Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jepp, Aeronav and You

Active instrument instructors are frequently asked by their students, "Should I use Jeppesen charts or Aeronav charts?" The easy answer for career-oriented pilots is to use Jeppesen because that's probably what you'll be using once you land your dream flying job. For non-career pilots, the cost-effective answer is Aeronav (at least for the time being). It's fascinating to see pilots become attached to one brand of chart or the other in a Chevy/Ford, Honda/Toyota sort of way. Instrument instructors should ideally be adept at using both types of charts, but even non-instructor pilots may find themselves confronted with a brand of chart with which they aren't accustomed to seeing. Here's an overview of just how different Jepp and Aeronav are, the advantages each has to offer, and some tips for moving back and forth between the two formats.

Name and Version

All approach charts start to look alike when you're tired or stressed, so before briefing an approach it's a good idea to first verify the name and version. Both Jepp and Aeronav put the approach name in the upper right corner, but Aeronav also puts the same information in the lower right corner. Jepp puts the city/state in the upper left corner while Aeronav uses the upper and lower right corners. Locating the city and state on a chart may seem unimportant, but it's a surefire way to be sure you have the right chart given the tradition of assigning multiple names to an airport (e.g. John Wayne/Santa Ana/Orange County or Charles M. Shultz/Sonoma County/Santa Rosa).

Jeppesen Naming Conventions

Aeronav Naming Conventions

The airport identifier on Jepp charts is in the upper left corner and includes both the FAA and ICAO format. Aeronav charts show the same information (sans the ICAO identifier) in the right corner. Aeronav really needs to standardize on ICAO format for airports: It would certainly remove the common confusion between GPS waypoints representing an airport and those representing a VOR with the same name as the airport.

Flying an approach with an out-of-date chart is ... well, stupid. Jepp puts the revision and an optional effective date on the top of the chart in day-month-year format. This is inherently problematic because by themselves, these dates are meaningless. They tell you when the chart you are reading became effective, but they don't tell you if a more current version is available. The assumption is that you've applied any Jepp updates that have been released and while this works fine for electronic charts, you know what happens when you assume ... Jepp also has a proprietary indexing schema that you can memorize if you wish and they may put an amendment number on the lower left edge and the reason for the revision at the bottom of the plate. This stuff may be interesting, but it doesn't really answer the question "Is this chart the current one?"

Jepp Revision and Effective Dates

Aeronav prints a valid date range for the chart on both the left and right edge of the plan view. If today's date isn't in the range shown on the chart, the chart is out of date. Simple, straightforward, and (dare I say it?) fool proof.

Aeronav Valid Dates

Briefing Information

The BriefingStrip™ was a Jeppesen innovation designed to provide the essential information for the approach in a consistent format. Many pilots begin briefing an approach by reading this strip, though I find this technique can overlook some important information. A few years back, the Aeronav (nee NACO) folks began incorporating a similar feature they named Pilot Briefing Information. Whether you call them strips or information, they mostly contain the same stuff in a slightly different order.

Jepp Briefing Strip™
Aeronav Pilot Briefing Information
Jeppesen's Briefing Strip starts with the radio communication frequencies, then the WAAS channel or navaid frequency and approach course. Aeronav puts the WAAS channel or navaid frequency and the approach course first. Jepp includes the minimum altitude at the final approach fix and the minimum descent altitude or decision altitude. The missed approach descriptions are virtually identical. Aeronav charts display the minimum safe altitudes on the plan view. Jepp puts them in the briefing strip, except for RNAV approaches that have a terminal arrival area where Jepp also shows the MSA sectors on the plan view: There's not a lot of difference between the two products, until you consider the Notes section.


Jepp, being an internationally oriented product, starts the Notes section with the units used for the altimeter setting and the transition altitude (where the flight levels start). In the US this information is superfluous, but outside the US it is indeed important. Jeppesen prefixes each note with a number, which increases readability.

Jepp Notes Format

Aeronav charts add an inverse T to indicate when non-standard takeoff minima are present or to indicate that a charted departure procedure is available for the airport.

