Part 2: Reading comprehension

Part 2: Reading comprehension

Read the following incident reports relating to technical problems in aircraft and then answer the questions which follow.

Dead Reckoning

It is agreed that the compass is a VFR pilot’s primary navigation tool. But when it comes to specifying the second most valuable such device in the cockpit, there is often some difference of opinion. New pilots tend to prefer the VOR receiver or GPS. But those with more experience use a stopwatch.

However, in the case of an electrical failure, a pilot must go back to basics. A reliable compass and stopwatch become the only tools available for navigation. The compass indicates the heading and the stopwatch tells the pilot how far he’s gone.

Without one of these indications, a pilot can get lost very quickly, especially when above clouds or when over terrain where checkpoints are confusingly few and far apart. Compass-and-stopwatch, or dead-reckoning navigation, however, is slowly becoming a lost art as increasingly more reliance is placed on electronic guidance. Although no one can deny that VOR or GPS navigation has simplified cockpit workloads, pilots must avoid becoming too complacent.

Dead reckoning, or DR navigation, is a relatively painless procedure that can and should be combined with radio navigation so that a pilot is aware of his approximate position at all times. According to the popular definition, dead reckoning is short for “deduced reckoning” or, as the old-timers used to say, “you’re dead if you don’t reckon right.” In truth, however, the term originated with maritime navigation and refers to “reckoning or reasoning (one’s position) relative to something stationary or dead in the water.” Simply stated, DR navigation is a method of deducing en-route progress based on the direction of flight and the estimated ground speed since the last known position.


  1. According to the text, in what situation would a pilot need to use dead reckoning rather than the VOR receiver or GPS?
  2. What role does the stopwatch play in dead reckoning?
  3. In what situations is it particularly easy for a pilot to get lost?
  4. What is the other name dead-reckoning navigation is sometimes called?
  5. Why is dead reckoning so called?
  6. What do these abbreviations stand for?
    • VOR
    • GPS

Vocabulary building

  • Quite simple or not unpleasant
  • Work out / roughly calculate / estimate based on observation
  • Fixed / not moving / no longer alive
  • Principal or most important
  • Tool / piece of equipment / gadget