Navigation best practice has recently come under the spotlight due to continuing airspace infringements and poor radio telephony (R/T) skills.
Various organisations such as GASCo, AOPA and NATS have initiatives to help alleviate this problem aimed at pilots, students and instructors.
Here at Easy PPL, in conjunction with the Easy PPL Navigation Flight Log, we have consolidated into one place below what we consider to be best practice when Navigation Flying.
We don't just tell you the best practices we teach, but also the reasonings behind those practices. We believe that if you understand the reasoning, you'll be more likely to both remember and use those practices in your everyday flight planning.
If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms or techniques described below, we suggest you might like to take a look at the Easy PPL Ground School Navigation Course where you will learn much more. This and other courses can be found at Easy PPL Ground School.
Designing a system that helps prevent errors in the first place is a key part of infringement avoidance and inherently increases safety.
One of the key factors is the quality of the Navigation Flight Log in use, and its design in the areas of prevention of mistakes by the pilot.
Time and again, many infringements occur where one of the factors is a case of mis-interpretation of the Navigation Flight Log.
For this reason a Flight Log should separate the navigation calculation figures from the actual heading and times to fly - just like the Easy PPL Navigation Flight Log does.
Our top tip, is that whatever Flight Log you use, ensure you don't fall into a trap of looking at the wrong figure and flying that as the heading.
Here's a few golden rules to help not miss the next waypoint!
Remember: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. In that order.
We recommend the "Standard Closing Angle" for its simplicity.
For example, a simplified version of the standard closing angle method of course correction is to fly a set heading correction (based on the aircraft TAS) for the same amount of time in minutes, as the aircraft is off track in nautical miles. i.e. For an aircraft with a TAS of 90kt, and being off course 5nm to the right, a turn to the left of 40o (the Standard Closing Angle) should be made, and held, for 5 minutes. The 40o change of heading is always the same for an aircraft with a TAS of 90kt.
For more details, including how to calculate the Standard Closing Angle for aircraft that operate at different True Airspeeds, we recommend learning more from the Easy PPL Ground School Navigation Course. This and other courses can be found at Easy PPL Ground School.
For more tips and techniques on communications, see the Easy PPL Ground School Communication Course. Full details on this and other courses can be found at Easy PPL Ground School.
Regular checks on fuel quantities and time should be made as part and parcel of the navigation flight procedures.
In our opinion, one of the key principles of fuel management is to manage the fuel in the unit that is most appropriate. That unit is TIME.
The pilot does not need an increased workload in calculating how much time is remaining for a given quantity of fuel and a given fuel burn, especially when that calculation is having to be made under pressure, such as during a bad weather divert.
So, keep it simple. Manage the fuel in units of time, not gallons or litres.
The Easy PPL Navigation Flight Log allows this type of fuel management to occur naturally, with prompts for the pilot to enter the time remaining in two boxes - one for the left tank, one for the right tank. After every 30 minutes, tanks are changed, and the time remaining is decremented. The remaining fuel endurance is simply a matter of adding up the minutes in the "time remaining" boxes on the navigation flight log.
One other thing. When changing tanks, do so every 30 minutes. We recommend as a best practice that the easy way to do this is to use the right tank when the minute hand of the current time is between 0 and 30 minutes, then swap tanks, and use the left hand tank when the minute hand of the current time is between 30 and 59 minutes.