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Merchant Marine Cadets Help Navy Knock The Rust Off Sextants

The evolving picture underscores the important changes already taking place, and the role of PRME in effecting such change. Post a Comment. We are analyzing a sight session from the book Hawaii by Sextan t HBS , which is a record of the last voyage I did by pure cel nav. No electronics at all except RDF, and that did not work well. The lack of electronic navigation was not a choice willfully made; there simply were no options at the time, which in light of how far we have come, was not that long ago. There are many sight sessions in the book; all are analyzed in detail.

It is set up as an exercise in ocean navigation that is intended to be used as a training tool to master skills in cel nav and ocean navigation in general. When you have nothing but cel nav to go by, it is important to do the best you can with each sight, and to maintain good logbook procedures.

Astro-Navigation From Square One To Ocean Master -- Alan Murray -ѕ©¶«ФД¶Б-ФЪПЯФД¶Б

This of course remains true today. Here is a picture of how that fix might show up on a plotting sheet of the DR track.

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We are looking into Jupiter-Vega-Altair fix at Log And indeed—in light of the present topic—we do not have this fix plotted in the best possible position. In the actual voyage we just took a center value of the intersecting LOPs as the fix. Most star sights were pretty good, so this was not an issue at the time, but now we want to concentrate on doing best possible analysis of a single sight session. This process can be helpful when sights are limited or in question, and it is the only fair way to evaluate what we can and cannot achieve with cel nav.

This type of extra work is not often required in mid ocean, but could be valuable on approaches.

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Figure 1 In the book HBS, the fixes along the DR track as shown above were not made from the optimum choice of sights. In time I got to sit at his table and fiddle with his navigation paraphernalia. Most of it was WW II-vintage stuff, though the periscope bubble sextant was the latest model. And it was then that I began to appreciate the enormous differences between marine and aviation celestial work. On a boat the navigator takes an altitude, notes the time, and works the tables for a line of position.

Essentially simple stuff, and even if you are slow it's very unlikely there will be more than a few miles between the sighting and the plotting.

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  5. Flying at eight nautical miles a minute is another story, and only half of the story at that, because for a lot of good reasons, to do with inertia and altitude, a marine sextant won't work in high-altitude, high-speed flight. Errors of 60 or more miles are predictable if you do try to use a marine model.

    Astro-navigation from Square One to Ocean-master

    To compensate, the aerial navigator uses a bubble averaging sextant. The bubble replaces the horizon, and the averaging clockwork device, usually operated over a period of two minutes, balances out the inertial errors. Besides all that, the periscopic sextant, inserted through the overhead of the cockpit, has to be pointed in the right direction and set at the right angle to locate the celestial body, as its field of view is very small.

    This means that the sextant has to be pre-programmed for each shot; as each one takes about five minutes to program, two minutes to shoot, and 10 minutes to fiddle with the averaging device, calculate, and plot, it means that, by the time you put pencil to chart, the line you draw is where you were 80 or so miles behind you.


    The net effect is that the flight navigator spends a lot of time advancing and retarding lines of position to find out where he is from where he was. Tight, neat triangular fixes that I used to see in my merchant marine days became something of the past.

    Celestial Navigation Math

    It was also about this time that Inertial Navigation Systems INS started coming on the scene, and United declared its intention of phasing out the professional navigator in favor of these black boxes. And it was because of this and the fact that I had no ticket to reflect on my years at sea that I challenged myself to master the art of flight navigation and get an FAA Flight Navigator's ticket before the craft and position was just aeronautical history. The air regulations, meteorology, weight and balance, and performance exams were three hours each, and because they were already part of my pilot curriculum presented no problem.

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    The other three exams, each lasting five hours, where as big an intellectual challenge as I've ever experienced. To begin with, the FAA examiner presented we with the exam book and a three-by-three-foot piece of paper without as much as a speck on it. Supposing it to be a chart, I took it back to him and asked where the lat and long lines were.