Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paperless Cockpits

I must admit I am guilty of following multiple online flying forums over the last few years.  Each forum provides a different spin on aviation topics but yet each valuable in my opinion. Lately, I have been following the buzz about "paperless cockpits" and I must say it presents a wide range of variables to choose from.
CFI and CFII post about the need for new students to use the paper, make use of all information available to flight plan.  I agree with this method since I myself went through it. However, the endless access to information electronically is so much easier, much lighter to haul around and it beats unfolding and folding while in flight.  Ok, you folks that learned to fly without all the electronic goodies are saying have the charts folded prior to the flight.  Yep, I agree and that's what I was taught to do too.  Trust me on this one, it's much easier scrolling through the pages with a swipe of the finger. 
I watched a few friends use their iPad to view VFR sectionals, IFR Low Enroute charts, the green book (AFD) and Instrument Approach Plates (IAPs).  My last instrument instructor aslo used the iPad and that really sealed the deal. I was hooked, I had to have one for my flying. I'm not into the movies or books but just simple flight tools to make my flying life safer and easier.
I decided to run a few numbers just to compare costs for each method, paper vs paperless. I needed to find a cut off so I picked everything east of the Mississippi. Here is the breakdown:

PAPER = $846.00

3 AFD's @ $5.00 each, every 56 days, say six orders -   $90
12 IAP's @ $6.00 each, every 56 days, say six orders - $432
10 ENR's @ $3.00 each, every 56 days, say six orders - $180
12 VFR @ $6.00 each, semi annual - $144

PAPERLESS = $149.99 w/iPad $800.00

ForeFlight HD (1 Year)

Moving map, weather, plates, charts, AF/D, and filing. $74.99
ForeFlight Pro (1 Year)
Adds geo-referenced instrument procedures and diagrams  $149.99
* Lets figure in the cost of an iPad with Wifi-3G, 32GB   $650 
**The cost of foreflight includes the ability for radar, satellite, IFR enroute (high or low), VFR sectional, fuel prices, flight rules, winds, temperatures, dew point spreads, ceilings, sky coverage, lightning, and more for the entire US.

The initial cost for the electronic "paperless" is still cheaper and the following years you will only have to subscribe to foreflight at $75 basic and $150 geo-referenced a year vs the paper trail expense of $846. 

I have flown with the iPad long enough and decided that I will go paperless. I still have a few of my favorite expired paper charts and may update the local sectional at least once a year just to have it.  I would have added "as a back up" but my iPhone takes care of that since foreflight lets me download the same full copy to it, at no extra cost.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Paper? Paperless? Look forward to hearing from you!


Geoff Nelson said...

I'm with you. IPad plus FF is the best combo. I'm paperless now and have no concerns. My 530W always has the database current and if I did have a failure with the iPad, I'd have no problem asking ATC for help. They have all the plates at their fingertips and and could easily provide the necessary info. The iPad plus FF just makes it so much easier and more efficient in my opinion.

D.B. said...

I use a combo. On an IFR flight I print out all the procedure charts needed for my origin, my destination, and alternate, and attach those to my knee-pad. And that's almost free.

I use my iPAD with Foreflight as my backup, and also for en-route charts and sectionals (which I don't really need that much with GPS direct routing). That way, should I divert for any reason, I do have the approach procedures for any conceivable case.

But paper is still better for use as the primary navigation tool while bouncing around descending to the FAF. It can never go dark, or accidentally back up a page. And I can print it real big for my aging eyes.......

Bob N73RZ said...

I have an AnywhereMap tablet and it has sections, instrument procedures, and IFR enroute charts- low and high, all georeferenced. It also does terrain shading overlays and XM weather on charts and plates. That service costs $700 for a lifetime subscription to everything (VFR/IFR charts, approach plates, database, terrain. Its worth

Bob N73RZ said...

Oh, and one more thing- I don't have an autopilot and its impossible to open any paper charts in my cockpit and still see the instruments so electronic is the only option I have when flying IMC.

Steve said...

If I had my IR or was doing a ton of VFR XC flying on a regular basis, I'd probably be on the same boat. You can't beat the convenience and as long as you have some form of backup I think you should be fine if something crazy happens to the technology.

That said, it just doesn't make sense for me right now when my chart costs are < $100 a year. But if and when the flying increases in the future, I'll likely head the same route.

Pete Zaitcev said...

I fly VFR, so I do not need plates. Also, I use Flight Guide instead of A/FD.

Gary said...

Thanks everyone for the feedback!

I will print the IAP's for new airports just as an extra safety precaution, heck their free online.

I really like the iPad a with FF, so easy to work in the system. For VFR flight I would still use the iPad just because of the updates and ease of carrying all the charts. Besides, any elctronic gadget I can play with makes for fun stuff.

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to love the ipad as a an efb, but the reflection in that glossy screen was just to much to bare,

Craig Gomulka said...

ForeFlight + iPad1 = happy pilot

I use my iPhone with Foreflight as backup to iPad failure, and for trip will print the needed IAPs. Also have a IFR GPS in the plane, so pretty covered.


Anonymous said...

Gary, I been seriously thinking of getting an IPAD. Which version did you get? and I guess it is 3G, so what service? and why? Charlie

Gary said...

Andy, I had the glare screen cover put on when I purchased my iPad, it works great.

Craig, I use the same set up. With the 530 in the panel I have the iPad and iPhone as the back up. Now if I could talk my Bride into letting me add some IAP's to her iPad.

Charlie, all you need for aviation is the 16GB Wifi 3G. If you want to download movies and books get the 32GB. I highly recommend ForeFlight basic service. The add on georeferenced plates are a nice added dimension for IFR flight. If you want to see the unit work give me a call and we'll get together. work 3025716375

Rob Schaffer said...

I now have the iPad 64G 3G ($529 new, after the ipad2 came out) and Foreflight is loaded on it but not active yet. Once I finally can get back in the air regularly I'll renew the subscription and get to use all these great features.

Thanks for the comparison, looking forward to getting together and possibly flying again soon.