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Thread: Magnetic compass

  1. #1
    Cub Special Ed's Avatar
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    Magnetic compass

    Why do the powers that be require a magnetic compass in vfr genral aviation aircraft? I was just watching the ol movie Midway thinking about old navigation. I understand it's purpose for ifr flight in confirming dg's, hsi's, and alike. But say light sport, vfr, and other similar g.a. aircraft, whats the point? There's no requirement (that I know of) for being proficient in its use. Its actual navigational use is rarely taught. Never evaluated on a check ride, and if someone were to get into inadvertant imc, they are probably going to use it wong (if they even remember its there). It is a required piece of equipment for almost all if not every aircraft, but there is no practical test standards for proficiency on its use? Just sparking a conversation.

    Disclaimer: I don't know all the regs, but I've also never seen a ntsb report that says an accident wast due to a compass.
    "There are 3 kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." Will Rogers
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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    Good point on the NTSB post-analysis, or lack thereof.

    For early CAR4 Certified airplanes:

    § 4a.533 NAC (Non Air Carrier) landplanes; visual contact day
    flying (unlimited distance) = (>100 miles from base). Airplanes of this
    category shall have the equipment specified in
    § 4a.532 and, in addition, there shall be installed:
    (a) A magnetic compass.

    For later CAR3 airplanes:

    BASIC EQUIPMENT
    § 3.655 Required basic equipment. The
    following table shows the basic equipment items
    required for type and airworthiness certification
    of an airplane:
    (a) Flight and navigational instruments.
    (1) Air-speed indicator (see § 3.663).
    (2) Altimeter.
    (3) Magnetic direction indicator (see §
    3.666)

    CAR3 calibration:

    § 3.666 Magnetic direction indicator. The
    magnetic direction indicator shall be so installed
    that its accuracy shall not be excessively affected
    by the airplane’s vibration or magnetic fields.
    After the direction indicator has been
    compensated, the installation shall be such that
    the deviation in level flight does not exceed 10
    degrees on any heading. A suitable calibration
    placard shall be provided as specified in § 3.758.

    Gary
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  3. #3

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    Boeing and airbus all have a working compass.
    You want a working accurate one. you never know when things turn to ****. Try to go to Deadhorse or Barrow in the winter with a 15 gusts to 30 from the NE.with enough fuel to get there with 45 minutes reserve.We put in remote compass and did a swing on it once every month. All my aircraft have the new pegasus compass which are very accurate . still swing at every 100 hr. Most of these are being flown 100 hours / month. I have sold everything but my cub crafters 180hp and my U206 g after I got th bob hoover letter from fsdo. Jumped through all their major tests. The last one lasted 3.15 hrs and the shrink that gave it said he couldn't do better on any of the tests. Finally going to get a first class even though I only need second class .My X pilot runs life med and Ive flown both the lear and the king air. The king air flys like a super cub. The lear is always on auto pilot and just hang on as it will be at 41 before you know it. I would love to do the night medavacs with the field lights out. Did too many out of Tanana before runway lights. Rampart and Nulato one way in and one way out. PA 32 with a compass that wa right on the money.
    Sandy

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    Cub Special Ed's Avatar
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    I have time in c90, 200, and f90 kingairs. They are my favorite in the turbine twin class. F90 being #1. That said, im glad you have a compass. Sooo, are you skilled at navigating using it soley, that if all other navigational systems fail? Are you tested on proficiency at biannual, 135 check, atp check ride? I appreciate your point of view. Mabe you are proficient at using a compass. Most of us are not. And that compass does not do the same thing in Barrow Alaska as it does in Montana. My point is, its required by the regulators as standard equipment, but doesnt have to be shown that the pilot is proficient in its use.

    My point (all be it a moot one): we are required to have a heavy compass on our plane. They may say its for if all our other systems fail right? Shouldnt that be the the system we know the best then? Its required but not many people can use it properly (including the three letter orginizations).
    "There are 3 kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." Will Rogers
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  5. #5
    n40ff's Avatar
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    I wonder? For me the old wet compass is the absolute most important navigational instrument on my airplane. I don't even have a DG in my current aircraft but back when I was flying better equipped aircraft I was taught that on EVERY flight to carefully line-up on the runway, pause and set my DG to the runway heading while confirming it with the(and this is why the pause, to allow the wet compass to settle down) magnetic compass. I'm still old school. Indeed right now I'm searching for an airplane and CFI without a glass panel for my BFR so I won't have to relearn how to fly. In the old days I flew all over the eastern US with only a line on a chart, wet compass and clock. I can still do it. I still recall IFR training with nothing else but a turn and bank added to the mix making timed standard rate turns etc. etc. The question of the need for a magnetic compass comes up every so often on most forums and the arguments start.....I'll put on my tin foil hat and let the arrows fly but when the battery fails and we are down to nothing else MY old wet compass will get me home. I wonder about the rest of you?

