pilotage: see air navigation.
Pilotage is the use of fixed visual references on the ground or sea by means of sight or radar to guide oneself to a destination, sometimes with the help of a map or nautical chart. People use pilotage for activities such as guiding vessels and aircraft, hiking and Scuba diving. When visual references are not available, it is necessary to use an alternative method of navigation such as dead reckoning (typically with a compass), radio navigation, and satellite navigation (such as GPS).


Pilotage depends on the pilot being able to recognise the visual references in order to make use of them. The pilot must either be familiar with those visual references or be able to discover them from a map, aeronautical chart or nautical chart. Many nautical and aeronautical disasters have resulted from the pilot incorrectly identifying visual references.

Poor visibility may affect safe navigation by obscuring the natural features used by pilots in an area. In such situations, pilots use navigational aids such as radar and the GPS to determine position and monitor their passage.

Visual features

Common types of visual reference point used for pilotage:

During the day:

At night:

Pilotage is frequently combined with navigation techniques such as dead reckoning. When a pilot at a known location cannot see the next visual reference on the route to a destination, he or she can use dead reckoning to get closer to the next reference point. This is the most common form of VFR navigation.

See also

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