The iPad for Pilot Dummies

I admit it….I drank the Kool-aid. Being a PC user since the 1990’s (my first PC was a 286hz processor with 4mb of ram and a 40mb hard drive), I finally purchased an Apple product.

The iPad 64G, 3G version was pre-ordered back in May. It is much like an iPhone on steroids, only there no phone or camera function. The iPad is more of a tablet computer that has replaced lugging a laptop along on business trips. It offers both wi-fi (preferred) and broadband connectivity, so you are almost never out of touch. (Is that really a good thing?)

My primary use of the iPad is for business applications and as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), utilizing the ForeFlight app. So far, I am impressed. The 3G version includes an imbedded GPS chip, and it works fine in the cockpit, the boat or the car. 

For business I utilize it to access online banking, email, calendar and contact functions. While driving, the GPS helps me locate new customers, and find the closest Starbucks or gas station. All of these apps and data are automatically synced to my PC and laptop through iTunes and MobileMe, which is cloud based. 

There are also City Way apps; specific apps that guide you around places like NYC and San Francisco. City Way apps utilize the embedded GPS and Google Maps to geolocate points of interest like hotels, restaurants, wi-fi hotspots and popular  tours. Looking for sushi? Simply type in “sushi” and it will show all the Sushi Restaurants nearest your location.

Goodreader is a great app for viewing and saving pdf and word documents. On a long commercial flight that offers in-cabin wifi? The Netflix movie streaming app is of HD quality and will make the time in “steerage class “seem to go much quicker.

One of my favorite apps is Numbers; Apple’s version of Excel. Using iTunes, I am able to convert my MS Windoze Excel spreadsheets into Numbers for the iPad. The iPad converts all formulas in Excel, ensuring compatibility, thus enabling me to manipulate data wherever I am at the moment. 

I have a sophisticated Excel file on my PC specifically for calculating Weight and Balance (W&B) for the Bonanza. This file has unique data points for my aircraft, and is used for calculating passenger, aircraft and fuel loading to ensure they are within published limits.

Numbers W&B Spreadsheet for A36


Accessing the Excel file is fine when you are in front of your PC, but what happens when you are on the ramp and your passenger shows up with additional luggage, or isn’t really 150 lbs like they said, or the FBO over-fuels your plane? Using the iPad, I can quickly make the revisions before departure to make sure we are still within W&B limits.

In this screenshot, you can see that the W&B includes both take-off and landing calculations in graphical form to the right. This is a good visual aid to ensure the aircraft stays within CG limits during all phases of flight. As you burn fuel in a Bonanza, the CG moves aft, and this must be taken into account.

Technology in the cockpit has come a long way in the last 10 years, from unsophisticated Loran and portable GPS units, to smartphones and tablets. This technology is changing at an ever increasing rate, and these changes make our flights easier and safer.


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One Response to The iPad for Pilot Dummies

  1. Tom Smith says:

    I’d be ashamed. Apple is for girls and left handed people.

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