electronic flight bag
credit card reader, and more.
I can access practical test standards, present a lesson, quickly calculate aircraft weight and balance, access aircraft checklists, and get weather briefings. Sure it's taken some learning and adapting on my part, but the iPad has made me a more effective and efficient instructor (multi-tasking offered by the latest iOS4.2 is a big help, by the way). My students see me using an iPad, see its capabilities, and naturally test the waters by asking if they should be using one, too. My qualified answer is "Sure, if you want to."
Spare the Rod
Some instructors and pilots see this permissive attitude as heretical. It's a common practice for instructors to deprive student pilots of access to certain equipment as a way to focus their attention and promote learning in a scenario-based teaching approach. A student who spends too much time looking at their instruments instead of outside the cockpit might be helped by the instructor covering up those instruments. When first learning cross-country navigation, it's common for students to navigate using a chart, the magnetic compass, and prominent landmarks before learning to use a GPS receiver or other radio navigation systems. Introducing pilotage as the student's primary mode is crucial because, GPS or not, they must ultimately be able to locate unfamiliar airports with their eyes. But this does not mean that all flight instruments are to be avoided or that GPS usage will make a pilot incompetent.
Where things go South is when instructors become obsessed with thinking that if some deprivation is good, more must be better. This can take the form of "When I was a young pilot, no one used a headset, my instructor smoked cigars inside the plane, and I had to navigate using compass, a stopwatch, and with one hand tied behind my back."
Meanwhile, back in the real world, most new training aircraft come equipped with GPS and autopilots, yet some instructors still pride themselves on refusing to let students use this equipment - ever. Pilots need to recognize this for what it is: kooky talk. Even the FAA requires instructors bestowing solo cross-country privileges on a student (14 CFR 61.93(e)(8)) to ensure the student is proficient with:
Procedures for operating the instruments and equipment installed in the aircraft to be flown, including recognition and use of the proper operational procedures and indications.
This gets to the qualified part of my permissive approach: Pilots must show they can competently use any equipment in the plane, understand the limitations of the equipment, have a viable back-up strategy if the equipment fails, and demonstrate they are proficient using the back-up strategy and that their piloting performance is not adversely affected. This applies to everything installed in the plane and, by extension, to any equipment the student decides to bring with them: E6B slide rule, electronic E6B, fancy calculator watch, handheld GPS, or iPad (or any EFB for that matter).
The obvious back-up for an iPad/EFB is a selection of paper charts and a good scenario for EFB users is the simulated failure of their treasured device. It's reassuring to know that one can still locate, unfold, and use a paper chart, or thumb through an Airport/Facilities Directory, or locate a chart in a terminal procedures book. If you don't use a skill, you'll lose that skill.
I teach student pilots to use the autopilot, if one's installed in the airplane and that includes recovering from a runaway trim scenario. Of course they must be proficient at hand flying, but using the autopilot to give them a breather on long flights can actually enhance learning and if it reduces fatigue, it's the safe thing to do. Flying with an autopilot isn't cheating, it's a different kind of flying that need to be understood and practiced. A student of mine was about to go for his check ride recently and he asked if he could use the autopilot while planning his in-flight diversion. My response was "Sure, tell the examiner what you're doing. Of course he may tell you that you may not use the autopilot ..."
Share the Wealth
There's more and more cool stuff out there everyday and a lot of it, used intelligently, can make flying safer, easier, cheaper, and more enjoyable. New stuff needs to be properly learned, understood, and managed. And that means instructors need to stay current and learn the new stuff rather than steadfastly embracing old school. From the beginning, change has defined aviation and the new stuff just keeps coming. Thankfully, there's no turning back.