The inverse A indicates when an approach has non-standard alternate minima. And to be consistently inconsistent, the N/A suffix can be used with the inverse A to indicate that an airport is not authorized for filing as an alternate. Jepp buries the fact that the airport can't be filed as an alternate on the separate airport info page, which is also where you'll find the airport's obstacle departure procedure. Not too handy, but it kinda makes sense.

Jepp Airport Diagram, Alternate and ODP info
Aeronav may include an inverse W on RNAV approaches to indicate that WAAS NOTAM service is not available for an airport. Translation? WAAS may not be available at all times, you may only get LNAV precision, and there won't be any WAAS service NOTAM to warn you during pre-flight planning.

Consistencies between both brands of charts in the Notes include (but are not limited to):
  • Procedure is not authorized at night
  • Visibility reduction by helicopters not authorized
  • Required equipment or when simultaneous reception of two navaids is required
  • Alternate altimeter settings
  • Approach course out of alignment with runway
  • Visual glide slope and descent angle or electronic glide slope not coincident
  • Conditions under which a visual descent point is not authorized

Pilot-Controlled Lighting:
  • Jepp lists lighting limitations in the notes section
  • Aeronav depicts it with an inverse L in the communications section

Circling Restrictions:
  • Aeronav puts circling restrictions in the Notes
  • Jepp puts them in the minima section, which makes a whole lot more sense

One maddening convention both charts follow is that if a different airport's surface weather is to be used, they don't provide that ATIS, ASOS, or AWOS frequency. In an age of electronic cross-referencing, this is simply criminal.

Aeronav uses the Notes section to tell you how many feet to add to the DA or MDA when using a different altimeter setting, but Jepp courteously does the math for you in the minima section.

Jepp Circling Restrictions and Minima with Alternate Alitimeter Setting

Plan View

Both charts have a North-up plan view depicting information a pilot needs to get established on a segment of the approach. Relevant obstructions are depicted on both types of charts. Note that there seem to be some discrepancies in obstruction heights on the Jepp and Aeronav charts.

Jeppesen Plan View

The highest obstruction are designated with a bold black arrow on Jepp charts and with a bold, black dot on Aeronav charts. One advantage of Jepp charts is that the Morse code for all navaids is shown, but Aeronav just gives you the navaid identifier.

Aeronav Plan View, missing some Morse Code ...

Profile View

Once established on a segment of the approach, the profile view depicts approach fixes (waypoints) and crossing restrictions for each fix. Both charts follow the convention of showing the profile from right-to left for final approach courses between 360 and 179 degrees, otherwise the profile moves from left-to-right. Given that the English language is written from left-to-right and English is the official language of aviation, changing the flow of the profile view to fit the magnetic course has always seemed a bit strange to me. Whatever ...

Neither chart product shows the profile view to scale. Aeronav just shows a diagonal line for each segment. Aeronav depicts glide slope intercept with a lightning bolt arrow and in this example, puts the graphical depiction of the missed approach procedure in a more logical and intuitive location since it is near the graphical depiction of the missed approach point on the profile view. And for those occasions when you need to conduct a circling approach, the inset map is a very handy feature.

Aeronav Profile View and Minima Section

Jeppesen clearly depicts step-downs with a level-off. Crossing restrictions are shown above the profile line, which is much more user friendly. The graphical depiction of the missed approach is located below the profile view, which is less intuitive. And when multiple minima are possible, Jepp does a thorough job of depicting those on the profile view.

Jeppesen Profile View and Minima Section

Approach Minima

Another area where these products differ is in the minima section. Jepp clearly depicts the changes in the minima when approach lighting or other components are out-of-service. With Aeronav, you must reference the Inop Components table in the front of the approach booklet - This is a really bad arrangement and one that most GA pilots hope they seldom have to deal with. Having to locate the Inop Components table when using electronic charts is B-A-D for single-pilot operations.

Jepp provides a wider range of speeds, timing from the FAF to the MAP (if appropriate), and descent rates than the Aeronav counterpart. Jepp will also depict the approach lighting that is installed, if any.

STARs and SIDs

Minor differences exist in charted arrival and departure procedures, but they aren't that big of a deal. Jepp scores some extra points by putting crossing altitude expectations next to the fix on the plan view while Aeronav buries it in the narrative.

