As a professional flight instructor there is no greater reward than the challenge of teaching practical single pilot IFR in the Cirrus. In the process of doing aircraft rental checkouts and instrument proficiency checks (IPC), I have noticed a trend that pilots are not fully understanding the fundamentals of instrument departure procedures. In light airplanes, the frequency in which pilots are assigned a DP or STAR is somewhat low. However, when flying in or out of a major metropolitan area like Miami, you are almost guaranteed to have a DP or STAR assigned. pilots must understand that although their aircraft is equipped with the latest avionics, it is knowing how to apply those avionics through every phase of flight that is important.
**This article does not discuss RNAV departure procedures which can be retrieved from the onboard GPS database. Those departure procedures may only be loaded from the procedure menu of the GARMIN GPS. Pilots are not permitted to build their own RNAV departure if it is not retrievable. More information can be found in AC 90-100**
I would like to use the example of the Miami One departure procedure, as Platinum Aviation’s Miami facility is located at the Opa-Locka Executive Airport.
Pilots departing KOPF IFR to the north are usually assigned the Miami One Departure and either the WINCO or HEDLY transition. The technique discussed below focuses on using the GPS as the primary means of loading and flying the Miami One Departure. Before discussing how to to properly load the procedure it is important to first understand the difference between Direct-To and intercepting a course / transition. When a pilot presses the Direct-To button on the GPS, this directs the aircraft from its present position (PPOS) to the next TO waypoint, navaid, or airport. While the Direct-To function can be useful, it does not provide for a means of intercepting a predetermined course. When ATC says, “Cirrus N123AB, you are cleared to join the WINCO transition.” This does not mean from your present position press the Direct-To button. Pilots who fly this way are often times several miles from the course ATC requires them to be on! So, how can you properly load the departure procedure?
When discussing departure procedures, I like to remind pilots the GPS is a TO-TO navigator, meaning it does not navigate FROM a waypoint or navaid but TO the next waypoint, navaid, or airport. To take advantage of this fact we must put in an originating point or as I like to call it, an anchor point. The idea is not to fly to this anchor point, but to create a course line between the anchor point and the waypoint we are trying to fly to. In the example of the Miami One Departure WINCO transition, the GPS anchor point would be the DHP VOR and your TO waypoint would be WINCO.
When the pilot begins to enter the flight plan, the airplane automatically loads the current airport. When assigned the Miami One WINCO transition a pilot would normally load the GPS to look something like this:
Initially the aircraft is going to show KOPF Direct-To DHP. However, the pilot should depress the cursor/FMS knob and select the WINCO intersection using the cursor. At this point pressing the menu button and selecting activate leg will prompt the pilot, “Fly leg DHP – WINCO?” The answer to this is YES!
You will then see the magenta line on your MFD activate between DHP and WINCO and the HSI will also show a fly left indication showing that you need to go westbound to join the transition.
At this point I see too many pilots that then select KOPF and delete it from the flight plan. STOP! Removing KOPF from the flight plan could change the CDI sensitivity to the ENROUTE mode, which will be either 2NM or 5NM depending on if your aircraft is WAAS equipped. In order to fly a departure procedure with the GPS you must ensure you are in the TERMINAL mode, which will provide +/-1NM CDI sensitivity.
Although this may seem like a lot of information, it is important to know how to properly load a non-RNAV departure procedure into your GPS flight plan. A solid understanding of how to intercept a transition versus utilizing the direct-to function is incredibly important in the IFR environment. Although published courses provide the pilot with some level of obstacle clearance both laterally and vertically, going direct-to may not. If in doubt about how to safely load the GPS, go spend an hour with your flight instructor and brush up on advanced GPS procedures.
Remember, recurrent training is what you make it!