Anyone Still Using ADF/NDB?

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Keith Ward, Jan 24, 2019.

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  1. Keith Ward

    Keith Ward Pre-Flight

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    I just came across that section in my Sporty's ground school course (I have a PPL, but am getting back into the game after a long time away, so I'm starting from the ground (school) up), and it made me wonder.

    It almost seems like these days that VOR is the backup for the GPS (and like many of you, I use the panel-mounted GPS, and then ForeFlight as the backup GPS). But does anyone still use the really old nav stuff? I feel like I *should* learn it, just because, but then back when I was flying before, I promptly forgot all about it once I got my license.

    Ultimately, is it still valuable to have that knowledge, or do you believe we've moved on?
     
  2. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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  3. dans2992

    dans2992 En-Route

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    You should be somewhat familiar with it, but I can tell you, I would never trust it enough to do an NDB approach in actual IMC to mins (without GPS overly or backup).

    I know my skills, and NDB approaches are not one of my strong ones!!

    The think DME arcs might also be getting long in the tooth. Never did them in training (probably because there weren’t many around Chicago, or my instructor overlooked them).
     
  4. EdFred

    EdFred Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Last time I used an NDB/ADF was 2003. Was shooting an approach in actual. It was actually pretty easy. Just make sure the needle doesn't move after you've picked your heading. It's dirt simple once you have the wind correction dialed in.
     
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  5. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    When my wife flies with me, between our iGadgets and what's installed in the airplane, we have half a dozen independent, redundant GPS receivers aboard. But there's a lot of special-use airspace in these parts (some of which are crammed full of things that make large "ka-boom!" noises). So, just in case the whole GPS system goes wonky, I make a plan 'B' on how to avoid that stuff using the VORs, DME, ADF, stopwatch, or anything else available in the airplane. For example, between here and Yuma you have to navigate for almost fifty miles through a 10-mile-wide gap between hot restricted areas that go from the surface to the moon.

    Even if I'm not actively using the ground-based systems, I have the appropriate stations tuned in, identified and ready to go.

    And if a ballgame is on, yes, I use the ADF. :p
     
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  6. lancie00

    lancie00 Line Up and Wait

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    [​IMG]

    The ILS 06 at KFOD still uses the NDB as an IAF and the outer marker. It's not required but is usable. It also has a DME arc too. ;)
    The ILS 31 at KINL requires an ADF (or equivalent).
    [​IMG]
     

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  7. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    If you have it in the airplane, I’d recommend knowing how to use it.

    Personally, I’ve had GPS fail (onboard equipment-something antenna related that affected both units, IIRC) that required an NDB approach to get where I was going.

    Of course, that airport doesn’t have NDB approaches anymore.
     
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  8. Clip4

    Clip4 En-Route

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    The easiest approach for partial panel remains the NDB with the station not on the airport such as a compass locator. Cross the station, turn to and hold the heading, and get down quickly to minimums.

    The worst NDB approaches were the ones with the station a long way from the airport.

    NDB approaches with the station on the airport are good.
     
  9. chemgeek

    chemgeek Line Up and Wait

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    I flew lots of NDB approaches in IR training. After that, I never flew an NDB approach in IMC for 30+ years. And after getting IFR GPS, the ADF was not even useful for finding the OM on certain ILS or LOC approaches, so it got pulled to save a few lb of useful load.

    NDB approaches are fun to fly and highly instructive for airmanship, but quite frankly if you has WAAS GPS, ILS, and dual VOR, an NDB approach is going to be fourth choice for selecting an approach. There are a few rare airports that have NDB or GPS approaches only in CONUS, but they are far and few between.

    Today, when NDBs get cranky, they are as likely to be decommissioned than repaired. The NDB at UCA (now RME) was OTS so frequently they just eventually pulled the plug.
     
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  10. Eric Brunelle

    Eric Brunelle Pre-Flight

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    When I bought my plane, the ADF indicator was labelled "INOP", and there was no receiver - has a 430w. I had the ADF indicator taken out and installed a Volt/Ammeter. I used to fly NDB approaches all the time, but only fly them with flight sim now. They are disappearing.

    I DO practice VOR and DME arc approaches - keep those skills up. I also practice triangulating my position with VOR's - keep practicing this stuff in case you need it.
     
  11. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    One advantage to an ADF in VFR navigation is that high-power AM broadcast stations are usable from great distances. I learned to fly at an airport (KFUL) that had a 50,000-watt clear channel AM station (KFI) transmitter less than two miles away. You could home in on that sucker from Mars.
     
