Everybody loves GPS and synthetic vision, but pilots still have to master the art of radio navigation (VOR, NDB and DME) and the panel instruments that display their information (HSI, RMI, DG). For years we’ve used the Radio Navigation Simulator app to teach new students the fundamentals of radio navigation, and to brush up on the finer points. A new update makes this app a lot more useful for US pilots.
The latest version, called Radio Navigation Simulator USA, is exactly what the name suggests: a 2D simulated environment with VORs and NDBs that allows you to play with the avionics and the position of the airplane. It’s fast and easy to simulate flying To or From the station, cross checking from two VORs, or using DME. There’s also full support for RMIs and HSIs, so you can learn how these more sophisticated instruments work with some practical examples.
The airplane can be flown at speeds ranging from 60 knots to 600 knots and the heading can be adjusted, all while leaving a breadcrumb trail on the map. Alternately, you can simply drag the airplane around the map and watch the instruments react – a great tool for instructors. The app also allows you set up different wind conditions, which we’ve found particularly helpful for NDB training.
A version of Radio Navigation Simulator has been available in the UK for many years, but this latest version includes a full database for all of the United States. You choose which ARTCC region to fly in, then get access to all airports, navaids and fixes in that area. This makes it more convenient to train on local procedures.
This app is particularly helpful for instrument students. If you’re preparing for the instrument written test, you’ll want to spend some time with the app testing different scenarios until you know all the variations well. You might consider using the app right alongside a written test prep study guide.
Our only complaint is that the user interface isn’t always easy to use. Some buttons aren’t clearly labeled and a few features require a fairly complicated procedure to activate. Having said that, there is a good User Manual and once you understand how the app works there are a lot of features packed in. You can realistically simulate almost any scenario in the air, with a combination of instruments and geographical areas.
Radio Navigation Simulator costs $9.99 and is available for download in the App Store. For existing users of the European app, you can download the US data for $4.99.