Archive for April 2010

Rainbow over SFO

April 29, 2010

Snapped this great pic while stuck in rush hour traffic yesterday.

Ahh the wonder of flight!

iPad Aviation Approach Plates (vs. Kindle)

April 4, 2010

Like most gadget freaks and techies, I purchased myself an iPad yesterday.  My initial impressions are honestly early and mixed:  it’s a beautifully designed product in many ways, but in other ways it’s essentially a huge iPhone.  Sounds good, but one of the most magical aspects of the iPhone is that you can carry the internet in your pocket and do so many wild things with apps.  You can do the same wild things with the iPad, but it’s bulkier, and if you have a iPhone, I’m really not sure why you’d take both on a trip.  It’s also not enough to be a notebook replacement.  As for reading, the Kindle does this better for books, and the jury is out for me on newspapers and magazines. This should be where iPad shines.  More on general impressions later after more usage.

I was most excited (like any pilot) to see what this device can do for us all in  the cockpit.  The iPad (like iPhone) can utilize all of the existing iTunes apps, so all of your weather, flight planning, flight update apps will work with the iPad.  This backwards compatibility is really nice, though one minor nit is that if you use an iPhone app on the iPad that has not been optimized for the iPad, resolution (in “2x mode”) is a little rough.  Workable to be sure, but not great (though likely short term until more developers release iPad versions of their apps).  One standout iPad app so far for me is the Weatherbug app. . .it really takes advantage of the larger screen size to do some nice things.

But what about the biggest paper-saver opportunity in the cockpit:  approach plates?  Will the iPad work to let us more easily keep all of our plates current and in a small, convenient form factor?  I’ll highlight approach plates in this post (and compare the iPad to the KindleDX), then highlight some other aviation related later this week, with a longer PIREP after using it aloft for my flight from KS-CA mid-week.

Approach plates can be downloaded and saved as a PDF from many sites, but I prefer FltPlan.com.  Using the iPad for this is really simple:  mail the desired PDFs to your Mac mail account, open the PDF in the iPad Mail app and you’re viewing charts.  Super simple.

Advantages of iPad vs Kindle:
1) Backlit Screen:  the iPad is backlit, which will be great for night flight. The KindleDX requires a source of light other than the device, so for night flight, not so good.

2) Easier File transfer on the iPad.  Transferring PDFs to the iPad is super easy, and much easier than the process required on the KindleDX (you can use Kindle 1 or Kindle 2 for this, but the files must first be converted, as only the KindleDX supports native PDF).  For background, the comparable process on the DX is either to a) hook your KindleDX up to your computer via USB cable and drag the files onto the Kindle or b) email them to your Kindle address, but this comes with a cost of $0.10 per page, recently increased to $0.15 per meg.  While convenient, this option is ludicrous, imho.

3) Color:  the iPad displays the charts in color, the KindleDX in black and white.

Advantages of the Kindle:

1) Less glare on the screen:  The iPad screen is super shiny and reflective, which makes it sexy, but the glare is significant. I’m not sure how this will play in the bright light of a cockpit.  The KindleDX, by comparison, has an incredibly glare-resistant screen, and e-ink is designed to be read in bright light. The KindleDX works great in bright sunlight, so likely better for day flight.

2)  NAV is easier on the Kindle, but this is user pref. For some reason, the Kindle seems to do a better job of Naving in between approaches.  You click the “Next Page” button to get to the next approach.

3)  Battery life:  though the iPad is much better than any iPhone I’ve ever owned, the KindleDX battery life always amazes me. . With radio turned off, it runs great for about a week.  The iPad is rumored to be 5-8 hrs of use.  I’ll test it.

Photos below. Let me know any questions and I’ll work on getting answers.