[Update] Exam III passed! One more to go and ground school is done!

Exam III has arrived! This week consists of an exam tonight, a review session later this week, then it’s time for the final! This one’s all about navigation and flight planning.

Navigation without GPS can be a real bear. There are all these handy navigation aids at airports all over the U.S., but understanding how to get the signals and use them with rudimentary instruments to get from one place to another is more than a little confusing. I think I’ve got it down, but we’ll see.

I’m happier working with the maps, although those aren’t really user-friendly either. They remind me of Alice’s Restaurant and the 8"x 10" color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.

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If all you had to do was figure out the bearing and distance between two airports, it would be easy. But no, you also have to factor in the wind and the magnetic declination (your compass doesn’t always point to the same north on the map) and make adjustments while you are in flight so that you actually arrive at the airport you intended to. While you’re at it, you’ll use a really nifty “computer” which is really more like a slide rule and you’ll fill out a sheet with a bunch of waypoints because you can’t just fly from one point to another.

Don’t forget to factor in that your airspeed usually doesn’t match your ground speed, so no two flights between the same airports will ever burn the same amount of fuel.

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Then there’s the weight factors and balancing the load in the plane. The pilot’s pretty important, but the people loading the plane are just as important. Get it wrong and you’ll crash.

Anyway, I’ve been studying and feel ok about it. I’m surprised how good it feels to run through a sample problem and get it right. Let’s hope I get them all right tonight!