For the uninitiated, flight navigation essentially consists of three components – visual, radio and GPS. Visual flight navigation usually takes place when the plane is approaching its destination and the pilot(s) look out of their window for visual indicators that confirm they are in the right place. These visual indicators could be a famous tall building or a long bridge or beach or mountain or something that helps identify the geographic location.
Some might argue that in this age of the GPS, visual flight navigation is unnecessary. However, every pilot knows that there is safety and comfort in double confirmation. Also, visual indicators help the pilot(s) align the plane more accurately with the designated runway.
Radio navigation is when the pilots follow a series of radio beacons that lead to their destination. It is a low tech but reliable system that traces its origins to developments during the World War II. Radio beacons helped allied pilots to navigate their way home especially when returning at night.
The most modern is the Global Positioning System (GPS). In an aircraft, the GPS transfers data to the flight navigation. The flight path overlays the terrain map and the current position of the aircraft indicated via a large moving circle.
Modern technology has taken this a step further and modified the flight navigation and Aircraft Level Sensors system so that the engine instrumentation copies fuel related data to the flight navigation. The flight navigation in turn factors in the fuel data while computing flight path and destination. The flight nav has enough artificial intelligence (AI) built into it to calculate whether the plane can fly to a given destination at current speed, altitude and current level of fuel in the tanks. The pilot need no longer carry a sophisticated calculator to figure out whether or not the plane can make it to the destination.
In the modern age of avionics; the flight navigation, engine instrumentation system, the GPS etc. all function as one integrated Avionic Instruments. That said, we are still not in the age where these different systems can each send and receive data. For example, the flight nav can receive data from the GPS and engine instrumentation system. But neither the GPS nor the engine instrumentation system can (as of today), receive information from the flight navigation.
As usual, the most integrated flight navigation and Digital Gauges instrumentation systems are manufactured by J.P. Instruments – World leader in after market flight Electronic Data Management (EDM) systems.
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