The ipad revolution has hit professional aviation. As if there was an area of life they haven’t hit.
Pilots have always carried a lot of charts in order to navigate and shoot instrument approaches when landing. The airline pilots carry a few books in a case and have to lug them everywhere. The corporate and charter pilots have a lot more books (because we go to a lot more airports) but they generally stay in the plane. The biggest hassle with these charts, which we call “Jepps” after the publisher Jeppesen, is updating them. It’s cheaper to replace each page as a new one comes out, but it is a pain to do it, especially if you are having to update the books for the whole US and other countries as well. It can be a lot of books! Each of these binders are two inches thick and contain hundreds of pages.
Of course, there is the government version. The charts are nowhere near as good, but you get to throw the whole mess out every 56 days when they ship the new ones to you. At least it complies with the Paperwork Reduction Act…sort of.
There is a nice little lesson in how corporate solutions are better than government solutions in the examinations of these two different approaches to “approach charts” but I will save that lesson for later.
Enter the ipad. Now all the charts you care to pay for are loaded on the little magic tablet.
But there’s more! Since GPS came along navigation has changed. Gone are the days when pilots formed a mental picture of where they were in time and space….now they just look at the picture! That’s not completely true, but student pilots have got it made with all the new gadgets. That is, until a Flight Instructor turns that gee whiz stuff off and makes them do it the old fashioned way. I have a professional pilot friend who calls these navigate by following the magenta line pilots “pilotrons.” (Tip of the hat to DP!!) The ability to navigate has been compromised by all the technology, but I will save that for a later date as well.
But if you want to understand the problem you can get an idea by looking at all the people driving around staring at their dashboard GPS units, who wouldn’t be able to navigate from the counter to the washroom if they bought a Rand McNally map at the corner gas station… if there was such a thing as a corner gas station.
Get this. Charles Lindbergh used a Rand McNally map to navigate across the US when he began laying out air routes for the fledgling air transportation industry! Beginning pilots still do basically the same thing, only with a much better official version called a sectional chart.
So now, in addition to all the stuff we use ipads for we can even use them to supplement our on board navigation equipment. My setup employs a wifi antenna on a suction cup on the window and a mount for the ipad. Pretty slick. The added benefit is that my aircraft (shown in blue) is now pictured as it clips along on the chart. It’s really helpful when taxiing around. The safety enhancement is huge as there is no doubt as to position.
Now if I could just afford to get in flight internet…