the left side youll see the double-sided white arrow pointing backwards to the NDB tower. Thats where I need to head! If you see Screenshot B youll see that Im rolling out of my turn to a heading of about 130 which will push the nose of that NDB needle TOWARD 200 degrees. (You can also catch a glimpse of the airport on the far left.)
At the Hailey NDB turn to a heading of 201 degrees. Now you get to practice pull the tail to keep that arrow aligned on 201 / 021 headings. If you arent at 9,000 feet yet, keep climbing. Screenshot C shows that I have passed the NDB, the needle has swung around and Im flying a heading of 208, trying to pull that tail over to 201. As noted, the DME (distance measuring equipment) is blank because NDBs dont have that feature.
As you fly away from the Hailey NDB youll need to start looking for your next waypoint. Tune your ADF to 211. If you are not in range yet you may be left with nothing (or will have to retune to 220). Once the 211 NDB comes alive, drive towards that arrow. Again, well fly toward the NDB until it swings around and then fly 269 degrees away from the NDB. (Basically youll be flying west with the needle pointing east right?) Screenshot D shows me turning to 280 so I can pull the tail around to 269 (or thereabouts).
So now you are flying 269 degrees AWAY from the NDB 211. Set your ADF to 333 and follow THAT arrow. As it starts swinging youll turn right to 291 degrees. Screenshot E shows me flying AWAY from 333. Next dial up 238 on the ADF and start dropping to 4,000 feet or so. When you are at the 238 NDB, turn right to 075 degrees. Next dial up 359 on your ADF and as you cross over, fly a heading of 098 to KBOI runway 10L. (Screenshot F pretty much sums that up for you-NDB slightly right; turning slightly right; holding 4,000 feet; airport ahead) I happened to do a touch-and-go so that I could keep flying.
VORs: Boise to Pendleton:
VORs are VHF (very high frequency) radios, which send out 360 beams or radials on their signal. These are more accurate than NDBs because rather than pushing noses or pulling tails you can dial in a specific compass heading or radial to fly on. Also, VORs can have a range of more like 150 miles. So now well dial in the Boise VOR, which is on a radio setting of 113.30. Dial this on your NAV1 radio and on the autopilot, set your CRS (course) heading to 343. What this means is that we WANT to fly away from Boise on the 343 degree compass radial. As you depart from runway 10L youll be heading basically east but your desired course is going to be northwest, which means you need to turn to the left. Screenshot H shows the start of my left turn, gear and flaps still going up!
If VORs are set up correctly you should have an arrow pointing to where you WANT to go, with a broken line in the middle showing where that radial is in relation to your position. Basically, if the broken line is left of center, you need to turn left to line that up. So now we set NAV1 to 116.2, keeping the CRS at 343 degrees for now. You can watch the DME (lower left of the main display) count down. Screenshot I shows this as I am flying a heading of 335 trying to center up that line. (Ignore the green arrow as NAV2 is off. We want to be flying 343 as shown next to the CRS readout.) Once it centers I can turn to 343. It may be off because Im a lousy pilot or it may be off because a wind from the left is blowing me to the right of the radial. From the screenshot you can also see that I am, in effect, still pulling the tail of that old NDB TOWARD 343. When you are about 0.5 to 1 mile out, start turning to 326 degrees and then turn your course setting to match (326).
Once you are heading 326 degrees away from McCall, ID, repeat the process tuning 108.2 into NAV1 (screenshot J). When you get there, turn to 235 degrees (screenshot K). Then retune to 116.4. As you cross that VOR turn to 211 degrees. Retune again to 114.7 and drop to 3,500 feet. Screenshot L shows me heading into Pendleton, Im flying a heading of 214 trying to keep that pink line in the middle.
Fly over the Pendleton VOR and continue on 211 for about another minute then commence a right-hand turn. While you are turning set your CRS to 074 degrees. So, your goal here is to cross the VOR and
head towards the AIRPORT on a heading of 074 degrees. Screenshot M shows that I am basically at the VOR but Im flying a heading of 094 trying to get over onto the 074 radial. You can see the airport and runway ahead.
Finally, Screenshot N shows that I am 2.5 miles past the VOR but Im ON the 074 radial short final to land.
This completes lesson one. You should now be able to use VORs or NDBs to navigate around the world a little more like a real pilot might. For practice, try limiting your visibility to about 5-10 miles hop from one VOR to another and try to find the nearby airport. You can use this last leg as an example: Take off from Walla Walla, fly 211 degrees to the Pendleton VOR, make a big giant turn onto 074 and follow that to the runway. Next, fly something like 220 from Walla2 and just intercept the 074 inbound to Pendleton. Try these with only 2-3 miles visibility and see how that goes.
Stay tuned for Navigation 102.