Airport Diagrams

Aeronav provides a single airport diagram. Jepp may provide several pages of information in addition to the airport diagram, such as low-visibility taxi routes. On the airport diagram, Jepp may include Lat/Long for various parking gates, which is helpful to airline flight crews. Both products depict Hot Spots - areas where pilots historically have become confused or where runway incursions have occurred.

Extra Cost Justified?

Jeppesen has claimed that the extra cost for their product is a result of the quality control/assurance functions they perform, but the claim seems a bit hollow given how Jepp was tardy in including current RNAV approach charts for several smaller airports in California. Most recently, Jepp published an ASOS frequency for the Rio Vista airport before it was certified. I pointed this out and they removed the ASOS from the two approach charts. Then, when the ASOS was officially put into service, Jepp was one cycle behind in adding the frequency back to the charts. On several occasions I've notified Jepp about errors in their charts, but they never told me I was part of their QA team.

For their part, Aeronav makes their share of mistakes and does some weird things, too. In the case of the Rio Vista approaches, even though the ASOS frequency is published on the chart, the notes tell you to use either the Vacaville or Concord surface weather (and of course they don't give you that frequency). I've also found errors in Aeronav charts and like the Jepp folks, they are generally very receptive to feedback. After a jet blast encounter with a wayward biz jet crew a few months back, I suggested to the Aeronav folks that the depiction of one hot spot on the Oakland airport diagram wasn't in the best location. Lo and behold, they listened and changed it!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Jeppesen is much more expensive than Aeronav. Of course, if/when Aeronav products pricing structure is modified, this could change.

Keeping it All Straight

If you're an active instrument instructor or a pilot who needs to occasionally use both types of charts, you've got your hands full. Your best bet is to practice using both types of charts on a regular basis. And you don't need to be in a real aircraft to practice: You can fly any approach in your arm chair or in a simulator for little or no cost. It's certain that I haven't covered all the differences, advantages and disadvantages of each brand of chart product. If you think I have missed something important or have your own tips and tricks to share, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Week off

Pilot de-briefing room

I'm taking a short rest from flying and blogging, but here are some photos I've been saving up. Wishing all my readers a safe and restful Thanksgiving holiday ...

Start of work day

Cup of good coffee, new aircraft, great view, life is good.
Hot air balloons? Winds must be calm ...
No time for fish-n-chips ...
Steep spirals near Honker Bay

Marine layer pushing in

Rio Vista Afternoon

Rio Vista Sunset

End of the penultimate flight for today
Last flight of the day

Friday, November 18, 2011

iPad EFB Gotchas

Pilots everywhere have been using iPads as Electronic Flight Bags for over a year now in all kinds of aircraft and some ... umm ... interesting incidents are starting to be reported. The iPad, combined with one of several EFB software packages, is a very useful device. But perfect it ain't. Here are a few common iPad gotchas and ways to avoid them.

Out-of-Date/Missing Charts

You haven't flown in a few weeks, so you make plans to get airborne, head out to the airport, but the weather isn't cooperating. You are IFR current so you launch your favorite EFB app to prepare an IFR flight plan only to learn your charts have expired. This happens more often than you might imagine, especially for infrequent flyers. If you have internet access, go ahead and start the update but expect a delay. If you don't have 'net access or if the access is really slow, you could be inconvenienced in a big way.

Solution? Do a dry run a day or two before you plan to go flying: Launch your EFB app and ensure your chart data is up-to-date. You can also keep track of the chart expiration dates in your electronic or paper calendar as a reminder so you aren't blindsided.

GPS Reception

If you purchased a 3G iPad and rely on its built-in GPS, you may find in some circumstances GPS satellite lock can be lost. Depending on the aircraft you fly and satellite coverage at a particular point in time, you may be fine or you may not. Of course you shouldn't be relying on your iPad for anything other than situational awareness, but losing GPS coverage can be seriously distracting at a high-workload moment.

Solution? Trying to keep your iPad from being shadowed by aircraft structures may help, but there are only so many ways you can hold your iPad in flight and still have it be usable. Another solution is to use an external, bluetooth GPS such the GNS 5870 MFI GPS Receiver or the newer Dual XGPS150 Bluetooth GPS Receiver  that comes with it's own rubber mat for laying on the glare shield. If you prefer a plug-in solution, the Bad Elf GPS Receiver  could be just the ticket.

