Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Aviator tools and Apps in the cockpit

I work with some very tech savvy pilots. Many tweet more than the birds in my back yard;their Blackberry's were replaced by an iPhone or Droid some time ago, not to mention the iPads that come out at lunch time in the pilot lounge. Recently at our April "Wings/Call Back Workshop" Galvin CFII Chris Smith gave an excellent talk about the almost 200+ aviation apps available where he attempted to quantify value and show the pitfalls of this fast evolving and almost surreal market. We had room for 50 but several more pilots crowed in for standing room to listen to the presentation which had the unique title of "Down the Rabbit Hole" (Alice in Wonderland). Now, I've personally held off buying an iPhone or an iPad, because I'm not sure I can really justify their use. Interestingly, that was one of the summations of Chris's talk, I.e. can that app on your iPhone, Droid, or iPad really enhance the safety of your flight? And if so-when?

Right now, the grand majority of the apps do their finest work in the preflight planning stages making those pesky calculations on weight and balance, take off performance and routing really simple and fast to do. Of course, you still have to take a moment to plug in the info and there are those pilots that are just too busy.

While many apps are intended to be used in the cockpit one should consider if you've the room, cabin altitude for the unit(some have 10,000MSL limit), the ability to divert attention from hands on flying, and screen readability or reflectivity in sunlight. Yup, lots of things to think about and it's your call on that one.

If you've already decided that the "i" gizmo is for you then you might consider Hilton Software's Wing X Pro 7. It was designed and built by a team led by Dr. Hilton Goldstein. When I was with Seattle Avionics years ago, Hilton would call to discuss some changes in the Voyager or Smart Chart platform that he was adapting to his then PDA program called Wings X. His calls were so candid you could feel the energy and excitement in his voice about the product he was creating. Recently, Bruce Williams, a fellow CFI here at Galvin, wrote a product review on Hilton's latest version of Wing X for the smart phone/pad market. It's a great read.

When it comes to apps, take a look at the field; just the time spent in the journey is almost an adventure through the looking glass.

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