    Oh BTW, this brings up another question. Do we still need a paper chart? (I do because I don't have anything else.) But I suppose I could get by with flying low enough to read the road signs or the names on water towers... Of coarse I have zero knowledge about what is needed by many of you who fly in places where there are no such things not to mention you guys up north where the old wet compass might also be problematic......

    Keep your batteries well serviced,

    Jack
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  6. #6
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    Maybe no practical tests these days, but they used to teach dead reckoning and my check ride for PPL had a discussion on it. Is that not still done?

    Fond memories of E6bs, clocks, charts, and magnetic headings. My first solo cross country, I reached checkpoints within a minute of ETA and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

    Now the moving map on the screen does all the work. But I still keep checking that simple connection to earth found in the magnetic compass.

  7. #7

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    91.205 requires a whiskey compass for all normal category aircraft. If you have an Experimental or other Special type of certificate,91.205 does not apply. Typical Operating Limitations for Experimental airplanes will identify that if the aircraft is going to be operated at night or IFR, the instruments and equipment required by 91.205 are required. So experimental aircraft operated day cfr only have NO instrument requirements.

    All that said, each of my students have to be able to do their first cross country via pilotage ONLY using compass, timing, and landmarks. If you can’t do that, you have no business flying around in the sky!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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    Magnetic compasses make about as much sense as 121.5 ELTs. Worthless weight. There are better alternatives. My Cub uses a magnetometer. In my 180 I set my DG by the GPS. In both cases I have an iPhone as a backup. Welcome to 21st century living using 20th century regulations. Only in aviation.

  9. #9
    hotrod180's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cub Special Ed View Post
    ........... we are required to have a heavy compass on our plane. .......
    How much does your compass weigh?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Cessna Skywagon-- accept no substitute!
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  10. #10
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    Ahoy matey

    Web
    Life's tough . . . wear a cup.

  11. #11
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    Mine is less than a pound. I skip Mcdonalds ones a month to make up for it..... I don't have a DG, GPS or Iphone.

    Line on chart, compass and clock. Home free.
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  12. #12

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    When all the battery power drains down, the whisky compass still works great. Don’t leave home without it!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
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    RaisedByWolves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgapilot View Post
    When all the battery power drains down, the whisky compass still works great. Don’t leave home without it!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    I guess it’s a good thing I have a windshield to look out.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaisedByWolves View Post
    I guess it’s a good thing I have a windshield to look out.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Try using that in 2 miles or less visibility.....or in North Dakota, where section lines provide a straight line.....cept they run both North/South and East/West....

    I have no idea why some people are so offended by a very simple piece of equipment.

    Must be the onset of winter. Care for some cheese with your whine, Stewart?

    MTV
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  15. #15

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    On two occasions during my 57 years of flying I’ve found myself in the bottom of a canyon in heavy smoke trying to figure out which way the river was flowing to be sure my compass wasn't lying to me. I don’t use it much but I’m glad it’s there.
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  16. #16
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    Light Sport does not require one. As far as teaching goes, I always taught it for private and instrument. I haven’t instructed in a while but I thought partial panel in instrument was still being taught as well as compass questions on the written exams.

    Sure, there are plenty of technology based portable alternatives but none of them are required. My legend had a compass but it always pointed SW, so when I had an electrical failure one day looking out the window worked because I was in familiar territory. After that, my iPad went on every flight outside the local area. My 170B has a compass that works. It makes me comfortable.

    Rich

  17. #17
    Scooter7779h's Avatar
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    I'm old school, and want a compass in my VFR planes. Started flying with a no-electrical Aeronca Chief, and it was all I had along with a sectional on my knee for the first 300 hours flying in my first year as a private pilot in 1970's Alaska. Flew in legal but minimum weather too, 200/1 fly IFR (I'm following the River) down the Yentna to the confluence with the Big Susitna, then knew getting to town was a simple as one-two, the magnetic heading to Point McKenzie. Stayed with me all these years.

