Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Flying

A few new photos. Some are from last week's numerous Thanksgiving flights. A kind of busman's holiday for me, but enjoyable nonetheless. Enjoy ...

Approaching Lake Havasu

Approaching Palm Springs

About to cross Tehachapi

Bermuda Dunes ahead

Base leg, Lake Havasu

On top ...

Downwind, Lake Havasu

Mojave Sunset

On top, en route KUKI



Briefing the approach

Approaching MDA

MDA, approaching MAP


Missed approach over KUKI

Airlift of injured hiker, Cowles Mt., Thanksgiving Day

Another Mojave sunset ...

Whole lot of nothin', but pretty nonetheless

Surreal missed approach

When able, proceed direct REBAS

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankfulness

A beautiful sunny day in SoCal and I found myself hiking to the top of Cowles Mountain to enjoy a beautiful view, to pause, consider true happiness, and to be thankful.

I have the week off with my lovely wife and the best inlaws anyone could ask for.

I have the best job in the world, albeit at the bottom of the aviation food chain, self-employed, and with a passel of good pilots to teach, from student to budding CFI.

I enjoy excellent health, the vital signs of a twenty year old, and take no medication (save a daily baby aspirin).

While none of these things can be purchased at a shopping mall or online on Black Friday or any other day, they nevertheless embody true happiness. To all my readers, newfound or longtime: This Thanksgiving I wish you a wonderful day filled not with ephemeral thrills offered by material goods and gains, but with the true contentment of open-hearted friendship and above all, love.



Sunday, November 18, 2012

FlyQ - YAEFB


Borrowing an idea from Hamish's YAFB (Yet Another Flying Blog), it's time to test drive Yet Another Electronic Flight Bag - FlyQ. FlyQ is the result of a partnership between Seattle Avionics and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and while the app does pretty much what many other EFBs do, this marketing partnership has created some controversy (more on that later). FlyQ is available for both iOS and Android, but I'll only be reviewing the iOS version (with so few people clicking on this blog's "donate" button, I can only afford one tablet device). The app provides five main features accessed by the buttons on the bottom of the screen: Airports, Weather, Plans, Maps, and Procedures. Along the top of the screen are buttons allowing you to toggle a split screen view, search for airports, lock the current view, adjust screen brightness, control chart downloads, and control app settings. The arrangement of functions is fairly logical and generally will let you access information quickly and with a minimum of taps.

Airports, but no Fuel

One of FlyQ's claims to fame is that it lets you access the AOPA airport directory. The search feature works very well, allowing you to enter any part of an airport's name and get relevant results. Still, AOPA's airport information doesn't contain one piece of information that virtually all aircraft owners desire - Up-to-date fuel prices. While ferrying an aircraft across the US, I found out the hard way that ForeFlight's fuel information is often lacking. We needed Jet-A without Prist and ForeFlight gave us several bum steers, but at least they were trying. Below is a list of nearby airports. I always get a kick out of seeing the Little Hands airport being shown (halfway down the list). I've flown over Bollinger Canyon many times and have searched Google Earth, too. Near as I can tell, there's no runway at that location.

Nearby Airports
Weather Where you Are

The weather interface is easy to use and helps you get a quick overview of the local conditions and forecasts. The winds aloft interface is confusing, or maybe it's just me? The gallery lets you access NWS graphics for freezing levels, icing potential, and radar for virtually all of the US. A serious oversight is no PIREP interface.



Flight Planing

The flight planning interface lets you enter the departure, destination, and a desired routing, but why no alternate airport? You can enter your own waypoints or let FlyQ do the work for you. Information on multiple pilots and aircraft can be stored. Finally an app that appears to account for fuel- and time-to-climb/descend! FlyQ also attempts to determine which altitude is more cost effective using forecast winds aloft.

Note the "Begin Cruise" and "Begin Descent" waypoints? Cool!

