I have an HSI, an OBS, and a GPS. I normally set my HSI to runway heading, my bug to the wind direction, and the GPS to destination airport/waypoint (which will give me my turn out heading). I don't normally move my OBS. Once I get in line to depart, I set my bug to my departure heading.

For my coms I put the tower frequency in COM1 and the ground and guard in COM2.

Is there a standard procedure for setting up your nav instruments and coms? Is there a better or more efficient method than what I am doing? I have been thinking I could set my OBS up for the approach and my second option in COM1 as CTAF or tower at the arrival airport. What does everyone think?

  • $\begingroup$ "set my HSI", you mean the "course select pointer" (arrow)? the only thing I would say is that if you have one COM antenna on the roof and another on the belly, use the radio attached to the roof antenna on Tower $\endgroup$ – rbp Feb 26 '16 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ I'm tempted to say this is too opinion-based and might be a better subject to discuss in chat - everyone has their own routines for this, and it's hard to say that one is more "correct" than another... $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Feb 26 '16 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 I agree. Even leaving aside personal preferences, a lot depends on your equipment, VFR vs. IFR, airspace, ATC etc. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Feb 26 '16 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ Even if there is not a single correct answer I would still like to read some of the best practices from experienced pilots. $\endgroup$ – jskypilot Feb 26 '16 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ Land-lubber question: What is an OBS? Is it the same as a CDI? $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Feb 27 '16 at 0:11

I think it is save to say that it is a good practice to do anything you can on the ground rather then doing it in the air.

My setup: I usually end up with a similar set up as you do, though I don't use GPS much, but prefer hopping from one VOR to the next ;) (Well, I'll have to add that I'm not the most experienced pilot around here, for sure!)

Basic principle: I try to follow the rule I mentioned up there: I try to decrease the workload in the air by doing it on the ground already. That's why we make our route up on the ground, not as we go (well, one of the many reasons).

Let's say I have Com1 and Com2, each with a standby frequency as well as two Nav's, also each with a standby frequency: Before taxi, I'd have Com1 Active set up as tower and be listening and talking to Com2 to clearance, having ground in the standby. As soon as I have my clearance, I can put in my initial heading with the heading bug (not flying SIDs), as well as the Dep. frequency in Com1 Standby. This way I have all ground related stuff in Com2, all air related stuff in Com1. As for the Navs and the OBS: If there is a VOR at the airport I'm gonna put it in Nav2 and turn the OBS to initial takeoff heading (mostly runway heading). This is just as a support, "heading" still means pointing your nose to where the controller says, no matter what track the wind makes you actually fly. But then I know where I'm at and can already figure out what the wind is doing on my climb out. Nav1 goes to my first VOR, and depending whether I go direct or join an airway, I center the needle or set the OBS to the airway track respectively. The standby frequencies of the Navs are set to my second waypoint on Nav1, and whatever I think I'll need afterwards on Nav2. After takeoff I use Nav1 primarily to navigate, and Nav2 to verify my position (such a aircraft would usually have DME, so that you don't need to cross bear your position with two VORs, but if there is time to do so, why not). In the air I usually don't use the standby freqs much on the Coms, and just swap Com1 and Com2 when changing frequency. Before landing, the same thing counts as before takeoff: Take as much workload off in advance. Thus I'm setting up the coms (I got 3 spare frequencies when talking to approach or center or whatever, the'll all be filled in with usefull frequencies like ATIS, Tower and Ground), the Nav's for the approach (with missed approach in standby if available).

Well that was quite a novel, I hope you didn't fall asleep halfway through. This is what I do, and I get along with it quite well. I am not saying it is the 100% perfect thing to do, and (as Simon points out in his answer) you should do whatever you feel the most comfortable with.

Summing up, I think doing as much as you can in advance is key in flying (especially IFR), as it gives you more time in case you need it for something else to do.


I do think that the question is largely opinion based but paradoxically, that's why I'm offering an answer.

I believe that the overriding principle should be:

If it's in a check list, the POH or otherwise mandated, then do it that way. Not doing so could have legal, operational or insurance implications.

If it's not, then do whatever works for you.

If you check that you haven't taxied to the wrong end of the runway (it's happened before) by checking that your heading bug is pointing at the runway you are about to enter or some other check which is in your setup, then keep doing it.

By all means, look for practical, actionable suggestions that make sense to you instantly then consider incorporating them but pilots changing habits, whether by choice or if required to do so, is a continued source of accidents.

For example, I do like @rbp comment to you about COM1 and COM2 being on the belly or the roof. That's a good one I hadn't heard before.

It's fine to ask for opinions, although it might get the question closed, but how can you trust random strangers on the interweb thing? Being consistent, logical and above all, true to the way you fly is I believe the most important thing by far.


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