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7 Navigation Systems You're Glad You Don't Have To Use On Your Checkride

Aleksander Markin

Over the past 100 years, we've come up with a lot of ways to navigate the globe. Fortunately, you don't have to use the old methods on your next checkride. Here are 7 navigation systems that are fortunately part of the past.

1) Omega

OMEGA, which became operational in 1971, was the first global radio navigation system. It enabled aircraft to navigate using very low frequency radio signals around the world. There were 9 OMEGA transmitters placed around the globe, with up to 8 of them operating at one time. The OMEGA system was shut down in 1997 due to the widespread use of GPS, but one of its stations in La Moure, ND, was converted to a US Navy submarine communication station.


2) Loran-C

Loran-C, which gained popularity in the 1970s, used a network of land-based radio beacons to create a long-range and highly accurate navigation system. But its fate was sealed by GPS. While Loran-C is still operated, many stations around the world have been shut down, or are in the process of being decommissioned.


3) Decca Navigator

Decca was developed in the 1940s for ships, but was migrated for use by helicopters and other aircraft after WWII. Each Decca system used a 'chain' of 3 or 4 radio transmitters, achieving a range of up to 400NM in the day, and 250NM at night. But with limited range and range errors (especially at night), the final Decca chain was shut down in 2001.

4) Lighted Airways

Lighted airways were placed across the middle of the US so that aircraft starting from either coast could depart during the day and reach the lighted airway by nightfall. The beacons were spaced every 15-20 miles, and could be seen for up to 40 miles in good weather. In bad weather? Well, that's another story.


5) Magnetic Compass

OK, you still need to use it, but fortunately, you've got GPS, VOR and possibly even an ADF on your panel as well. The magnetic compass can definitely get you from "A" to "B", but you'll watch it dip and swing from every bit of turbulence you hit along the way.


6) Four-Course Radio Range

It was the precursor to VOR navigation, and you needed to know Morse Code to use it. The system was used by listening to a stream of 'N' and 'A' letters in Morse Code. Too much 'N'? Turn right. Too much 'A'? Turn left. When you were on course, the N's and A's combined to create a steady tone.


7) Celestial Navigation

It's one of the oldest forms of navigation, and one of the first navigation aids used by transport aircraft. Celestial navigators use a sextant to determine the angle between a known star and the horizon. By using the angle, plus the time it was measured, you can calculate your position. Fortunately, you don't need to show your examiner how it's done on your next flight.


Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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