The grotesquely named Apple iPad – which apparently broke the internets – has great potential as an electronic flight bag, and may well end up a category killer for legacy equipment.
There are pdf applications for Amazon.com’s Kindle that allow assiduous aviators to download airport diagrams, departure procedures, arrivals and approach plates, but from everything I’ve heard the navigation is klunky, and the Kindle has a tendency to go dim on you, just when you’re over the middle marker.
Apple’s iPhone already has a couple of cool features just waiting to be ported over. On my phone I have Aero Weather, Flight Plan (with DUATS), AOPA’s Airports and Foreflight, as well as the well-intentioned but ultimately unusable WingX, which – theoretically – combines all of the other features with GPS terrain avoidance.
Which would almost be enough to get me flying at night again, if it weren’t for the fact that GPS service is sketchy and the mountains so very unyielding.
All of them are pretty good for different applications on the ground, but not quite the thing for dependable use in flight: The iPhone’s screen is too small for the presbyopic among us, it’s rather slippery when you’ve got one hand on the yoke (or stick) and the other on the throttle and the battery saver puts you in a do-loop when you least expect it.
Garmin’s top-of-the-line handheld/bolt-on is the GPSMAP 696 model, with weather, moving maps, approach procedures and terrain avoidance – but it retails for nearly $3000, while the iPad starts at $500.
Which is, oh – wait: A whole lot less.
There’s no technical reason why the iPad – I really hate that name – can’t do all the tasks of an EFB while providing GPS tracking, live weather updates and terrain avoidance. Once you’ve landed on your cross country, you can email home, browse the web, read a book or work on your presentation. Which, just try that with your MX20.