Bluetooth Blues

Another distraction is discovering that your bluetooth GPS receiver is not connected to your iPad. I see this fairly regularly since upgrading to iOS 5.0.1, but futzing around with bluetooth settings isn't something you want to try while hand-flying in IMC.

Solution? I find going into the iPad settings, turning off bluetooth and then turning it back on to be the most reliable way to reestablish the connection. If you are using a bluetooth GPS receiver, make sure it is communicating properly with your iPad before you takeoff.

All EFBs are Equal?

Flying through the LA Basin is a heck of a time to discover that your chart app doesn't have a graphic depiction of the VFR transition that Socal is asking you to fly. If you're using ForeFlight and you don't have a back-up paper VFR terminal area chart (TAC), this could happen to you.

Solution? For one, Skycharts Pro does include the VFR TAC marginalia as well as the fly charts from the back of the TAC. If you haven't purchased that app then you may want to invest in a paper TAC or print out the necessary information from a site like SkyVector.

Hold Your Cards

If you own a 3G iPad and you rely on the built-in GPS, be advised that if the SIM card rattles loose you'll see a "no sim" alert and you'l loose GPS, too.

Solution? Reseating the sim card usually fixes this issue, but you might want to consider an external bluetooth or plug-in GPS as a back-up.

App Crash

Most iPad apps seem to be pretty stable, but having your EFB app crash at an inopportune time can be a real drag, especially during an instrument approach. Witnessing this happen to an instrument student of mine was an eye-opener. He not only had to re-launch the app and wait for it to initialize, he had to navigate back to the approach chart he was using.

Solution? There's no way to completely immunize yourself from app crashes, but there are a few preventative things you can do. Some folks feel it is a good idea to shutdown and restart your iPad every few days. Same goes for syncing your iPad on a regular basis. Next, become familiar with your EFB app's user interface while sitting in your living room in a nice comfy chair. If your EFB app allows you to mark favorite approaches or create binders of approaches for a trip, by all means use these features. Anything that helps you better organize charts will also help you locate those charts more quickly if you have to re-launch and start over.


In hot weather it is possible for an iPad to overheat since the device is cooled solely by conduction. When this happens, the iPad shuts down until it cools off. You can't control the weather, but there are a few things you can do.

Solution? Put your iPad to sleep when you aren't using the display. Keep the iPad out of direct sunlight. During refueling stops, don't leave your iPad in the sun. Avoid folio cases that completely enclose the iPad and cases that are dark in color since they trap and absorb heat. If your iPad does overheat, get it out of the sun, direct a fresh air vent toward it, and wait.

Getting Juiced

The iPad has outstanding battery life, but the battery might not last very long if you forget to charge your iPad the night before you fly. The same problem can happen with external bluetooth GPS receivers, especially the GNS 5870 since its capacitive-touch power switch makes it all too easy to turn on accidentally.

Solution? Invest in a USB charger solely for use in the aircraft. Some adapters take a long time to re-charge the iPad, but at least they'll power the iPad and keep the battery from draining further. Turning the brightness down can also reduce the iPad's energy consumption.

What's Your Problem?

Had an interesting iPad technology moment? Post a comment and let others learn from your experience.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Driver's License = Medical Certificate?

One nice thing about AOPA's new, PR-oriented management is that it's oh so easy to discern their agenda. DVD-of-the-month club, life insurance, medical certification assistance, legal assistance, credit cards, and numerous other "member benefits" are being hawked to each and every AOPA member on a regular basis. AOPA seems thirsty for money. Quoting John Ciardi: "May you stay solvent by whatever means are available to you."

Issues that AOPA reports repeatedly in their newsletters and magazines have obviously been designated as their top priorities. These priorities would seem to include bringing back BARR (Block Aircraft Registration Requests) so no one will know how business jets are being used, just saying "no" to user fees, just saying "yes" to NextGen and ADS-B, and now advocating the elimination of the 3rd class medical certificate.

