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.