Our guest blogger Steve Reisser recently gave us an overview of the mind-blowing technological advances that are transforming the way pilots train, plan, and fly. In this follow-up post, he provides a few specific suggestions for getting the most out of your device and making sure it helps you improve -- not forget about! -- your situational awareness in flight.
If you are an iPad user, two apps are in competition for being Number One: ForeFlight and WingX Pro. Right now ForeFlight's the winner when it comes to making the user experience seamless and intuitive and offering the best bang for your buck. WingX Pro is at least twice the expense, but it does come with synthetic vision, which can be a critical consideration if you’re dodging mountains.
Garmin is trying to compete with the GDL 39 ADS-B unit, currently offered for $799 USD. It provides free weather information and ADS-B-equipped traffic updates, and can be paired with Garmin Pilot -- the company's iPad app that features the now-standard moving map, navigational charts, terrain alerts, airport diagrams, FBO information and so on.
Know your “buttonology”! Whether you are using a panel-mounted EFIS/MFD or a handheld device, learn how to use it while on the ground and not in the air. Hook up your plane to an external power source and to practice using your shiny new toy in the hangar before ever going aloft. Just the basics of the Garmin G1000, for example, can take up four to five hours to master -- you don't want to be figuring them out while flying the plane! Make sure you understand how to program routes and manage all the displays and menus. If you’re an IFR pilot, practice multiple scenarios on the ground, including missed approach at primary, clearance changes, unplanned holdings, missed approach at the alternate, etc. Don't stop at the basics, because that's not the real world! Use this technology for scenario-based training to practice responding appropriately to whatever surprises your next flight may throw at you.
Whether you are using mobile-based or panel-mounted technologies, plug in your flight plan and have your approach plates and airport information ready at a button press before your airplane moves. Pilots have made the mistake of programming while taxiing and ending up with a runway incursion incident. If it’s not set up before you move, you can lose situational awareness on the ground and in the air -- and soon you are not flying the airplane, the airplane is flying you!
4. HEY, THE SCREEN JUST WENT BLANK!
Always be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Mobile devices can fail, panel devices can fail, and electrical systems can fail -- so ALWAYS keep that trusty back-up of a paper map and an E6B when doing cross-country work. Few do this, but having experienced device failure on night-time cross-country flights, I know that carrying those ancient tools on board (and remembering how to use them!) can save your life!
To summarize: New aviation technology is wonderful providing a huge range of tools to pilots, helping them improve their situation awareness and making the skies safer for everybody. If you're using advanced aviation technology, know it inside out before you fly, balance and manage your cockpit workload to remain visually aware of what is outside the airplane, and don't let all that technology distract you from your primary mission of flying the airplane,