Safety Publications/Articles

A Good CFI Is Always Learning!

Software To Help Learn GPS

You've doubtlessly had requests from at least a few pilots for instruction on how to use their new GPS receiver. If you don't have experience with many of the different units available, you're in for a surprise. The surprise begins when you can't figure out how to turn it on. Worse yet, you might not even be able to tell whether it's actually on. Maybe I can help.

There are a few nifty GPS simulators available for free over the Internet, many accessible through the AOPA Air Safety Foundation ( ). I suggest you download them along with their user manuals and have a ball. That's right. You can learn how to use GPS in the comfort of your own home on your computer. Perhaps one of the most sophisticated GPS simulators available is the Garmin 500-series GPS simulator. Go to ( and click to download the Free 500 Series Simulator. Be prepared to download a big file. It's approximately 13 MB. If you're still using a 300-baud modem, you might want to set up the download and then go on vacation. The program will be ready to install when you get back from Tahiti. Also plan to download the complete users manual from the same page. It's about 2.6 MB, so plan on an extra day in Tahiti if you're using the same 300-baud modem.

Once the program is downloaded and installed, you're in for a treat. Garmin provides a very sophisticated simulator. You can fly approaches, arrivals, and departures to any airport in the United States as well as create your own flight plans. The simulator replicates almost all the functions that are in use in the real, panel-mounted instrument.

You can find other simulation software on the Internet by visiting Mike Meadow's site ( ). There you'll find several GPS manuals as well as a few other varieties of GPS simulation software. For instance, you can download the KLN 89B software. The Bendix/King KLN 89B is a GPS unit found in many general aviation airplanes.

Once you learn the basic principles of how GPS works and how GPS approaches are flown, you'll have much less difficulty transitioning from one GPS unit to another. When a student calls you to help him with GPS approaches, you can always brush up on your computer before jumping in his or her airplane. At least you won't be heard to say, "Is this thing on? How can you tell?"

By Rod Machado

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