    In 1989 I was flying 10-14 trips a day in a 185 on floats out of Fort Yukon moving surveyors out to work sites and back up to 100 nm radius. It was a big fire year and the Tok LORAN-C station burnt up, and even before that LORAN-C would say locked up but totally erroneous, I quit turning it on. Every flight was a compass heading and stop watch time in 1 mile (cough, cough) visibility in smoke, for 40 or 50 days in a row.

    One last war story. In 2001 I was flying aerial photography low level in the Chicago-Ohare Class B, in support of post-911 find the terrorist mission. Extremely busy day, like usual. I hear a radio call for a transition request by a VFR pilot. The Chicago TRACON started vectoring this guy, and he was obviously not complying with the issued vectors. The Controller calls out the N-number and asks if he had a compass in the plane. The pilot responds with a tone of pride in his voice "YES I do". Controller comes back: GOOD, put the letter E in the center of the compass window and give me the best airspeed to exit the Class Bravo". The tension eased up because everyone in the sequencing que were cracking up, me included. SO, there's that too.
    =========
    PA-12 fan
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  18. #18
    RaisedByWolves's Avatar
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    My compass spins around and around. Did it before the rebuild and after.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by RaisedByWolves View Post
    My compass spins around and around. Did it before the rebuild and after.


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    Tom, when mine did that I just stopped flying in circles.. Seemed to help..

  20. #20
    RaisedByWolves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mam90 View Post
    Tom, when mine did that I just stopped flying in circles.. Seemed to help..
    Dang it. I thought I was doing something wrong.


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  21. #21
    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaisedByWolves View Post
    I guess it’s a good thing I have a windshield to look out.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Might come in handy if you have to land in a windy dark river some night

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"
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  22. #22
    RaisedByWolves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cubdriver2 View Post
    Might come in handy if you have to land in a windy dark river some night

    Glenn
    I just keep our fearless leader close. What powerlines? What bridge? Ha ha


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  23. #23
    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaisedByWolves View Post
    I just keep our fearless leader close. What powerlines? What bridge? Ha ha Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Jeff and I were talking about it in front of Jeff's wife. She asked " well how dark was it" Jeff blurts out " darker then the inside of a dead cow" Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"
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  24. #24
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RaisedByWolves View Post
    My compass spins around and around. Did it before the rebuild and after.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    b

    Buy a SIRS compass and mount it high in the windshield. Contrary to popular legend, it is possible to get an accurate compass in a Cub.

    MTV
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  25. #25
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    I hear the SIRS has better dampening. Any experience?

    Gary

  26. #26
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooter7779h View Post
    I'm old school, and want a compass in my VFR planes. Started flying with a no-electrical Aeronca Chief, and it was all I had along with a sectional on my knee for the first 300 hours flying in my first year as a private pilot in 1970's Alaska. Flew in legal but minimum weather too, 200/1 fly IFR (I'm following the River) down the Yentna to the confluence with the Big Susitna, then knew getting to town was a simple as one-two, the magnetic heading to Point McKenzie. Stayed with me all these years.

    In 1989 I was flying 10-14 trips a day in a 185 on floats out of Fort Yukon moving surveyors out to work sites and back up to 100 nm radius. It was a big fire year and the Tok LORAN-C station burnt up, and even before that LORAN-C would say locked up but totally erroneous, I quit turning it on. Every flight was a compass heading and stop watch time in 1 mile (cough, cough) visibility in smoke, for 40 or 50 days in a row.

    One last war story. In 2001 I was flying aerial photography low level in the Chicago-Ohare Class B, in support of post-911 find the terrorist mission. Extremely busy day, like usual. I hear a radio call for a transition request by a VFR pilot. The Chicago TRACON started vectoring this guy, and he was obviously not complying with the issued vectors. The Controller calls out the N-number and asks if he had a compass in the plane. The pilot responds with a tone of pride in his voice "YES I do". Controller comes back: GOOD, put the letter E in the center of the compass window and give me the best airspeed to exit the Class Bravo". The tension eased up because everyone in the sequencing que were cracking up, me included. SO, there's that too.
    Yukon Flats taught me the value of a good compass as well.

    MTV

  27. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by RaisedByWolves View Post
    My compass spins around and around. Did it before the rebuild and after.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Probably the least reliable instrument in the GA fleet. And most pilots are carrying pocket computers that have far superior direction indicators. The whiskey compass is obsolete.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC12D-4-85 View Post
    I hear the SIRS has better dampening. Any experience?