  12. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 Cleared for Takeoff

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    I learned it years ago, but unfortunately nothing I fly today has one installed. I haven't seen an ADF in years.
     
  13. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips Pattern Altitude

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    We removed our ADF whenever we had a practical exam scheduled ...
     
  14. Keith Ward

    Keith Ward Pre-Flight

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    This was pretty much my thinking, too.
     
  15. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Military still does but they need those sorts of options. My last approach (2011) in the Army was an NDB.

    On the civ side and for personal flying, I haven’t flown one. I don’t need that sort of option and if choosing a future aircraft to buy, I wouldn’t put any weight in the aircraft having an ADF. If you operate an aircraft that happens to have one, then you should be knowledgeable on its use and it’s limitations.
     
  16. danhagan

    danhagan Pattern Altitude

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    Had one in the Tiger and did a lot of El Paso to Austin trips on weekends to visit family. Always had it on low in the background for whatever game was on (college Saturday and NFL Sunday).
     
  17. Keith Ward

    Keith Ward Pre-Flight

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    So it was definitely helpful, although not in a navigational sense...
     
  18. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I should have used it more.

    I always thought NDBs were more difficult than they were worth, until I shot an NDB approach in a plane with an HSI for the first time. That made it much easier, since if you twisted the course pointer to the inbound course, making the needles match meant you were on course, no mental gymnastics required.

    My current plane, which I've had for 6.5 years, had a KR 87 installed that we pulled out a year ago. It was hooked up to an Argus 7000/CE, which could be used as an electronic RMI. It's about the nicest setup you could possibly have for shooting a straight NDB approach... But I never used it. Not once. (Well, OK, ballgames I did, but not navigation.)

    Now, if you're planning on flying outside the CONUS, they can still be useful. (Hey, @Katamarino, want to buy a working KR-87 for your RTW trip? :D) Otherwise, not so much. The FAA isn't really spending any money to maintain them any more, so when they die, they just get decommissioned.

    And an IFR GPS will take care of the requirement for both... I haven't seen anything that actually required a real live NDB in a LONG time. Even the overlay ("NDB or GPS") approaches are getting rare.
     
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  19. SCCutler

    SCCutler Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I love the simplicity of NDB approaches, and the way they teach you to know and accommodate the wind. But at this point, I'm likely never to fly an NDB approach in anger.

    If you see the dual NDB approaches which were (I think, still are) common in Russia and other once-eastern bloc countries, you see something elegantly simple; two ADF receivers, two pointers in one instrument - if the needles are aligned, you're lined-up with the runway. Stupid simple, easily maintained.
     
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  20. FlyBoyAndy

    FlyBoyAndy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Are ADF/NDB only used for approaches or navigation too? I've just never used them or was with anyone that has, I think.
     
  21. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    I haven't seen an operable ADF receiver since I was a pre-solo student pilot.
     
  22. SCCutler

    SCCutler Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I have one, a King KR87, connected to a King slaved RMI. It's the hot-stuff!
     
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  23. brien23

    brien23 Cleared for Takeoff

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    You need to get your money back from your instruction as you clearly do not understand the use of a NDB approach in actual IMC to Mins.
     
  24. lancie00

    lancie00 Line Up and Wait

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    We still have one that works. I use it occasionally since we don't have GPS.
     
  25. Plano Pilot

    Plano Pilot Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If you look over near ILM there are still two ADF’s, CLB & DIW, with AR routes for running to S Florida and the Bahamas. These are more powerful stations that give a longer range than VOR’s. Back in the day I used them and GLS, near Galveston, when crossing the water.
     
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  26. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Line Up and Wait

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    In Mexico, at least on the Baja Peninsula, NDBs and NDB approaches are in use.
     
  27. danhagan

    danhagan Pattern Altitude

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    No NDB anything in my area. So listening to sports radio on the long XC Texas rides was fun. Couple of times had ATC ask me what the score was. Also, the needle will point in the direction of lightning, but I had a stormscope in the Tiger and didn't need it.
     
  28. 35 AoA

    35 AoA Cleared for Takeoff

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    I flew them in the 2002-2003 timeframe when I was doing civilian IR, but funny you mention the military side. We had it in the Hornet, and we still have an ADF option in the Super Hornet. Also haven't used it in years, but when I was in the FRS and we didn't have MIDS/Link 16, my "poor man's MIDS" was asking my flight lead an innocuous question on the AUX radio to which the answer was unimportant. As soon as I unkeyed the comm switch, I'd flip the comm 2 ADF switch and while I listened to a bunch of static on the radio, the little ADF circle on my moving map display range ring would give me an azimuth snap to him. Couple that with air to air tacan (which for us is range only, non-directional), and you can find a guy pretty accurately. It was a dumb party trick that I guess originated from my experience with NDB approaches. Nowadays we have much better methods, and even then we did.....such as just asking him to mark his position :)
     
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  29. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Not sure our ADF had that capability. We had FM homing though. Used it maybe twice. Not very accurate.

