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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:55 pm 
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~ Was recently hopelessly lost and could only use a paper chart to find out general location, was wondering, does anyone have any tips about the best landmarks to look for from the air
and how to avoid fixation on the map. Any other navigation tips using just a map and visible landscape appreciated.

Pic captured from GoPro video of the flight


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 4:36 pm 
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First figure out if you are a North up or track up person....I have issues following track up.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 5:31 pm 
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By way of contrast, I'm a track-up person. That way, as I'm going along my route, all of the terrain features that I'm using for navigation come at me in the correct, and same, orientation as they are found on a chart.

start out at t/o with your chart folded so that your origin and first few miles are clearly visible. Pre-fold the chart so that it will open easily, and without too much hassle, as you progress along your route. Then, follow along with your finger on the map. Keep it there, and constantly cross check what you see outside with what you see on the map..get a sense of how fast your finger needs to move to keep up with your 'plane.

If all of that fails, buy a hand-held GPS!


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 5:21 am 
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Your brain will often try to convince you that what you're seeing outside is THIS spot on the map, and you'll try to prove it, oh there's a small town left of it, oh that road looks a little similar.... Don't fall for that, VNC/VTAs are extremely precise regarding shapes of roads, large towns, bodies of water etc.... sometimes try to tell yourself: "maybe I'm not here", and look outside of your focus point. I've often fallen for that.

You should know what speed you were going (ground speed) so you know if it was faster than you planned or slower, that should help figure out if you should look ahead or before where you 'think' you are. Also a great tool to use is a VOR radial check, one VOR check will help you pinpoint where on your track line you should look at, two will help pinpoint a little more accurately by crossing radials, if you're lucky to be in a region with multiple VORs and/or good enough reception. Obviously, make sure you're competent enough using a VOR, if you're not, you may confuse yourself even more and fixate too much on your instruments and avionics instead of flying the aircraft.

One thing I did during my training when I was pretty lost, I pulled up my phone to see if I had reception, and opened Google Maps , waited for it to calm down as it was freaking out initially as the last time I opened it was 200NM away maybe. Then it would show me somewhat where I was..... I confirmed this on the map (VNC/VTA) with what I saw outside. This was a last resort. I did it twice I think

As stated above, follow your track with your finger, maybe mark a notch every once in a while so you know you've passed that part, so if you go back to the map without a finger stuck on it, at least you know which part of the track you've passed.

Small tip, many towns have huge water towers with the name of the town written on it, I did that once on a diversion exercise during PPL, not conventional, but it worked. Flew low enough to read it , but safe enough from obstacles and obviously abiding with CARs, if you have to skim the side of the town so you're not flying too low right over the 'populated area'.

Another thing you could do VFR, is just look around for a massive body of water, or highway, that'll often be easier to pinpoint on your map rather than a small town with a tiny road intersecting near a railroad track. Flying higher altitudes makes navigation easier, but adjust your speed in your head as to how fast you cross your track on your map with your finger, the climb may be slow but then things could speed up dramatically once in cruise, winds aloft permitting. Also you see a lot farther at higher cruising altitudes, I found navigating a lot easier than down low, I often chose a higher altitude if WX and winds permitted, and obviously if it made sense for the duration of the flight.

Conclusion for my disorganized rant, just look at the bigger picture instead of fixating at a small spot on map trying to convince yourself that you're there.



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 6:59 am 
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Yeah, we all fell for that silly ( little town or antenna marker) nav joke. Prepare your nav strategy according to the future navigation, which means do what you must with the paper charts until you get the licence. As previously mentioned, use IFR (I follow roads) and large features to navigate.

After that, it's gps time baby. Of course paper charts are a good backup in the bush.

Radio based nav stations are shutting down and planes will require dual gps on board, plus tablet computers and smart phones I don't see possibility of ever getting lost.

When I got my first iPhone 4 (can't remember the app name) I used that for all my VFR nav needs always got me to the destination very efficiently.



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 9:44 am 
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Thank you for your thoughtful answers!

I do have 3 VORs in the area, and my iPhone with FltPlnGo and a GPS with direct to functionality but I was really bothered that I wasn't making the cut with paper charts! I'll follow the tips next time I'm up ☺️ I do find myself over navigating quite a lot, "there's powrlines, there's that river, there's those intersecting roads" - meanwhile the aircraft is getting away from me.



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 10:19 am 
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Put your finger on the map. Then, trace where you are on the map with your finger.

Instructors like it when students know where they are - and also really enjoy trying to get students lost, especially under the hood. And when they get you lost, usually with lots of heading/speed/altitude changes, they'll then get you to take off the hood and use a lost procedure to figure out where you are.

Fingers on the map...


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:22 pm 
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Matching what you see out of the window with a chart isn't an easy skill and takes a fair bit of practice. Don't panic if it isn't coming to you as quickly as you'd like.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 2:53 pm 
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Get a map and have it plastic coated.

Get an erasable marker pen and draw your route on the map.

Map read as you fly and every time you are sure you are on track make an x with your marker pen, that way you do not have to keep your finger on the map.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:05 pm 
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Second that tip to draw a line on map. All my maps were plasticised. I just left most lines on after a while because they were still usable even if destination was slightly off. I still enjoy map reading even with a gps.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:31 pm 
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Depending on route, antennas can be extremely useful at night for confirmation of being on the proper track when few other landmarks are visible.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:34 pm 
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dogone wrote:
Second that tip to draw a line on map. All my maps were plasticised. I just left most lines on after a while because they were still usable even if destination was slightly off. I still enjoy map reading even with a gps.


