Got technology?


On a flight from north central North Dakota (D09) to South St. Paul, MN (KSGS) in a lovely Mooney 201 (courtesy of my good friend Bill Molnar), I decided to pull out all the stops on the technology that I had along for the ride.  Now, for the record, this is NOT normal!  The phone is usually sitting idle, picking up the occasional text message when within reception range.  When flying hard IFR it MAY use both tablets…one displaying the en route map and one dedicated to the approach chart.  I like knowing I have a backup set of charts on board, plus the extra technology to display it.

What technology do you fly with?

Weight & Balance made easy on the iPad

I have a new iPad app that has just been added to my favorites list: Aviation W&B, available via the App Store on your iPad for under $10!

Aviation W&B comes preconfigured with basic weight and balance information for a number of aircraft models. You can also create your own from scratch.  Then, for each make/model you can add the specifics for a particular aircraft you fly and store it under its tail number.

Here’s a screen shot of the input form for the C-150 in which I taught my son to fly:

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After filling in the basic information about fuel on-board, weights of the pilot and passenger and baggage, it has computed the takeoff weight and is indicating in all GREEN text that all those parameters are OK and within CG limits. If anything was out of range or over gross it would be indicated in RED.

But notice one other thing: Maneuvering speed for this weight has been calculated.  We all know (or should know!) that the maneuvering speed listed in the POH is based on maximum gross weight. You should also remember that as weight DECREASES, so does maneuvering speed. This serves as a reminder of what the maneuvering speed is for THIS flight (or at lease right after takeoff!)  Obviously it will decrease further as you burn off fuel.

Once this is computed you can take a peek at where it lands within the CG envelope by tapping on the Envelope link at the bottom. You will be asked to choose the style of graph you want, either based on inches or Moment/1000. Selecting inches gets you this screen:

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We’re below gross and almost centered within the CG envelope….a safe place to fly!

Okay, so that’s cool…but now let Aviation W&B take it a step further: Where will you be when you land?

Going back to your input screen, touch on the Landing button on the bottom of the screen and you will be prompted for two more pieces of information, including fuel burn per hour and the estimated flight duration in minutes:

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Here we’re estimating a 5.5 GPH burn rate and a two hour flight. Touching the Envelope button (and this time choosing the Moment/1000 option) will give us this graph:

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Notice the takeoff CG position is indicated along with a vector towards your landing CG. We’ve confirmed that we will remain within the CG limits for our entire flight.

When all is said and done, tap the Summary button and you have a nice, clean W&B form that looks like this:

You can save a snapshot of that form to your photos or e-mail it to yourself documenting your loading configuration for your flight.

Here’s why I love this app:

  • It’s on my iPad, so it is ALWAYS with me.
  • It’s easily customized for EVERY aircraft I fly.
  • It encourages playing “What if?” scenarios with different loading configurations.
  • It encourages me to look at LANDING CG, not just takeoff CG.
  • It makes me THINK about maneuvering speed for THIS aircraft on THIS flight!
  • I can easily save a copy of the W&B configuration as backup documentation.
  • It’s a bargain!

Okay, so now you know why I love this app.

I do have one small nit to pick with it: I HATE the disclaimer screen that pops up every time I start it stating (and I paraphrase) “You can’t rely on this in any way, shape or form because we don’t want to get sued!”

I’m a lawyer. I understand why it’s there. But it still drives me crazy.

It should go without saying that before relying on any app like this you should make all the computations the old fashioned way, then compare those results against the results obtained with the app under a variety of loading scenarios. You have to satisfy yourself that you’ve crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in setting it up for your aircraft.

But once you’ve done that, you are far less likely to have a loading mishap using an app such as this than you are scribbling numbers on a sheet of paper and doing arithmetic long-hand. More importantly, you are more likely to take the time to consider loading for every takeoff and every landing when it is this easy to do. It’s a no-brainer.

Check out this app.  You’ll be glad you did.

Legalities of flying with iPads as EFB

The FAA, in an effort to clarify the rules regarding the use of Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs), recently released an updated Advisory CIrcular that consolidates the previously released information into one document explaining the use of these devices under the various parts of the FAA’s regs.  The document, entitled “AC 120-76, Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags (EFB)”, will probably leaving you scratching your head.  But Sporty’s iPad blog has attempted to break down what it all means in a post available here.  Check it out.

Flying Like the Pros… Great Tips for iPad Users

I stumbled across website today via an ad that appeared on Facebook. I clicked on the link and was impressed by what I found. Take the time to view their iPad course which introduces the “PHiAT” checklist for pre-flighting your iPad before taxi and take-off.

There are a lot of interesting tidbits you can glean from this course. I highly recommend it.

FlyQ App: Weather/Airport Info on the Go, Thanks to AOPA

AOPA has recently released FlyQ, a handy iOS-based app for getting up to date weather and airport information to their members. It’s available now from Apple’s App Store. Created in conjunction with Seattle Avionics Software, the app is optimized for the iPhone, but works just fine on the iPad, as well. It puts the AOPA Airports database in your pocket, along with easy access to current METAR, TAF and prog charts for both the U.S. and Canada. In addition, it allows you to create and file flight plans on the fly.

The app uses the device’s location services to identify where you are and serve up the airport and weather info closest to you. I am impressed with how quickly it accomplishes that task. It serves up the weather depiction charts, including AIRMETS/SIGMETS, Freezing Levels, Icing Potential, Local Radar, National Radar, Prog Charts, Regional Radar and Satellite imagery just as quickly.

One feature I really like, that I wish ForeFlight would incorporate, is the ability to move sequentially through the prog charts. When viewing the current weather depiction, you can move around within that chart, zooming and panning as needed. Then you can tap on the transparent arrow overlays to move to the 12 hour forecast, then tap again for the 24 hours, etc. In ForeFlight you have to exit the current chart and select the next chart, which breaks up the flow.