One problem is that if you define an aircraft that uses Jet-A, the app assumes you want all fuel calculations to be in pounds rather than gallons. Oh, contraire! With many Diamond aircraft using Jet-A and more manufacturers sure to follow, there should be an option for using the gallon measure for diesel-engine aircraft. Another problem is that you when you tap on File button to submit flight plan to the FAA, there's no confirmation dialog. If you tapped by mistake, well bummer about that ...


En Route Charts

As you'd expect, FlyQ provides electronic VFR and IFR charts. And it offers something ForeFlight currently doesn't - track-up display. Yes, there are folks who prefer track-up, even if the labels and printing on the chart are upside down. To their credit, Jeppesen is able to provide true track-up support with their data-driven charts while keeping all the writing right-side-up. That's easier to do when you control the chart data.



FlyQ lets you select various overlays on en route charts provided you have a network connection, but I couldn't find a way to animate the weather radar overlay on en route chart. The radar representation is not as smooth or professional-looking as ForeFlight's.



The TFR overlay is pretty good and should keep more than one pilot from coming to grief. The winds aloft overlay is a bit amateurish, with big, garish arrows that look like they belong with circus clowns.



Procedures

Seattle Avionics' claim to fame is geo-referencing on most FAA charts (yes, there are a few FAA charts that were not laid out to scale and cannot be geo-referenced). There is no way to create groupings of frequently used charts nor is there a way to quickly access charts for the current planned trip (departure, destination and alternate). So if you want a different terminal procedure, you'll have to search for the airport and access the procedures from the airport tab.




Subscription Costs

Download FlyQ from the iTunes store and you'll discover that you can test drive the app for free for 30 days. After that, you'll need to pony-up some cash. How much depends on what sort of flying you do. Non-instrument rated pilots will need to shell out $99 a year, which gets you geo-referenced VFR charts. If you want IFR en route charts and terminal procedures, you'll need to cough up $149.99 a year. The VFR subscription is less than what a Jeppesen Mobile FD subscription would cost, but more than a basic ForeFlight subscription. ForeFlight gives you geo-referenced VFR and IFR charts for $25 less per year, but you have to pay extra for geo-referenced approach charts. And ForeFlight doesn't  really offer a full-featured EFB for Android users. Bottom line: The FlyQ subscription may be attractive for Android users where there are few EFB options. For iOS users with access to ForeFlight, not so much.



One could argue that the justification for the additional cost of a FlyQ subscription is the synthetic vision feature, but frankly it seems a bit half-baked. Without AHRS input the PFD-like display seems more like a cockpit distraction, but I'll reserve judgment on this nascent technology.

Without AHRS input, the climb pitch attitude isn't shown.
Another nice feature (reminiscent of WingX) is a split screen view. Not so usable on an iPad mini, but very useful on a full-size iPad.



AOPA's Thirst for Revenue

Others have pointed out and I'll second the observation that it's odd to see a pilot and aircraft owner advocacy group marketing an EFB app. This isn't too surprising given AOPA's odd choices in the past (the short-lived and ill-fated wine of the month club). Since Phil Boyer's departure, AOPA seems to be on a never ending quest for "mo' money, mo' money, mo' money." This PR-driven approach has many pilots re-thinking whether or not they should continue their AOPA membership. Still, this marketing arrangement should not detract from FlyQ as an EFB app. It's a thoughtfully designed product with cross-platform support and the tablet marketplace needs more hardware competition. iPad owners who are happy with their EFB app of choice probably won't be jumping ship anytime soon, but FlyQ may be just what the doctor ordered for those pilots who prefer Android over iOS. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jeppesen: A Tale of Two Apps


With the latest refresh of their iPad app, Jeppesen is slowly catching up. The operative word in that topic sentence is "slowly." Version 2.0 of Mobile FD offers some cool, new features combined with a few things that has made many users wonder "Why the heck did they do that?' It seems that Jepp has a history of offering up a mixed bag for their users, but here's a run-down on the new Mobile FD and it's companion web site, Flite Plan Online.

