April 2009 Issue

GPS Errors

Getting the most from the magic in your panel without losing the "flick".

Thereís no question ours is an era of great advances in safety and position awareness. Itís the rare IFR airplane that isnít equipped with at least a portable, moving-map GPS; thereís not an IFR-certified airplane in production that doesnít include a GPS-driven "glass cockpit" as at least an optionóone thatís almost always added. The capability of GPS comes with great complexity. There are very different operating interfaces with units from competing manufacturers. Itís a little surprising, then, that pilots seem to make the same errors and omissions pretty much regardless of the unit involved. What are these common GPS errors? What can we do to avoid them? David Zitt is the Flight School Manager of Sportyís Academy, the flight instruction arm of Sportyís Pilot Shop in Batavia, Ohio. He and his instructor staff work exclusively in GPS-equipped airplanes, some with full "glass cockpit" panels but most conventional round-gauge airplanes meeting the definition of Technologically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) through the installation of moving-map GPS. Zitt notes that "each [GPS] unit has its own pitfalls," but finds common pilot mistakes regardless of the type of GPS installed. Prime among them is "instrument fixation" during the transition to TAA flight, a focused stare and excessive concentration on which button to push when the pilot is not completely familiar with the GPS used.

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