Thursday, August 04, 2011

Let Your Little Light Shine

Apologies to my loyal readers for the lack of updates recently. I've been super busy, but I do appreciate the emails and comments I receive each day. I do my best to respond to each and every email, but it might not be immediate and your patience is appreciated.


Everyone knows by now that after weeks of tough talk from Republicans and Democrats, the federal debt ceiling has finally increased. If you consider yourself a fiscal conservative, you may be asking questions that few others seem to be willing to address. How can any nation fight two wars for 10 years, bail out their financial industry, and not run out of money? Without additional income (read tax revenues), how could anyone expect the bills to be paid. Adherents to simplistic pledges to never raise taxes are the latest incarnation of the Flat Earth Society. Those unwilling to pay their share refuse to share the pain that every citizen in our nation has inherited. It seems everyone wants someone else to do the hard work. How's that for personal responsibility and patriotism?

Even though the debt ceiling was raised, the FAA authorization bill has been stalled. The consequences of this stalemate are obvious at my home airport: Construction on the new Oakland Metropolitan International Airport control tower has ceased. Wonder how many construction workers have been laid off by that one ...

For their part, AOPA seems to have developed multiple personalities when it comes to funding the FAA. On one hand, they don't want GA user fees to fund "bureaucracy." On the other hand, they'd like their members to believe that NextGen will be the best thing since  ... the iPad. So government is bad when it costs money to operate, but government is good when in provides cool toys we like. I'm thinking my AOPA membership probably won't be renewed next year ...

Jepp Mobile FlightDeck

Speaking of toys, Jeppesen recently released a replacement for their iPad Jeppesen Mobile TC app. It has some good features, but is maddeningly incomplete, not terribly intuitive, and in some cases, offers up out-of-date data. Still, it's a big step forward for Jeppesen.

Should be simple and intuitive, right? Right?

Downloading and installing the app was simple enough. I opened the Jepp Mobile TC app I had purchased, copied the serial number, and pasted it into Mobile FlightDeck. The app didn't complain, but I saw plenty of weird behavior. For instance, entering in an origin airport and tapping on SEARCH resulted in ... no results. Odd, so I just entered a destination airport and went directly to the route field. Entering a VOR or an airway in the route field, resulted in a message saying that they didn't exist.

But I was there just yesterday!

So I did the reasonable thing and called Jeppesen tech support. While listening to what has to be the longest voicemail announcement/disclaimer/reference-to-the-support-website I've ever heard, I got the idea that I should delete the serial number from the older Jeppesen Mobile TC app and then delete the old app entirely from my iPad. That proved to be a good choice. Suddenly the features in Mobile FlightDeck started to work and it knew all about the VORs and airways that previously were non-existent. Okay ...

Mobile FlightDeck understands Victor Airways, as long as you first enter a VOR or waypoint/intersection on the airway. If you want to enter multiple airways, you have to enter the waypoint/intersection that those airways have in common.

That's better!

Let's say you're tinkering, trying to decide which route you'd like to fly between two airports. If you want to change routes, tapping on the CLEAR button above the route will ... wait for it ... clear out the route and the origin and destination airport. Geez Louise! Is anyone at Jeppesen doing usability testing?

Do a looong tap on the chart and you can access information about things like special use airspace, airports and such. Unfortunately, the information often uses a boilerplate format that needlessly repeats field names that aren't needed and simply create visual noise. Amazingly, the Jepp chart for Northern California still lists the Travis VOR. That puppy was decommissioned at least two years ago. Yikes!

Scully? Mulder?

Mobile FlightDeck provides pure electronic charts that are both flexible and useful, but they don't have the same feel as Aeronav charts. You can choose which types of navigation data you want included, but the charts still seem a bit cluttered at times. Zooming in often makes the situation better.

Complicated ...

Better ...

I plan to use Mobile FlightDeck in the air tomorrow and hope to provide some more observations afterward. For now, Jeppesen's Mobile FlightDeck app is a step in the right direction, but it needs work. Jeppesen still trails the competition and their products are still far too costly for the features offered. Sorry if that sounds blunt.

Big Changes at OAK

Contract negotiations between KasierAir and the Port of Oakland resulted in the FBO contracting in a big way. KaiserAir started as the flight department for the companies created by Henry J. Kaiser. It's been around for more than a half century and a fixture at the Oakland North Field for as long as I can remember.

The old KasierAir executive terminal now sits empty and the self-serve 100LL fuel pump was rendered inoperative. Many aircraft owners who rented tie-down space from KaiserAir were sent scrambling to find new arrangements with only a few days notice. KaiserAir still occupies the smaller executive terminal near Hangar 4, but I doubt I'll be rubbing elbows with the employees I used to see all the time. I have many memories of sitting standby in the old KaiserAir pilot lounge, getting a Caravan refueled on short notice, getting a ride to and from the South Field terminal with Tony. I always appreciated the efforts of the frontline workers at KaiserAir. Things just won't be the same ...

More to Come

I hope to continue my series on VFR flight planning and to provide observations on new products and services for pilots, but it may have to wait for crummier weather to arrive in Northern California. For now, I'm swamped with work and a full-time, freelance CFI has to make hay while the sun is shining.


Wayne Conrad said...

John, You're spot on about the AOPA. I let my membership lapse when I realized that they don't represent me at all. The reviews are for $1M+ airplanes. They refuse to release the salaries of their officers. Then there's the glowing press release announcing that the CEO of Irridium has joined the board, with words implying that he's just like us. Except he's rich, so he doesn't share our concerns about the cost of flying, and he heads a high-tech aerospace communication corporation that could benefit from FAA technology projects like Next Gen. That was the last straw for me. The AOPA doesn't represent my interests any better than does congress.

toddgrx said...

Sorry to extend your hay-making. I'll work on getting rated soon... but no pressure.

Dennis Keller said...

KaiserAir left KOAK while I was at Oshkosh? Good grief. The Port of Oakland is a model of ... something.

John Ewing said...


KaiserAir hasn't left KOAK, they've just downsized. Another FBO is rumored to be taking over the old executive terminal. As for the self-serve fuel island, that's an unknown ...