Reluctance Makes the App Take Longer

Any review of the latest Jepp iPad app would be incomplete without mentioning that while SkyCharts, ForeFlight and X-Wing all hit the ground running when the iPad came out, it seemed that Jepp didn't foresee what was about to , um ... unfold in the world of aviation charting. Jepp seriously missed the boat by not realizing how radically the iPad would change the charting marking for general aviation and commercial operations. When their app was eventually released, it received a sitting ovation: It had some unique features (and still does), but in other ways it seemed to have come out of the oven too soon. No course line drag-n-drop routing and an update process that required an app restart whenever a new database was downloaded were just two issues, but the biggest problem was no geo-referencing on approach charts and uncompetitive pricing. Yet for pilots itching for a viable version of electronic Jepp charts, this app was a start.

Airport Face Lift

Version 2.0 has a newer and improved user interface. The task buttons have been moved from the narrow, top edge to the longer, side of the screen. This provides more room for buttons (features) on the top-most level of the interface. On the left side, from top to bottom, there's the route planning button, airport view button, and a slider that conveniently groups airport information by reference, standard terminal arrivals (STAR), approach procedures (APP), taxiway diagrams (TXI), standard instrument departures (SID), and the weather button (WX). Selecting the airport button will list the airports for your route or let you search for all airport. When you search for an airport you'll find that the Favorites category has been removed, which has raised the ire of many long-time Jepp users.


On the lower right edge are two new buttons that allow you to highlight on a chart and back out any highlighting you may have made. There's only one color highlighter offered and the line is wide and a bit crude, but it can be useful for depicting a taxiway route. In a busy world where runway incursions are all too common, score one for Jepp!


You can also use the highlighter to mark NOTAMed descent minima or other chart peculiarities (lord knows that some charts are very complicated). The best part? Any notations you make will persist, presumably until a new version of the chart is downloaded. A very handy feature, indeed!



En Route, Planning, Weather ... Sorta

Jepp added course line drag-n-drop routing a while back, but there's no support for accessing routes recently assigned by ATC. There's no way to store a route you've created on the iPad app, but there is a way to create routes on the FlitePlanOnline web site (which is currently in beta) and transfer them to the iPad. Strange that the planning interface is asymmetrical, but there you go. I wanted to include some screen shots from beta FlitePlanOnline, but the server appears to be down. One big advantage that Jepp has offered from the beginning was the ability to specify two alternate airports, something ForeFlight still lacks.



Jepp has long needed to integrate flight planning and real-time weather. With the latest release it appears they have succeeded in a very basic way. You can select weather to display on an en route chart and you can access METARs and TAFs for individual airports. To file a flight plan, you'll need to access the FlitePlanOnline site. Not being able to do all your preflight and in-flight tasks on the iPad obviously needs to be fixed.


Company Docs

Operators can distribute company documents electronically, but without an account it's not possible to evaluate the interface in this review. This feature should be very useful for distributing documents like Operations Specifications.

Price/Performance

The biggest detraction for the Jepp iPad app is the cost of the subscriptions, though Jeppesen has recently lowered the price for larger area subscriptions. Still, for the price of a Western US subscription you could buy a ForeFlight subscription with geo-referenced approach charts for the entire US and have money left to buy an bluetooth GPS receiver or a downpayment on a Stratus ADS-B weather/GPS receiver. As of this writing Jepp still only supports geo-referencing on taxiway diagrams and en route charts, but not on instrument approach charts.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Forecast: iPad Mini with occasional IFR

A few photos and some more observations about the suitability of the iPad mini for instrument flying and VFR flying. Enjoy!




Peace and quiet at dusk.

Approaching San Francisco Bay


Flying the pattern at Santa Rosa

Preparing for Launch

Over Suisin Bay

Piper Arrow yoke mount: ForeFlight Checklist Pro on the iPad mini

Not underwater - in the clouds


Merced Localizer Backcourse approach



Direct SUNOL

Ram X-Grip II with yoke mount on the Piper Arrow


Shot through a Rosen Visor! (forced slow shutter speed to eliminate prop artifacts)


ForeFlight on the iPad mini

iPad mini on practice approach at dusk