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CarlosSi
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Use of autopilot to fly an IFR flightplan

Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:56 pm

Working on getting my IFR rating (haven't started training but have read most of the IFH and IPH). It looks like most charts pretty much expect that the pilot is flying along an airway from one VOR and an extra VOR plus DME allows one to confirm when they are crossing an intersection.

On the other hand, I'm assuming one could just enter the route onto a GPS and the autopilot could fly most of the route (presumably) without having to toy with the VORs as much. If that's the case, would that be a bit spoiled or is AP mostly just used for increased situational awareness?
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: Use of autopilot to fly an IFR flightplan

Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:21 pm

If it’s an IFR rated autopilot, yes, load the flight plan and either hand fly or engage the autopilot. You should learn VOR radio navigation, however, it’ll be around for awhile yet.
 
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CarlosSi
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Re: Use of autopilot to fly an IFR flightplan

Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:32 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
If it’s an IFR rated autopilot, yes, load the flight plan and either hand fly or engage the autopilot. You should learn VOR radio navigation, however, it’ll be around for awhile yet.


I guess one would still have to comply with the altitude minimums and change when necessary. I've toyed with the VORs (maybe too much...) on VFR. DME gives one a third degree of navigation, but it's not always available depending on the airplane.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: Use of autopilot to fly an IFR flightplan

Sun Jul 21, 2019 10:37 pm

All the route and altitude restrictions remain the same regardless of navigation sensors used.
 
spacecadet
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Re: Use of autopilot to fly an IFR flightplan

Mon Jul 22, 2019 7:01 am

CarlosSi wrote:
On the other hand, I'm assuming one could just enter the route onto a GPS and the autopilot could fly most of the route (presumably) without having to toy with the VORs as much. If that's the case, would that be a bit spoiled or is AP mostly just used for increased situational awareness?


Probably depends somewhat on the operation... GA is not necessarily the same as part 121.

In most modern avionics suites that I know about, the FMS has a database with the coordinates for all VOR's, so it will fly to those coordinates if you just enter the waypoint. And you should enter the flight plan for every flight, whether you're engaging the AP or not. And yes, that's for situational awareness.

But whether or not you use the AP, you should be tuning VOR's. It's your job as the pilot to make sure you're flying as cleared, and if you were cleared to a VOR or VOR intersection, you should make sure you're actually flying there and not wherever the GPS thinks that is based on its database (that could theoretically be out of date, or even just wrong). A GPS database is only as good as the people entering and checking it.

Also, if you lose RAIM at some point, you can no longer rely on GPS navigation. It's a lot better to have your VORs already up and tuned than to have to suddenly scramble to do it.

Look at it this way - if you're cleared on an airway to a VOR, you set the AP and don't actually tune that VOR, then you have an accident because you're off course... who do you think gets the blame and why?
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