Sunday, October 01, 2006

The iLiad & The Oddessy

After dry flying the iLiad Reader/eFlyBook combo for a couple of days, I decided to continue the testing in the real-world, unforgiving environment of ... instrument flight instruction!

I decided, right off the bat, that I wouldn't make myself or my students dependent on the eFlyBook. In the words of Judge Judy - "I am not a stupid person!" So I had paper approach plates handy, a regular pen and paper, and a current A/FD. I also had my VFR charts, since the eFlyBook doesn't provide these.

The first issue I ran into is that the eFlyBook kneeboard, such as it is, doesn't provide a way to physically store some of my frequently used junk, like instrument covers or a way to stow my VFR charts. I thought about strapping the eFlyBook on one leg and my regular kneeboard on the other, like a gunslinger, so I tried it. The problem was that in small cockpits, there wasn't much space and I found myself saying "This here cockpit ain't big enough fer the two of us." So I stowed my regular kneeboard under the seat, when the aircraft I was flying made this possible (i.e. not a Cessna 150).

As I suspected from my dry flying, the iLiad reader's notepad feature was of limited use since I couldn't hot swap between the note pad and an approach plate. So I tried to be clever. I'd write down the starting tachometer and hobbs times, the date, the tail number, pilot's name, date, and departure ATIS, then switch to the airport diagram for the departure airport. One small problem. As soon as I switched to the airport diagram, I forgot the letter assigned to the current ATIS. D'oh! Wait, I might still be able to make this work ... Think, dammit! Okay, I'll write the ATIS identifier on my hand. Riiiiight. Or how about I start taking ginkgo biloba to improve my short term memory?

Real World 1, iLiad Reader/eFlyBook 0

Holding short of the runway, ready for departure, I had the departure procedure displayed and everything seemed alright. Then I heard the words coming out of my mouth - "Underneath your departure chart, I recommend having an instrument approach chart for a possible emergency return to your departure airport." I looked at the iLiad Reader and it looked so cool, but it had, once again, fallen short.

Real World 2, iLiad Reader/eFlyBook 0

After departure, we broke out on top and the pilot I was flying with donned his foggles. My two brown eyes were the only ones looking for traffic, so I cautiously divided my attention between monitoring the flight and trying to display the next approach chart. Without looking, I reached down and extracted the stylus from the back of the iLiad reader. A bit later I looked down to begin tapping in the next airport ID on the touch screen keyboard. That's when I discovered that I had inadvertently pressed the round download button, located on the upper right hand corner of the unit. The eFlyBook search screen was gone, the Download Status screen was displayed, and it was going to take quite a bit of attention and stylus tapping to get back to where I was. Grrrr!

Real World 3, iLiad Reader/eFlyBook 0

On another occasion, I tried to back up a level to load a different approach chart, but the screen seemed hung. After tapping with the stylus and pushing some buttons, I decided to do a hard reset by powering off and powering back on. On another occasion when the thing hung up, I found pressing the DOCS or NOTES button got things unstuck.

Real World 4, iLiad Reader/eFlyBook 0

With my student flying a GPS Alpha approach in VFR conditions, there was too much VFR traffic in the pattern to safely circle. So I tell my student to execute the missed approach. I glance briefly at the iLiad and realize that scrolling to the bottom of the approach plate has obscured the missed approach procedure. Of course, there's the small, graphic symbols that tell you how to fly the missed approach.

Real World 5, iLiad Reader/eFlyBook 0

On the ground, I quiz one student about LDA approaches, asking "Can an LDA have a glideslope?" He answers "no" and I recall an example from memory - the Roanoke, Virginia LDA RWY 6 approach. And guess what? I can call it up with eFlyBook! Next we discuss circling approaches and I again recall a good example from memory - the Gillespie (San Diego, CA) LOC D approach, including its rare use of a fan marker. I can call up that approach, too.

Real World 5, iLiad Reader/eFlyBook 1

On the ground, the iLiad Reader/eFlyBook is a pretty cool package. The next release of the OS is supposed to provide a button lock feature, which should help with the inadvertent button pushes. This release should also allow the user to write on approach plates with the stylus. When the Airport/Facility Directory is made available, eFlyBook should be even more useful.

I want to believe. Really, I do.


Anonymous said...

Never heard of a "fan marker" until you mentioned it. According to Wikipedia (not the best aviation source, I know), it's usually on the back course. (See ). But KSEE doesn't have a front course on which GRIGG would be the back course...

I think we need an Aviation Mentor expose on "fan markers"!

Jack said...

Interesting evaluation John, thanks for sharing. As nice as electronic charts/plates/etc. might be, I can't see myself going 100% paperless anytime soon. As a software guy with embedded system's experience and an IFR newbie, I like my paper. Still, nice to see how technology is progressing on this front.

John said...

Hmm ... an exposé on fan markers, eh?

The problem with Wikipedia is that anyone can be an expert, even if they aren't! When a marker beacon is used on a localizer back course, it marks the final approach fix. Flying over it, you will see and hear an inner marker-style indication on your marker beacon receiver (white light, audio will be a pair of "dots").

In the case of the KSEE LOC D approach, the fan marker at GRIGG is there to allow you know when to descend a bit lower. When passing over GRIGG, you'll hear and see an outer marker-style indication on your marker beacon receiver (blue light, alternating dashes and dot), but GRIGG is not the final approach fix - it is a stepdown fix.

I've not seen any other approaches that use a marker beacon in this way, but that doesn't mean much. I've also never flown an SDF approach or an LDA with glideslope in real life.

Dave Starr said...

Also, as another anti-Wilipedian, I fully second John's explanation. (the level of aviation knowledge on Wikipedia is truly sad ... most entries must be written by TV reporters, *sigh*)

Back when the earth was young airways were often defined by low frequency A-N ranges. Something was needed to define precise points along the legs of these ranges. Enter the new world of VHF radio (smaller, lighter electronics) and the 75 MHz marker beacon was devised. These would be placed where needed to precisely define fixes along the range legs.

There was a whole science of the day in how they would be identified with single letter Morse, rules for use on different legs, etc. Because the pattern of radiation/reception sort of looked like a fan when viewed from above the industry standard term became fan markers.

When the ILS was developed there appeared the need to precisely locate points along the localize, (which is really a VHF analog of an A-N range leg) and since 75 MHz fan markers ere already in common use it was an easy adaptation to place one as a Outer marker (normally the glide slope interception point) and the Middle marker, and in some applications the Inner marker. They are all "fan markers" or 75 MHz marker beacons, the difference being their purpose in life and the ID that they broadcast.

Anonymous said...

The world really has gone on when fan markers need an explanation.

These reviews of the efly book ought to be in Aviation Consumer and/or IFR magazine. It's just the kind of no-fluff real-world feedback on a product that these magazines specialize in - as I'm sure you know. Some extra bucks for you and a good service for the readers - most all of whom are fascinated with the electronic changes going on in our cockpits.

Thanks again,