Why Advanced GPS Use should be a PPL subject

07 February 2013 / by Brian Mackie / Consultation, Governance, Humour, Safety

Early examiners of his flying prowess were quick to accept the claim that in one earlier life, he was a racing pigeon, and in another, a homing salmon. How else could every unerring flight home be explained? He simply seemed to know the way, in cloud or in the dark, and no matter where from.

Reincarnated as a human being, there was dead reckoning and the plastic computer to contend with. Allowing for drift does not come easy to a former homing pigeon. It comes naturally.

However, few Johnny-come-lately mortals can claim such an evolutionary gift and for them, navigation requires serious study. Rather like arithmetic and mathematics. If you don’t understand how sums work, you can never be completely at ease with a pocket calculator.

Our CAA now apparently seeks to exclude the use of GPS from the basic training syllabus. This may temporarily harm the latest generation of students, who know the score (and their present position within a couple of metres). They’ll get over it, and will merely feel disrespect and pity for those sad, so-called CAA superiors.

The people who propose – and may force through – such a course will eventually be proved to have been as primitive as those who predicted that steam engines would kill livestock, and the clerics who persecuted scientists, saying that GPS could never work because God had stated that the Earth was flat and the Sun revolved around it.

In their defence, it must be said that the use of calculators in the classroom may have gone too far, at the expense of grass-roots education, because we also have evidence that students demonstrating a knowledge of algebraic equations are presenting themselves for aviation tests without an adequate knowledge of basic mathematics.

Des Lines says: “I’m having a major problem with the content of the NCEA maths syllabus in relation to the tutorials that I run for PPL exams. It came as a bit of a surprise that I needed to teach remedial maths to students who were up to NCEA Level 3 standard.

“Aviation exams are different from other exams in that they do not permit the use of calculators. Although our high school students are able to do long and complicated algebraic equations, they are at a total loss when it comes to performing basic mental arithmetic and they do not have the methodology for working long division, multiplication, addition and subtraction problems.”

But can it really be true that someone in the New Zealand CAA has seriously proposed that GPS should be excluded from basic flight training? Apparently so. Otherwise, Massey Aviation students would not have looked into this bewildering suggestion, let alone build a presentation about it.

The presentation, titled ‘GPS in the New Zealand General Aviation Environment’, was created by graduates of the School of Aviation’s Flight Instructor Course as part of their group study assignment.

School of Aviation Chief Executive Ashok Poduval says the seminar is topical because the CAA is consulting on the issue of GPS in flight training.

A recently issued notice of proposed rule-making by the CAA suggests that the Private Pilot’s Licence syllabus should exclude the use of GPS equipment in cross-country navigation training.

Mr Poduval says the CAA may be concerned that pilots will become over-reliant on GPS and not learn fundamental navigation and map reading skills.

“At Massey, we integrate the use of GPS progressively into the initial training programme. We use scenario-based training so students are required to deal with scenarios using basic navigation methodology, and the GPS is introduced as a supplementary aid as they progress through the syllabus.” Which is nothing more nor less than any other instructor does, with the presumed approval of the CAA.

As a part of their assignment, the students investigated all the pros and cons of using GPS in basic flight training and reviewed overseas training syllabuses. They concluded that the technology was now so pervasive within New Zealand aviation that it would not be beneficial to exclude it from the training curriculum.

In their conclusion to the seminar, the students say: “GPS is the present and the future.”

Mr Poduval says: “They argue the case for pilots to be taught both map reading and GPS skills in an integrated way from the initial stages of flight training, as this would enhance flight safety.

“Yes, basic navigation principles and methods are essential, but introducing legislation that excludes GPS training from the Private Pilot’s Licence syllabus is not going to be helpful, with light aircraft increasingly using this technology.”

Since GPS is ubiquitous in almost every modern mobile phone, vehicle and aeroplane in this country, you’d have thought a forward-looking CAA would not only have recommended the technology and its use as a fundamental part of flight training. You’d expect the Authority’s personnel to have read at least two of the many respected books on the subject, and pressed for Advanced Use of GPS in Aviation to be made a mandatory subject for those with irrefutable proof that they can do sums, can read a printed map, and have an invoice establishing beyond all doubt that they can speak English.