Wednesday, February 23, 2011

March General Meeting with Guest Speaker Mr. Thor Solberg, Jr.

Guest Speaker: Mr. Thor Solberg, Jr.
Date & Time: Thursday March 3, 2011 @ 7:30pm
Location: NJ Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum at Teterboro

This month's general meeting will feature Mr. Thor Solberg, Jr., the owner of Solberg Airport (N51) in Readington, NJ. Thor is a former commercial airline pilot who recently retraced his father's flight from the U.S. to Norway. In 1935, Thor Sr. made the first successful flight from U.S. to Norway, and you'll see his name in our own Hall of Fame at Teterboro. Thor will be showing some film and photos from his father's flight---more than 75 years ago. Most of us have flown to Solberg Airport many times and it promises to be a great opportunity to meet the person behind this friendly community airport.

The meeting is open to the public. As an added bonus, the NJ Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum will extend free admissions to members and guests starting at 7:00pm. Refreshments will be served at 7:30pm, and the meeting will begin promptly at 8:00pm.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

iPads in the cockpit: ForeFlight update

Recent updates of ForeFlight includes a number of interesting updates:

  • The ability to dim the screen beyond what the iPad's built in screen brightness control allows.  Since the built-in controls left the screen much too bright for night flight, this is a very welcome addition.
  • The ability to include only those waypoints that involves "bends" in the airways as part of a flight plan. ForeFlight allowed you to specify airways by simply inserting the appropriate entry point, airway identifier, and exit point---which would then pick up every way point in between.  But for long flights, this was a bit tedious if the waypoint did not involve a change in heading. The new version allows you to set it so that only those waypoints that involve changes in heading are included in the flight plan.
Then there are the interesting but perhaps less useful (to some) feature additions:

  • ForeFlight now offers geo-referenced approach plates and taxi diagrams, when coupled with a more accurate GPS (e.g. Bad Elf GPS). Up to now, geo-reference approach plates were a bit academic given the weaknesses of the iPad's built in GPS.  Now that there are at least two Apple approved, WAAS enabled GPS solutions for the iPad, geo-referenced approach plates are much more interest.  I personally find the little airplane on the approach plate more distracting (sometimes obscuring useful info) than anything else, but I know a lot of pilots who have been waiting for this feature. The nice thin is that you can choose.  The regular data subscription remains at $75 per year.  The "pro" subscription which adds the geo-referenced plates and taxi-diagrams is $150.

iPad receives FAA certification as an EFB

Executive Jet Management has received authorization from the FAA to use the Jeppesen app for iPad as an alternative to paper charts as a Class I portable EFB.  For now, the authorization is limited to Executive Jet Management.  However, it allows Executive Jet Management to use the app and iPad as the sole reference for electronic charts at all times. This authorization is a result of a months-long in-flight evaluation program, which included non-interference tests.

So what does this mean for Part 91 pilots like us?  Well, it's nice to know that someone has put the iPad platform and at least one app through rigorous tests, and that the FAA has seen fit for pilots to use the combination in the cockpit. Of course, the iPad was being used purely as a chart viewer, not as a navigation device.  So this authorization says nothing about using the iPad as a navigational reference. Additionally, they tested the iPad with aircraft in Executive Jet Management's fleet. So it's still the responsibility of the PIC to make sure that the iPad (or any other electronic device) does not interfere with nav/comm devices in the particular plane he is flying in.

Still, this development is pretty reassuring for those of us who routinely use iPads in flight.

Monday, February 21, 2011

iPads in the Cockpit: Readerplates

The folks at Readerplates have been packaging electronic FAA/NACO plates for various digital platforms for a while now.  Their primary value added has been to reformat the data for better display on digital devices, and making the downloading process painless. (Why the FAA/NACO doesn't follow their example and make bulk downloads of approach plates, AF/Ds, etc. easier is a mystery.) As their name implies, they started when Sony first came out with the "Sony Reader." They later expanded their services to cover the Amazon Kindle, and now they have an iPad app. I used to use them with the Amazon Kindle, and found their service to be a convenient way to make sure that I had a full set of current approach plates with me for each flight. They take an unique approach to the whole business of FAA charts and plates, which sets them a bit apart from the increasingly crowded market of chart viewers.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Offering airplane rides for charity fund raising

All of us occasionally want to put our flying skills to use for charitable causes, and one way to do that is to offer airplane rides for charity/non-profit fund raising. The issue of whether private pilots are allowed to fly for such events, and how such flights are to be conducted, came up recently at PFC. Normally, carrying paying passengers would require (among other things) a commercial certificate.  The FAA makes exceptions under certain circumstances allowing private pilots to carry paying passengers during charity fundraising events. But since this implies a higher level of responsibility on the part of the pilot, there are a number of requirements.