Navigating from one point to another involves a few different methods, which are used together for redundancy and improved situational awareness. These methods are pilotage, dead reckoning, and radio navigation. In this lesson, you will learn how to apply each of these different navigation methods, as well as how to use them together.


Pilotage is navigation by the use of visual landmarks, such as roads, bodies of water,power lines, railroads, etc. To aid in pilotage, aeronautical charts depict these landmarks.

If we were to relate pilotage to driving directions, we might receive these type of directions to the local airport, "Go down past the gas station, keep going on past highway 41, and take a left at the diner. The airport will be just over the first big hill there after you cross the interstate".

Dead Reckoning

Dead reckoning is navigation by calculation. If you know the speed and direction you need to go, then getting there is simply a matter of flying in that direction for the right amount of time. Pilot's use estimated winds aloft with their own performance calculations to make these estimated guesses, which are quite accurate when done correctly.

During the course of the flight, pilotage is used to verify or correct dead reckoning calculations.

If a person were to give driving directions to the local airport, dead reckoning style, it might sound more like, "If you drive the speed limit the whole time, then drive east for about eight minutes. From there, make a left turn and go north for twelve minutes, and you'll be at the airport".

Radio Navigation

Radio aids to navigation are also used to verify or correct dead reckoning calculations while enroute. The signals from these navigation aids are received by equipment in the airplane to give the pilot position information.

There are several types of navigation systems, which will be discussed in more detail in the next few pages.Generally speaking, VORs and NDBs are two different types of ground based radio transmitters commonly used in small aircraft. GPS, a space based navigation system, is also commonly used.

A wide variety of receiving equipment is available for installation in the airplane. Some of these systems simply state direction to or from a particular radio aid. Others are more advanced, using computers to calculate position based on signals received from several radio aids.