    Gary
    I've installed 5 of them so far, Gary, and everyone is happy with them. The last one was in a Maule M4 and we had to degauss the windshield/forward cabin area, and now it's working fine. I'm a big fan of them!
    John
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  29. #29

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    I have to agree with MTV on this issue. I have a SIRS and when I am in the thick stuff in unknown country I cross check my heading several times during the flight just in case the GPS fails (had it happen more than once in bad weather). The compass will keep you heading in the right direction. Pull out the chart and do some pilot stuff. If you only fly on clear days close to home you may never need it. But on the days you do it is worth having it!!
    DENNY

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    Question. Any of you whiskey compass advocates use a 406 ELT? Why? Let RCC do some dead reckoning magic. But they don’t do that and you don’t want them to try, right? Hell, try dead reckoning through Houston Texas to get to a concert. Bet you won’t do that, either.

  31. #31
    Gordon Misch's Avatar
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    The magnetic compass provides a rough check on winds, as compared to GPS track. Mine is quite close to correct, and I do look at it as a cross-check.
    Gordon

    N4328M KTDO
    My SPOT: tinyurl.com/N4328M (case sensitive)
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  32. #32
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    Question. Any of you whiskey compass advocates use a 406 ELT? Why? Let RCC do some dead reckoning magic. But they don’t do that and you don’t want them to try, right? Hell, try dead reckoning through Houston Texas to get to a concert. Bet you won’t do that, either.
    I guess if all I did was fly in Bravo airspace, I might not care about compass accuracy.

    MTV
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  33. #33

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    G3x provides wind status. I guess I should put some tape over that display to level the playing field. Why confuse things with accurate information!
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  34. #34
    Gordon Misch's Avatar
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    Can't get much cooler than that I guess. I'm impressed.
    Gordon

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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    I guess if all I did was fly in Bravo airspace, I might not care about compass accuracy.

    MTV
    You have that right Mike. Some of these folks who are poo pooing the whisky compass are spoiled with their GPSs. They need to fly north of Yellowknife with nothing more than a sectional chart and compass under an overcast sky. All the sectional charts look the same.
    N1PA

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    You have that right Mike. Some of these folks who are poo pooing the whisky compass are spoiled with their GPSs. They need to fly north of Yellowknife with nothing more than a sectional chart and compass under an overcast sky. All the sectional charts look the same.

    P... on em, let them fly in circles until they run out of gas Not.

  37. #37

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    Just to add to the discussion, here's a screen shot of the compass on my phone. The gray circle with the cross hairs is a level indicator. Not important for the compass but handy to have. One feature of this compass is it's accurate in any position. Horizontal, vertical, upside down, it doesn't matter. When I set up my G3X it required establishing a position and subsequently rotating the plane 90* 4 times for the magnetometer to initialize. I used this compass app to do it. A compass is a simple provider of direction information. This one works better than any whiskey compass I've ever used.

    And with a tap of my finger while flying? My phone turns into a completely accurate attitude indicator, displays very authentic synthetic vision, and provides a GPS based instrument panel. Or I can go old school and select the compass. And then turn on the flash light function to read the paper chart in the dark. But my phone has charts and updates them automatically so they're always current. As a result, I don't own any paper charts.
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  38. #38
    n40ff's Avatar
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    I admit that is very neat. If I was younger and actually had any place to go it would certainly be a good investment in both $ and the time it would take for this old man to learn how to absorb it. I still have my old flip phone and am told that if it quits I'll have to get something smarter. Right now? After 5 years I finally found someplace my old whiskey compass would work on the Acroduster 2. The entire fuselage is slightly magnetized. I mounted it on the grab handle at rear of center section and it's now almost perfect.....A smart phone might have been easier? But the old compass works. Good enough for me

  39. #39
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    I saw a J-5 once that had the compass mounted in front of the windshield on the boot cowl. Claim of no mag interference there was the reason. And it was a boat compass with a clear top dome. Alaskan get 'er done job.

    Gary

  40. #40
    wireweinie's Avatar
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    I believe that the point of the compass is, 'when all else fails . . .' Neat phone apps. Cool screens. Even the ones that have a backup battery. But electrical systems fail. And most people are NOT on top of the replacement schedule for their backup batteries (yes! You!).

    So, in crap visibility, when even your ship's battery is low, or you're on the ground and need to know which way to walk, that whiskey compass still works. Even when it's so cold that the battery life in your phone is cut in half, it works.

    So, if you don't want one, then don't get one. I can't spend the time/energy caring about that. As the movie line goes "it's your ass, Cochise".

    Web
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