Skip to main content

Navigation is the process of planning and controlling travel from one location to another. There are many methods of navigation using different techniques and instruments.

Navigation is the process of traveling from one location to another in a planned, controlled way. This includes planning a route, steering an aircraft (or other vehicle) along it, and checking progress and position against the plan. It also includes other tasks such as determining current position after becoming disoriented. Navigation is a key piloting skill included in all levels of flight training.

There are many techniques and technologies for navigation, but in modern aviation they fall into three main groups:

Pilots can navigate visually by comparing their view of the ground to a map or aviation chart, looking at landmarks and geographical features to follow their route (also known as pilotage). This is often done together with dead reckoning, where the pilot pre-calculates the necessary headings, distances and times to fly. (Celestial navigation is another, now almost entirely obsolete, form of visual navigation.)

Pilots can use ground-based radio aids together with instruments in the aircraft to indicate position and distance in various ways. This includes , , and , as well as transmitters (consisting of separate and transmitters) for final approaches.

GPS navigation uses satellites, sometimes supported by ground-based transmitters, to show the aircraft's precise position. Conceptually this is very similar to using a 'moving map' GPS system in a car, but aviation GPS units have many additional features including support for flying instrument approaches.

Use this tag for all questions about air navigation.