NDB transmitter at 49.205892,-2.219973. Callsi...

NDB transmitter at 49.205892,-2.219973. Callsign JW - Jersey West. 329.0 kHz. See http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/beaconworld/beacons.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flying back from Jersey, about 5 miles from the coast one dark evening, just visual with the coast and the Isle of Wight, at about 3,000 feet, I was doing the usual; using every resource available in the aircraft to cross-check where I was and what was happening. GPS, agrees, sufficient satellites available, visually check the outside with the view, I could just see the Eastern end of the island, with the coast just ahead, VOR, set to the right heading, identified and showing me on track, magnetic compass showing the right heading, ADF set to the nearest NDB and pointing...NOT pointing in the right direction. Strange. I'd heard of the effects of the night-time on the beacons, lightning, rain etc, but never seen the effect before, also coasts sometimes caused problems. The coastal effect and the heavy rain North of me was what I was seeing. Wild fluctuations plus and minus 20-30 degrees. Could it be that my trusty ADF/NDB combination wasn't that good after all. I could see the island and so that was the thing to rely on. Then 2 miles from the coast the yellow needle settled down and started behaving. Why you might ask with the poor behaviour do I love my ADF? Simple. I mean because it's simple to understand, it's simple to use (maybe not simple to use well), but simple nonetheless. It can be explained so easily. "A man stands in a field with a light bulb, and you go towards the light bulb".  Now the light bulb is an NDB and you can 'see' it with you ADF. Just follow the needle. Introduce wind correction later and heads and tails of the needle for tracking away and little dogs raising their tails etc. But the essense of it is to follow the yellow arrow. Of course GPS's have made thing even simpler now, but checking the RAIM on G1000 requires some time and effort to find in the menus (OK only a small gripe). The only thing you have to do for an ADF is to have power, and listen to the identifier continuously. Little know facts about NDBs. "W" indicates that no voice transmissions are made on the beacon, and remember that if you can hear the local radio station instead of the identifier you'd better use something else. The next time you need to practise some instrument flying, ask you instructor where you could try some tracking TO and FROM an NDB with wind correction. You'll thank me for it.
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