The proposal at hand seems to be "If you hold a driver's license, that's good enough to be PIC and you don't need a 3rd class medical." One would assume the requirements for 1st and 2nd class medical certificates would not change and would still be required for commercial and airline transport pilots. It seems that with an appropriate pilot's certificate and driver's license as a medical, this proposal would allow someone to fly not just the light-sport/flying-lawn-furniture sorts of aircraft, but presumably aircraft with a maximum gross takeoff weight as high as 12,499 pounds. This sounds ridiculous just typing the words.

The criteria for a third class medical certificate are remarkably liberal, giving rise to the old joke: "If you can see lightning and hear thunder, you can get a medical certificate." Now if you have a medical condition that could unexpectedly render you unconscious or otherwise impair you, that's another story. Pilots with diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, cognitive impairments all come under scrutiny. As well they should, but the FAA medical certification division has still done a pretty good job of allowing for pilots with special circumstances to obtain a medical certificate. For example ...

Another complaint is that getting a medical certificate is a hassle. Think about that: If you're under 40 years of age, your 3rd class medical certificate is good for five years (60 calendar months). If you're over 40, it's still good for 2 years (24 calendar months). A trip to the AME every two or five years is hardship? Give me a break! Now if you have a special medical condition, you will have to jump through hoops, provide test results, and you often have to wait for approval. That's a hassle with which I am all too familiar.

Long time readers of this blog know that in 2008 my 2nd class medical certificate was revoked for a year after I experienced a disqualifying medical episode. The FAA's revocation was explicit and, it seemed to me, a bit rude. After all, I had voluntarily reported my situation, I had done the right thing, I was following the rules. The thing is, many pilots don't like to follow the regs and that likely explains the FAA's serious tone.

Several pilots emailed me or commented on by blog suggesting I was foolish for telling the FAA. Some suggested I should have just kept it to myself rather than blog about the experience. Another told me I should have just monitored my own condition, made my own decisions about my fitness for flight, that I should have been the judge, stuff in that vein. My ability to earn an income was significantly hampered until the FAA granted a special issuance 2nd class medical certificate. Based on this experience, some might think that I'd be strongly in favor of what AOPA is advocating. In point of fact, I'm not.

Medical certification is an important part of aviation safety even if many pilots choose to keep their medical problems to themselves rather than risk being grounded. Some might say the FAA 3rd class medical exam is perfunctory and ineffective, but the applicant must fill out a medical history questionnaire. Falsifying or misrepresenting that medical history is serious business. The safeguards against drivers with medical problems is potentially even more problematic. In California, Health and Safety Code Section 103900 requires the treating physician to report a driver's health problems. If a driver chooses not to be treated or doesn't reveal a problem to their physician, it would seem that no one would be the wiser. And drivers are not required to undergo regular physical exams.

In light of AOPA's support of the NextGen initiative to increase aviation safety and utility, it's odd they would, at the same time, be arguing to implement what could very well become a sort of "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy. AOPA's proposal would have us flying in a world where pilots who have potentially serious medical problems could act as PIC without a medical history or regular check-ups and status reports. The importance of addressing and dealing with medical issues would be further minimized and the status quo of sweeping things under the rug would be maintained. If AOPA's constant clamoring for a driver's license medical certificate isn't about safety, perhaps it's about more potential AOPA members. More members, more money.

This brings me to the late Doug Johnson, Lt. Col. USAF (Ret.), whom I met while teaching at the Alameda Aero Club. Doug founded the flying club and he continued to be its driving force after the Alameda NAS was closed and the club moved to Oakland. Doug was plainspoken and when ladies weren't present, Doug could curse a blue streak. And all of this was put forth in an Arkansas drawl that'd make you think you were standing in front of a ribald version of Foghorn Leghorn. Doug had been a B17 captain during WWII and survived his share of bombing missions. He had plenty of opinions on most any topic you could come up with. In short, Doug was larger that life.

Doug was always hanging around the airport, but I never saw him go flying. I asked him why and he explained that one day, driving to the airport, he'd woken up, shaken but uninjured, with his car in a ditch. After a slew of medical tests with no conclusive results, Doug made his choice. "Boywah" he'd said, "That day forward, I couldn't go flyin' without 'nother pilot on board. What if it happened again, with ma wife onboard? What if an innocent person on the ground got killed 'cause of me?" The doctors said it was okay for Doug to drive, and drive he did, but I suspect if Doug were alive today and he heard about AOPA's proposal, he'd be all over them like white on rice.