Discovered an interesting thing in Germany the other day at the map store at Egelsbach Airport. They have two options for your German VFR chart...the regular paper type and for a few extra Euro's, the exact same map that has a special coating allowing you to literally erase pen marks.



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:30 am 
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UK charts come laminated. And there's a company in Canada that sells Canadian ones laminated too.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:48 am 
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I've been teaching Nav for the past 3 years in the classroom in the air and I am also one of our school's Nav Prog Examiners for our integrated program. Nav is absolutely my passion! I see a lot of bad dead-reckoning techniques, so here's my tips. Some of them are just general dead-reckoning tips... but they work very well with using the VNC:

-Use the VNC for everything and don't even program your GPS for the flight you are doing unless you really need it. (every time a student has failed the Nav Prog, I ask them at the end if they used the GPS during their time-building... and the answer is almost always "Yes")
-hold your map in the direction you are currently flying, identify the biggest things you see first (lakes, towns..) and look at where they are on your map
-practice reading your map using Google Satellite view to see what the map shows and how things will actually look.
-pay attention to the shape of lakes, rivers and the direction they are oriented against your heading. Even the direction the river is going, or the point it makes a bend and heads west (for example) ...or when a road crosses that river, or a train track makes a turn.. they can all give you a position fix.
-Keep your map folded neatly in a way that you don't need the entire thing un-folded in flight. Have it on your lap, and hold it with your thumb or finger resting on your last position, if possible. Trace your progress with your finger, while holding the map in the direction you are going while looking outside for the next landmark.
-learn to read the elevation contours on your map. Even a prominent hill or valley shape can give you a better clue as to where you are.

Some general dead-reckoning stuff:

-Set your heading indicator between every checkpoint
-Don't forget to check your planned magnetic heading and convert it to a 'compass heading' using the compass correction card. Sometimes your compass can be off as much as 10 degrees between magnetic north and compass north.
-over your set-heading point, make sure your heading indicator is set correctly and then turn to your planned heading first, before staring outside looking for the next landmark. (I've seen students get off course because they see a lake in the distance they assume is the next checkpoint, without referencing the direction they are going and just turn immediately to the wrong thing)
-pay attention to the estimated time between checkpoints... if it was supposed to be 17 minutes to the next checkpoint, but you're already over it at 11 minutes.. it could be something else that looks similar (this happens all the time at night with lighted towers and towns)
-trust your heading, and avoid deviating from it unless a landmark outside confirms that it's wrong and needs adjusting. ( see a lot of students start to panic once flying over barren terrain because they can't see the next landmark, and they start to turn to where they 'feel' the aircraft should be going)
-Use Google Maps Satellite view to identify checkpoints that actually exist and are easy to spot.. so you know what marks on your map are actually useful before you go.
-some landmarks on your map will be impossible to find or distinguish, so don't panic if you can't find it or it looks somehow different (Ex: rivers deep in the forest mid-summer, covered by trees, one particular gravel road amidst a thousand lease roads and logging roads, a lake or wetland in spring or late fall)

Lost? Use the 5 C's Think of it as a check list:
-CONFESS to yourself that you are lost... (so you don't just keep flying hopelessly lying to yourself that you'll reach the next checkpoint)
-CALM DOWN and record the time (you still have fuel, you just need to chill out and figure out what happened. Use the recorded time to re-trace your steps)
-CIRCLE (fly a race-track pattern over an identifiable spot so you don't go off into who knows where, while turning look out.. maybe you can see your previous check point! Draw a circle on your map of where you think you should be, based of the estimated groundspeed, track, and time and look out for the stuff outside you should see in that area.
-CLIMB and use nav aids (if possible, climb higher so you can see more landmarks, try the VOR or GPS to assist you)
-CALL (contact the nearest suitable ATC services and tell them you are lost, they'll definitely help you out if they can see you on Radar)

Hope this helps!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 4:50 am 
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photofly wrote:
UK charts come laminated. And there's a company in Canada that sells Canadian ones laminated too.


+1 we buy the laminated ones for our students and they love them... plus they last a lot longer and don't tear. Only thing that sucks is they are thicker and don't fold as easily.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:00 am 
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I find lakes are one of the most easily identified features because each one can be quite unique.

That said, I have almost all of my flying in BC mountains so I can see how terribly easy it is to get lost once east of the Rockies and things flatten out. As a brand new pilot, the first time I flew out of Fort St. John on a cross country I remember thinking "holy sh@*, where is the airport in all these airport looking fields?"



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:13 pm 
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Thank you so much for a detailed answer. I am planning my Flight Test "cross country" portion and marking off a prominent landmark every 5 mile tick, that should hopefully confirm if i'm on track, or to the right or left of track.

I know i may be weird, but I read my maps North up always. I find it easier to visualize my aircraft and headings with a north oriented compass.

Thank you again. Especially for the google satellite tip. Last time I looked for a supposed town, when I checked Google, it was only a cross road with a dozen houses.

youhavecontrol wrote:
I've been teaching Nav for the past 3 years in the classroom in the air and I am also one of our school's Nav Prog Examiners for our integrated program. Nav is absolutely my passion! I see a lot of bad dead-reckoning techniques, so here's my tips. Some of them are just general dead-reckoning tips... but they work very well with using the VNC:

Hope this helps!



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