Thursday, April 5, 2012

Backseat iPilot Tests iEFB

Recently I had a chance to do some back-seat flying…as a passenger enroute to pick up my airplane after its annual inspection. The hour’s flight to Madera, CA gave me a good opportunity to play with my new iPad2 and the iEFB App for the iPad v 4.1. www.flightguide.com

Since I’m a basic “fly direct” person (that’s all I ever do with my older Trimble GPS), I was interested to see how easily I could modify a basic flight plan which had been previously entered in the program’s memory. Although I may enter a flight plan to give me that “line on the chart” (which I see as a basic security blanket, left over from my Private Pilot cross country days) I usually end up asking my nav equipment, whatever it may be (an old King KNS80 RNAV that came with my airplane when I bought it in 1994, to a Trimble TNL2000 VFR only GPS which I still have) to take me from point A to B.

If I get off course, due to winds, traffic or weather, I’d like to proceed from my present position direct to Point B. So this was my goal in testing the new iEFB (v. 4.1) from Flight Guide. After some practice (I’ll admit I printed out the instruction guide and kept it handy as my backseat journey progressed) I found the “go there from here” to be easier as I got used to pressing my finger on the appropriate spot, adding that fix (be it navaid, fix, airport or just a lat/long) and changing my course (that lovely magenta line) to go there, poste haste.

What really delighted me was a feature I’ve always wanted, ever since I became a CFII and tried to demystify the IFR world for VFR pilots. Reading an IFR approach chart is one skill, but being able to visualize where those fixes actually are, where that intersection is with reference to the ground beneath you (assuming a VFR day) was, I thought, the key, to helping an IFR student make sense of the cloudy world of airways, fixes, radials, courses, terminal routes, intersections, etc.

Now the iEFB chart overlay feature, which allows you to display an IFR chart directly on top of a current sectional is truly amazing. The semi-transparency of the chart allows you to clearly see the terrain beneath those fixes and suddenly, that IFR chart takes on a real-world understanding!

This “back seat” flight in a 1972 V34B Bonanza was piloted by an experienced IFR pilot with a new Private Pilot (who was working on her instrument rating) in the right seat. Both of them were as excited as I was to see the display of the two chart regimes, IFR and VFR, combined to give one excellent picture of where we were and where we were going…and it was geo-referenced, to boot!

The experienced IFR PIC was delighted to see a combined presentation that saved him from jumping back and forth from Sectionals to Approach charts, while the eyes of the new pilot lit up with understanding as she “saw” the fixes come to life on a sectional chart. It gave new meaning to the “plan ahead” warnings issued by all instructors who fear their student’s tunnel vision will completely overcome their situational awareness.

Now, with iEFB chart overlays, you can have instant positional awareness and plan/fly accordingly. Shuffling pages/charts becomes a thing of the past as you “see” your IFR approach plate on the seamless sectional and immediately sequence your IFR duties according to what you see as you watch your airplane progress toward your destination. Way cool, IMHO!