If you've lost your medical certificate, if you're unable to fly under sport pilot rules, I understand that being grounded sucks. I hated it the first time it happened to me and I know that at some point (hopefully in the distant future) I may very well be grounded again. All pilots need to remember that each one of us may have to give up being PIC. It may not be popular to say, but a time will come when our love of flying must be overshadowed by the safety of those around us and the loved ones who fly with us.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Diversion, Conversion

Cruising along at 5,500 feet, en route to the Columbia airport, my student had good reason to believe he’d never get there. Sure enough, in preparation for his upcoming private pilot check ride, I asked him divert to another airport. He began circling over a chosen landmark, produced a VFR chart, drew a course line, estimated the heading, distance, time, and fuel required to the new airport, all the while maintaing altitude and looking for traffic. His juggling of these priorities was impressive, but he soon discovered that his chart had been folded so many times that the frequencies for the new destination airport had been rendered illegible. Flustered, he scrambled to locate his Airport/Facility Directory while I kept an eye out for traffic and mused about how many times a day pilots must now be asking their instructors “Is it okay for me to use my iPad?”

I’ve logged nearly 1200 hours since my first flight with the iPad 1 and frankly, I’ve never looked back. When I was still searching for the ideal EFB back in 2009, I explained how the FAA doesn’t require any certification or qualification for EFBs under most Part 91 operations. Just recently, the FAA’s own Safety Briefing publication had yet another article making the same observations. Given that pilots are adopting EFBs faster than you can say “decommissioned NDB,” it’s time for instructors to start making EFBs part of the training they offer as well as part of their own training. I tell student pilots I train “Go ahead and use an iPad if you want, but be prepared with a credible back-up strategy in case your iPad fails or your instructor decides to simulate a failure.”

Before you start gnashing your teeth, complaining about newfangled gadgets, and pining for the good old days of slide rules, cigarettes smoking in the cockpit, and navigating via A-N Range, consider that combining old techniques with new approaches can actually aid in teaching pilots to that elusive correlative level of knowledge. The key concept here is combining approaches, not rejecting one in favor of the other. Here’s an overview of the old school approach, followed by some mash-ups of familiar approaches with new tools and software.

Old School Planning

The first half dozen times through the cross-country flight planning process, I like student pilots to do navigation calculations manually so they’ll understand and appreciate what their EFB or flight planning software will eventually be doing for them. My favorite nav log form is available for free from Dauntless-Software. The two basic variations in nav logs involve whether the True Course (TC) is first corrected for magnetic variation or for the wind correction angle.

ATC uses and refers to magnetic directions, so I say cut to the chase and go magnetic. Winds aloft forecasts are provided with true directions, so you'll need to account for that if you choose the TC-VAR-MC-WCA-MH format.

Virtually all nav logs end up with a Compass Heading (CH), to which I say “Who cares?” If you always set your aircraft's heading indicator using the compass correction card, calculating a CH is simply gilding the lily. If your aircraft doesn't have a heading indicator, then by all means compute the CH until such time as you manage to catch up with the later half of 20th century aviation technology.

I teach students to complete a paper nav log in this general sequence.

  1. Calculate climb performance and ground speed
  2. Determine the location of the Top-of-Climb (TOC)
  3. Calculate cruise performance and ground speed
  4. Determine the location of the Time-of-Descent (TOD).
  5. Divide the course between the TOC and TOD into legs of equal length.
Aircraft consume more fuel and have a slower ground speed during the climb to altitude, so calculating where you'll reach the top-of-climb (TOC) is important. And if you want to avoid arriving high and hot, the time-of-descent is something you’ll want to plan for. Want to use an electronic E6B instead of a slide rule to do these calculations? Fine by me.

With TOC and TOD marked on your chart, try dividing the remaining course into legs of equal length. Sometimes this works, sometimes there aren’t good landmarks. If defining equal leg distances does work, you only need to calculate time, fuel, and distance for one leg to have the numbers for the other legs. Choosing landmarks on a paper chart is the ultimate in flexibility: You can choose whatever you want. With an EFB or internet-based planner, waypoints selection is as simple.

