Aircraft Navigation Equipment

The magnetic compass still reserves an honored place in your gyroplane but there are many types of more accurate navigation aids available. When aviation was young the magnetic compass usually got located somewhere near center stage on the instrument panel or structure. Ever see where most people locate their GPS's today? The magnetic compass does suffer from some idiosyncrasies that we do not care to have when flying. Such errors as magnetic dip, acceleration error, and turning error are even more amplified with modern aircraft with more responsive engines with more power and greater manueverability at higher airspeeds. Our forefathers typically had engines of 75 HP or less. With greater airspeeds innovations were created to make navigation in the air more manageable.

The most commonly used navigation aid in the United States today is VOR (Very high frequency Omni directional Range system). The sytem is composed of more than 1,000 stations across the United States. VOR, which operates at a high frequency, is not subject to atmospheric interference like lower frequency range systems.

Basic VOR will provide course guidance only. VOR/DME and Vortac will also provide distance measuring capability. VOR does have a drawback in being a line-of-sight system.

VOR equipment requires a reciever, antenna, and indicator. The VOR indicator uses what is called a course deviation indicator or CDI, a to-from indicator and an Omni-bearing selector or OBS. All of this equipment can take up a lot of panel space and additional weight. Fortunately for the gyronaut; modern equipment can be selected with all of these indicators in one lightweight package called a NAV/COM.

NAV/COM's being sold today include a 760 channel VHF communications radio, 200 channel VOR, glideslope and localizer reciever. These units will also display identifiers, radials, to-from and incorperates a CDI. That's a lot of punch for such a small package.

If you like an upgrade to the traditional VOR but do not want all your eggs in one basket you might prefer a horizontal situation indicator H.S.I.. The H.S.I. puts your VOR indicator and heading indicator in one easy to read instrument. These can be a bit expensive compared to a good NAV/COM but we all have different needs and tastes.

DME or Distance Measuring Equipment is rather impractical for gyroplane use. The equipment is large and somewhat heavy. There are better ways to get accurate distance measurement.

The oldest form of electronic navigation still used today is nondirectional radio beacons or NDB's. VOR made it's appearence in the 40's but the old NDB hung in there and was improved into what we know today as ADF or Automatic Direction Finder (Finding). NDB's operate at the low to medium frequency and are not limited to line of sight.

ADF requires a directional antenna, and a sense antenna as well as the ADF reciever and indicator. As good as the system is I think a newer system with fewer components would be a better choice in a gyroplane.

This brings us to another World War II technology called Long Range Navigation or LORAN. The system was set in place and has been maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard (in North America). LORAN works off ground-based stations, a LORAN reciever and an antenna. The system operates similar to GPS or GLobal Positioning System only the triangulation calculations are ground based instead of being in space. LORAN can calculate groundspeed, distance, and time to way points in addition to course heading. LORAN-C can do this to within .3 nautical miles or better.

Inertial navigation. Don't even bother-especially for a sport gyroplane. INS is big, heavy, and expensive. It also tends to have a lot of mechanical problems and booting issues that will make you wish you had something better.

The magic of GPS. GPS is a series of satellite stations developed and maintained by the United States Department of Defense. GPS is extremely accurate at calculating time, distance and positions. GPS does not have the means to determine vertical position (altitude). A GPS system only requires a reciever and a small antenna. Small components, accurate, lightweight, this is why GPS is so popular. GPS can be used for VFR and IFR use. An IFR GPS reciever should be placarded if it is not authorized for GPS approaches. Fortunately you do not need an IFR GPS reciever and can save a lot of money by selecting a VFR only GPS.

One really cool feature available on some models of GPS recievers is a moving map display. This type of arrangement puts a virtual map with a course line and other data all in one display. No need for fumbling around with those paper maps as it is very neatly in front of you. The general rule is the larger the display screen and the more options ( i.e. IFR certified) the more expensive the unit. This is again fortunate for you, as you will be looking for something on the smaller side of the scale. Keep in mind when you have the display right in front of you they all are pretty easy to see but when you are shopping for a unit try and determine what the display looks like at panel distance.

Two places I can recommend to you because I have used them myself are Chief Aircraft and Gulf Coast Avionics. I was extremely happy with the availablility, care and speed of shipping and the assistance they provided. I normally do not like to do this sort of thing but it may help you out and that is what this site is all about. You may find some better deals at other places but these two vendors really do stand behind their business.

When you are ready to plot a new course select a place called aircraft flight instruments.

Select the icons at left to purchase your copy of "Aviators Guide to GPS" & "Avaitors Guide to Navigation".

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