For flight planning, you can maintain Aircraft Profiles for every aircraft you regularly fly. Creating a new flight plan requires just a few touches on your screen, then it will contact DUATS to download your weather briefing.

With all the information gathered, tap on the File button and you’re good to go!

Now for the good news for my fellow Android users: An Android version of this app is due out in June!

FlyQ is just one more good reason to be an AOPA member.

AOPA Pilot on your iPad

After resisting the change for awhile now, I finally made the switch to the digital version of AOPA’s monthly “Pilot” Magazine. I’m not sure why I was so reluctant to give up the print version. Perhaps it’s just 34 years of habit reading it in that format. The print version is usually laying on the nightstand beside my bed or on the top of the toilet tank, which may give a hint as to where my reading takes place!

As the iPad has grabbed an increasingly dominant place in my daily consumption of information, the time seemed right. It didn’t hurt that the latest print issue teased me with unresponsive printed hot buttons to other content only available if reading the digital version.

So I logged into AOPA and changed my preference to the digital version, following their emailed instructions for setting up my digital account.. I then downloaded the free iPad app and grabbed the latest issue.

Now I am hooked.

I like the look and feel, as well as the easy navigation of the digital version. I also like how easy it is to share interesting items with friends via Facebook or email.

I only have a couple of nits to pick: I back issues were available and I wish they had a search feature. Perhaps they have the latter and I just can’t find it, but I’ve looked and haven’t found one.

If you’re an iPad user, I recommend giving it a try. You can always switch back to the print version if you don’t like it. Or you have the option to have both for a few extra dollars per year.

What is an EFB?

[Note: This is actually our main EFB page, but since it can look like just a menu header to some, we’ve added the information here, as well!]

Electronic Flight Bags or EFBs are simply a digital replacement for the bag holding all your maps, charts, references and in-flight tools that you’ve been carrying around for years. Instead of a 50 pound bag of paper and equipment, you have a digital device that serves up all the information you need for safe flight.

EFBs have been under development for a number of years, but the technology exploded with the launch of Apple’s wildly successful iPad. For the first time you had a lightweight, user-friendly, touch-screen device that had, and this is critical, sufficient battery life to meet the needs of a working pilot.

A number of apps have been released to leverage the power of the iPad in the cockpit. We have a lot of experience with the ForeFlight product and have recently added the new Garmin Pilot. We have looked at other very capable programs, but have settled on these two as the industry leaders….which seems odd to state a day after the release of Garmin Pilot considering ForeFlight’s substantial user base. But we have to believe with Garmin’s industry clout, and the quality of the initial release, it will be a force to be reckoned with in the iPad EFB market.

Check out our overviews of both products, then take them for a test drive! Both offer a free 30-day evaluation period, more than adequate to get comfortable with their features and functionality. Once you do, your flight planning as well as your flying will be changed forever.

ForeFlight Mobile Overview
Garmin Pilot Overview

Garmin targets ForeFlight on iPad

Today at Sun ‘n Fun Garmin announced their latest aviation app for the  iPad, Garmin Pilot, which is clearly aimed right at the heart of ForeFlight. This product is an evolution of Digital Cyclone’s Pilot My-Cast product that dates back to 2002, and which is now part of Garmin.

I just installed the app and have spent a couple of hours getting acquainted with it. I have to say it is a very compelling product.

First, it has some features ForeFlight does not have, such as the panel view which gives you a pseudo instrument cluster (see below) similar to what you have seen in Garmin portable GPSes for some time. One feature I don’t see from the current ForeFlight is the recently introduced Documents feature, which I am currently using quite heavily in my flying and flight instructing. It’s great to have checklist, POHs and other reference tools at your fingertips.

I will have more to say about this new product after I get to fly with it a bit, so stay tuned for more information.

Note the “Widget” feature, which allows you to choose from a menu of information options to be displayed on this screen. At the bottom of the screen you see a slider that allows you to “slide” along your planned route. As you do, information for the nearest airports along your route of flight appear in the above “widget” boxes. It’s an interesting feature. Check out more on our Garmin Pilot page!

FAA Risk Management Handbook

One FAA publication that is not listed in the ForeFlight catalog that you might find of interest is the Risk Management Handbook, which they describe as “a tool designed to help recognize and manage risk.”

Click on the image below to get the Handbook. To add it to your ForeFlight Documents, open this link on your iPad, then touch the upper corner of the page and select the “Open in…” and select ForeFlight.


Organizing ForeFlight Documents

The new Documents feature within the latest ForeFlight (version 4.4) takes advantage of the Binders concept used within the Plates feature. It allows you to group related documents into separate categories or lists.

By default, it opens to the My Documents Binder:

When you select the Catalog button in the upper left, you have the option of adding documents to that Binder:

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With the Catalog open, you currently have four major categories from which to choose: Imported documents (documents you’ve brought in from some other source…more on this later), FAA documents, ForeFlight documents and NAV CANADA documents (which requires a subscription to the Canadian charts.)

Note in the example above the Green Checkmark means the document has been downloaded and already exists in the current Binder. The Blue Plus means the document exists somewhere within ForeFlight Documents but is not in this Binder, so you can add it to this Binder. It will still remain in any other Binders in which you’ve placed it. Finally, the Blue Down Arrow indicates a document that can be downloaded to the current Binder in your Documents (just like your chart downloads.)

 You can change the Binder you’re viewing by simply touching on the top center window in Documents:

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From the menu select the Binder you wish to view. If you want another Binder for a particular category of documents, tap the Plus (+) sign to add a Binder.

Again, this feature operates the same as the Binders under the Plates tab. It’s a great way to organize subsets of your documents.