    Any of the Legacy Hornets ever get / G? As I recall all of the ones we had in the Marines were / R. I remember they used to have to wait a few minutes in the holding area to get the INS to align.
     
  30. 35 AoA

    35 AoA Cleared for Takeoff

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    Yeah UHF freq seemed to overwhelm the reception of the radio part of the receiver, though it still gave an azimuth swing.

    Legacy Hornets are all /I or /G (lot 10 and below did not have GPS)........Supers are mostly all RNAV capable (though only LNAV MDA for approach purposes). For all of them, alignment is typically done in the line during start up, takes a few mins, some of the newer iterations of the INS are more accurate and faster to align than the old ones.
     
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  31. Maxnr

    Maxnr Pre-Flight

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    Back in the last century, I strapped in the back seat of a Nat Guard Birddog as a safety pilot. The front seater (wearing the hood) was one of the four WW2 vets in our unit. The Birddog's only nav gear was a LF receiver with a manual loop. You know, that basketball hoop on the aft fuselage.

    CPT "B" Showed me a manual loop NDB approach to the runway that was flawless. More impressive because the bearing selector and receiver controls are all mounted up in the left wing root between pilots.

    You haven't seen c**p until you've used DECCA.
     
  32. davidgfern

    davidgfern Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Let's not forget GNI on 236 kHz !
     
  33. davidgfern

    davidgfern Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Or CONSOLAN...... ever use that?
     
  34. Maxnr

    Maxnr Pre-Flight

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    No. But I came close to using OMEGA once, but we could not power up that POS with the LITON label.
     
  35. davidgfern

    davidgfern Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I worked as a civil servant my first job out of college at the US Navy Electronics lab in San Diego in the submarine communications group. We did all sorts of VLF work --- our group developed the very first OMEGA transmitter --- it was mounted on the bed of a truck and was moved around to various places for testing.
     
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  36. davidgfern

    davidgfern Pre-takeoff checklist

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    There is actually a reference to DECCA in the 1960's horror film "Gorgo" --- its about a large Godzilla-type lizard that attacks London. There is a scene in that film where the Royal Navy is tracking Gorgo underwater, and there is some dialogue which references "RED" and "PURPLE" lines-of-position.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorgo_(film)
     
  37. Maxnr

    Maxnr Pre-Flight

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    Lets go back to early 1969 in the Rep of V.N. I was a Medical Service Corps Officer serving in an Air Ambulance det. We were flying stock late model "H" Hueys. (mod/wired for a rescue hoist and DECCA) The DECCA was mounted R side of the ctr console in its own box. It had a a flip up plexi lid that you placed a strip map under. A couple of styluses then wrote on the plexi in X/Y axisses over the paper map. This of course was after you put the right map under the lid and went through a set up drill. Medevac missions were a "scramble" type departure and fall back was a standard topo chart. Too complicated & Too time consuming. South VN was covered by three ground stations. One was located at "LZ Betty" near the fishing village of Phan Thiet. One of my det's field stand by bases. After shut down of the chain, the heavily bunkered building was used as sleeping quarters by some Major.

    Bob
     
  38. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I'm glad to see somebody remembers Gorgo. I have a family connection to the film. Producer Frank King was my aunt's longtime fiancé (that's a story for another time -- :rolleyes: ). Frank was at the head of the family dinner table at Aunt Helen's house every Sunday night. When I was about nine years old Frank took me with him to hobby stores around L.A. to look for miniature tanks to use in Gorgo.

    Yes, I'm biased, but even though Gorgo was sometimes seen as only a ripoff of the Godzilla franchise (of course that never happens in Hollywood today), Gorgo was a better fim.

    (That's the same Frank King, by the way, who was played by John Goodman in the recent film Trumbo.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  39. davidgfern

    davidgfern Pre-takeoff checklist

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    DECCA display units like that were also used by those Chinook helicopters that were used in New York City in the 50s and 60s to fly between the Pan Am building and JFK (then known as Idlewild).
     
  40. davidgfern

    davidgfern Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I always liked Gorgo more than Godzilla......Gorgo has those cute little gill flaps on the sides of his head.