There is at least one thing that all aviators agree on – folding sectionals (charts) in an aircraft while airborne is a pain! Throw in some turbulence, busy airspace, etc… and it can become REALLY fun.
Now that I have a good Android Tablet computer (Samsung Galaxy Tab 2), I decided to try an EFB (electronic flight bag) approach to my most recent cross country trip (Johnson Creek, ID). I was flying formation with another airplane for the entire trip AND I still have my panel mounted GPS. So, the odds of things falling apart and leaving me in a bind were pretty minimal. For those pilots that haven’t purchased a sectional chart lately, they are up around ten bucks a piece and I needed five (Great Falls, Salt Lake City, Los Vegas, Denver, and Albuquerque) for the trip. When issued, they are good for about six months. There are about thirty-six of them required to cover the continental US.
I poked around at the few electronic flight bag (EFB) apps that are available for Android that include Sectionals and decided to try Naviator from 123west Software. They offer a 30-day free trial which was a BIG motivator. The cost is $50 per year and this includes all sectionals.
Those of you with math skills, see the advantage? Obviously not many people need EVERY sectional nor have current sectionals but, if you did, or you purchased a paper-based subscription. It would cost you some upwards of $700 per year. Yikes! And I’m only talking about VFR charts.
So, my motivation is clear. I am a cheapskate!
Well, how did it work you ask?? Very well, actually. I have read many comments about visibility problems but I did not have the problems that were reported. I had clear sunny skies for the whole trip, I wore polarized sunglasses, and I was able to see the information on the tablet. Could visibility have been better? Yes. I can imagine that playing with the sunglasses and/or one of the screen filters you see mentioned could be beneficial. The quality of the sectional/graphics was very good.
[adsense format”3″] One unanticipated “neato” feature of an electronic flight bag was that my exact position on the sectional was always shown because of the built in GPS. This is just like on your panel GPS but I wasn’t used to it with the sectional information. No more wondering around a sectional trying find my position – flipping it from one side to the other… With that in mind, I should note, I have a very small cockpit. Those with tons of space and/or a helping hand probably have no problem with this nor folding/unfolding sectionals. However; I do. Try doing that same dance in a very small space sometime – it is a pain.
Another real benefit is all the information that available. The ability to “click” an airport and see all the details (runways, length, condition, services, last METAR/TAF, etc…). I guess it’s kinda like having an AFD (Airport Facility Directory) combined.
Flight planning is also a breeze. You can punch in your route and the software takes care of the rest. Want to make a change while en-route? No problem, just do it and the little line you drew on your sectional is magically updated for you. 🙂
What I like about an EFB:
- The wad of cash still in my wallet after NOT purchasing sectional charts.
- My position automatically shown.
- Weather information automatically depicted (requires WiFi to update).
- Ability to see airport details with a touch.
- Having a backup GPS.
- Not having to fold a sectional chart.
- Having a backup track log. I know, not worth much. However; I like a track log so I can record where I was and show other folks via Google Earth.
What I did not like:
- Mount. I did not care for the knee-board type approach. I need to find a fixed mount.
Finally, one last issue. Power. The tablet battery on which I run my EFB lasts much longer than any flight I can make in a day – assuming I remember to charge it the night before. Obviously, the option to use ships power could be a good thing, at some point. So, I purchased a panel mount USB socket so I can provide the necessary 5 Volt power to the tablet while in flight. I expect this will come in handy for my phone, cameras, etc…