Flying the IPad

Apple hit a home run with the iPad. Among it’s countless applications, I can download the WSJ and USA Today each morning and read it on a commercial flight along with the latest book download. But that’s not the reason it was on my wish list. I wanted to stop already with the paper charts and approach plates and use it an EFB (Electronic Flight Bag). I gave it a test “drive” by flying to eight different airports. In a word: Fantastic. My flight bag will go on a diet and lose weight as I ditch books of approach plates and airport directories.  

Beyond EFB functionality is the iPad’s ability to work as a moving map for en route charts and VFR sectionals as well as flying an approach but, and this is important, it’s not approved for IFR and it may let you down in a critical navigation situation.  Some pilots have found that it can overheat and shut down in a very hot cockpit and there’s a 10,000 MSL limit for operation (non pressurized). Air molecules become sufficiently less dense at flight levels, leading to overheat and power off. So the GPS works great, except when it doesn’t. This means a minimal number of paper charts and plates are still needed for back up unless your primary navigation device is a G1000 or similar device. In my unscientific tests, it worked perfectly except for screen glare at the wrong angle. AvWeb has a slightly more critical view:

There was no GPS when I started my flight training years ago.

Hunting for an airport in a heavily wooded area was not much fun. Determining your position with miles of checkerboard farmland in every direction could be time consuming. I would look down at the paper chart and back outside, scanning for tracks, towers and roads in geography that was flat as a pool table. Say goodbye to all that. Now your “plane” (symbol) is flying right on top of the sectional, or enroute chart.

 It’s phenomenal for flight planning too. Not only for Route Planning and filing but for Wx Briefing. I can get TAF’s and Metars with current information just before getting ready to taxi. Note: I’d still call a flight service station. No telling when a TFR might pop up if the president visits The Windy City.

For those who already have an iPad, here’s what I have in the way of “aps”

Skycharts Pro: Moving map / EFB

WingX Pro: Does everything

Foreflight: Great flight planning and navigation tool

Flightguide iEFB: Like it says

Air Nav Pro- Navigation. Good but not intuitive to use

My Radar: Good radar images

Aeroweather: Excellent way to get up to the minute TAF’s and Metars

Pilot My Cast by Garmin: Another great flight planning tool

Many of these are redundant and I’ll look toward paring them once I get more experience. Here’s a  good list of what’s available if you’re in the market. It should make us safer pilots. Better plannning; Better tools for go / no go; Better ability to read charts and plates; Better situational awareness. Wish these were around  years ago.

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4 responses to “Flying the IPad

  1. I use PFMA on my iPhone, which is a flight planner with a FMC like interface. I’ll have to check out the others, although I have used Flightplan and iE6B. I’d still like a better W&B and takeoff/landing performance calc program.

    • After watching my brother’s preflight activities with his iPhone convinced me that an iPad would be great. You should try Aeroweather. I’ll let you know if I find a good weight/balance program. There’s more stuff being added every week.

  2. virgil xenophon

    I read this and realize that I’m not just *becoming* a Fossil, I AM a Fossil!
    Man, the F-4 and non-computerized flt planning with the stripping of charts and cut & paste accordian fold-out knee-clip ink hand-annotated mission strip charts, plus the passel of approach/let-down plates–the height of technology when I flew–is/was like rubbing sticks to make fire compared to today’s navaids. Mind-bending..

    • It’s good listening to you VX. Sort of like when I explain to my kids that at one time there were only pay phones, black and white TV and telex machines. Makes me appreciate that the good old days some times were not that all that.
      What’s next? A heads up display for general aviation? Self landing systems for single engine?
      I’m amazed at how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.

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