High-Tech Planning

The sad fact is we're well into the second millennium and there aren’t many computerized flight planners that account for the time- or fuel-to-climb. A few internet-based planners that do (to varying degrees) include DUAT (not to be confused with DUATS), AOPA’s Flight Planner, and FlightAware.

Once you’ve entered a profile for your aircraft, the DUAT flight planner will provide the location TOC and TOD in latitude/longitude format. Not terribly handy, but it also provides a magnetic course and distance which does turn out to be useful. More on that later.

The browser-based flight planners from AOPA and FlightAware both account for fuel consumed in the climb and descent, but they don’t tell you where TOC and TOD are located. Bummer about that.

FlightAware’s planner adds some value by including the estimated fuel costs for various altitudes, winds aloft forecast, and routes. In this example you can see that you’d only save a few bucks by climbing to 11,000 feet versus 9,000 feet. To access FlightAware’s flight planning features, you’ll need to set up an account. Don’t worry, it’s a free and simple process. Be advised that FlightAware’s planner doesn’t work completely on the iPad browsers I’ve tried.

So what about specifying waypoints that aren’t pre-defined objects like airports, VORs or airway intersections? Most planners allow you to enter your own waypoints as Lat/Long coordinates or as a VOR-radial-distance. That’s not terribly user-friendly, but it works.
You can add custom checkpoints in ForeFlight’s map view by tapping on the map view. A dialog will appear allowing you to add the location as a user-defined coordinate. If you tap on your course line, it’s easy to inadvertently change the course slightly and you won’t know the leg distance until you’ve tapped, but there you go.

If you know the lat/long for a waypoint, you can enter that into a ForeFlight route. Below, the lat/long that DUAT calculated for TOC has been entered as a TOC waypoint.

If you know the distance and radial from a VOR, you can enter a waypoint in ForeFlight using theta/rho format: VOR_id/radial/distance. This approach also works with airport identifiers. Below, I’ve taken the TOC and TOD data from the DUAT flight planner output and entered them as waypoints in the format KOAK/133/16 and KSBA/315/29.

Nav Log in Action

Using a paper nav log in flight starts with recording your departure time. For short trips, just record the two-digit minutes after the hour. Then to calculate estimated time of arrival (ETA) for the next checkpoint, add the time your off time to the estimated time en route (ETE) for the first checkpoint. When you reach the checkpoint, record the actual time of arrival (ATA), add that to the next ETE and you have the ETA for the next checkpoint. If your ETA calculations consistently differ from the ATA, consider doing an winds aloft and TAS calculation.

ForeFlight kinda-sorta follows the paper nav log tradition, but the assumption is that ForeFlight will use GPS information to calculate your estimated time en route for each leg in real-time based on your current ground speed. I find ForeFlight’s nav log display a bit cumbersome and difficult to read in flight, but that could be due to my 50-something eyesight. If you want a historical record, why not combine a paper nav log with your EFB?

Electronic Diversion

Planning an in-flight diversion with an app like ForeFlight is the height of simplicity.

  1. Tap and hold on the airport to which you wish to divert
  2. A dialog will appear showing the known waypoints in the area
  3. Tap on the orange D-> button for the selection you 

EFBs can provide real-time calculation of the desired track, ETE, and fuel consumed, but you can do the same sort of thing with many panel mounted GPS. Electronic diversions are so easy and with no plotter, pencil and calculator to juggle, it's no wonder some pilots feel they are cheating. Hand-calculated diversions can be just as dangerous as fixating on pretty colors on a moving map. Having a quick way to calculate a diversion in real life gives you more time to look outside for traffic and manage whatever emergency or urgent situation you're facing. That seems like a good thing, not the work of the devil.

Combine and Conquer

Whether it be in paper format, electronic format, or a combination of the two, preparing and using a nav log in flight can be a curiously satisfying experience. Teaching student pilots the old ways is still a valuable part of the aviation education equation, but introducing and integrating new tools doesn't need to detract from the experience. High tech solutions can enhance accuracy and safety. As with anything in aviation, understanding the limitations of technology is a more productive approach that rejecting new techniques out-of-hand. To my mind, if a pilot can learn the basics and then combine old school and way cool, that strikes at the heart of the vaunted correlative level of knowledge.