It’s All Going According to Plan, Part 2

By Hank Gibson, CFI, CFII, MEI

The Direct To Key

The direct to key is an aid to VFR pilots and a must for IFR pilots. On VFR cross countries, I encourage all VFR pilots to still create flight plans for VFR flights, utilizing paper and pencil planning, then plugging it into the G1000 using user defined waypoints and the like. On local VFR flights, the direct to key is awesome for going to closer airports or just getting a heading back to home base.

IFR pilots on the other hand, need the direct to key. It is essential to have when receiving vectors on a departure procedure, then being told, “fly direct to this fix,” or flying direct to a fix to start an approach.

There are two common mistakes I see when using the direct to key. The first is a misunderstanding of the system. A pilot is told to fly direct to a fix on an arrival, but it isn’t the next fix on the flight plan. The pilot has the flight plan up on the PFD, presses the direct to key, fully expecting the proper fix to pop up in the direct to window. It does not, much to his dismay. On the contrary, the next fix on the flight plan goes into the direct to window. The desired fix has to physically be highlighted, then the direct to key pressed.

The second is when a pilot has already entered direct to a fix into the G1000, but ATC has him flying a vector for traffic. Once clear of the traffic, ATC instructs him to fly direct to the fix, so he just turns at an intercept angle to center the HSI needle. This is NOT flying direct to. This is trying to intercept the previous direct to course. Simply just re-enter the fix in the direct to window and then that will truly be direct to.

Don’t neglect flight planning and rely on the direct to key. That is way too dangerous, especially when complacency and routine are prowling about. Plan the flight, and utilize the direct to key properly.

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