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GPS Waypoints

Source:, featuring Doug Stewart

We have to be really careful with how we spell things. I remember once coming from Norwood - this is actually a VFR flight, but using GPS in my SuperCruiser, but it just gives an example of the gotchas of GPS.

I was coming from Norwood back to Great Barrington, GBR. It was at night, very familiar with the route, and I'm tired, I know I'm into a head wind. This was in a slow airplane to begin with and so I'm curious how long is it going to be until I get home? Can I stay awake? And I look and it says 12 hours. I go, Oh my God! What? I knew the wind was strong, but it couldn't be that strong.

Then I said, How far is it? We're only talking about a little more than 100 miles. And I look and it's over 1,000 miles. Do you have any idea what I'd done?

I put GRB instead of GBR. Now, VORs are great because if we put in a VOR and you're flying properly, the way - hopefully - you were trained, you identify that VOR. I don't know Morse code, but I know how to read. I know how to read that kind of stuff. I can read the dots and the dashes, so the Morse code is printed right there on my approach plate, on the enroute charts, and we identify. But there's nothing in GPS to give us that identification, so we have to be really careful as we enter information in that we have spelled it properly.

I mean, there's so many intersections where stoop could be S-T-O-O-P or it could be S-T-O-P-P, as an example. Odell, O-D-E-L-L, O-D-E-E-L, O-D-D-E-L. They're all options. Who's to tell you whether they're right or wrong unless you already have a sense of where you're going and what you see in your flight plan makes sense as far as distance, as far as heading.

So it can't be that we have just blind reliance on the GPS. If we do, we're going to end up getting lost. We need to have some sense ahead of time - vis-à-vis our approach plates, vis-à-vis our enroute charts - knowing what's the approximate distance, what's the approximate heading.

Otherwise, if you're just flying blindly and accepting whatever the GPS gives you, if you spell something wrong, it's going to take you to Timbuktu and you'll run out of fuel a few miles short of Timbuktu.