Implementing The iPad Into A Pilot's Cockpit

The iPad or iPad 3… I myself am still confused as to what Apple has decided to call its latest tablet in the marketplace. From what I can tell it looks, smells and acts like iPad 1 and iPad 2 but just has a faster processor, better graphics and a sharper display. Sounds like iPad 3 makes the most sense and for my purpose will herein be referred to as such, now Apple was that so hard?  In all seriousness, for anyone in aviation and flight training it is important to stay current with the latest technology trends and how they can impact the industry. 

If you haven’t heard, late last year the F.A.A. approved the use of iPad tablets in the cockpit of the commercial airlines, realizing that it makes much more sense for pilots to use a tablet machine instead of heavy paper charts and manuals. Interestingly enough swapping the 40lbs manuals out for the 1.5lbs iPad can actually save in excess of 500,000 gallons of fuel annually! 

So now that the F.A.A. in there almighty righteousness has allowed the big boys the use of the iPad, how can you as a flight educator utilize the same asset to better your training program…or does the iPad have an adverse effect on students seeking pilot certification? 

Ultimately that is a question for you as a CFI or flight school operator to decide but I can certainly share with you what I know about the topic to help you make that decision. What I do know is that the latest iPad and applications (click here for a list of aviation apps) that can be purchased on it (in most cases for free) enable students and instructors to keep everything in one easy transportable place. The tablet can be used to keep copies of flight books, electronic copies of pilot and aircraft manuals, applications and spreadsheets that enable simple calculations of weight distribution and fuel capacities. More than that the iPad 3 has the ability with its updated processor to house and interact with all of the charts that were previously kept on the aircraft in paper form. Now trainers and students can look at charts on the fly as well as current weather and weather forecast mid flight, all without a lot of processor lag time. On top of that, with the new 4G connectivity pilots can file flight plans and go through the preflight checklist all in the same place making it a much less cumbersome process. 

All that being said, inviting more technology into the cockpit leaves the door wide open for criticism. Most recently critics have been claiming that students are not getting the in-depth training they would have gotten 10 years ago because technology is replacing that training and to some extent a pilots job in the cockpit. I am sure many of you have heard the argument out there that more automation and technology is a bad thing for flight training. My thought is that regardless of the technology it is absolutely necessary that pilots go through certain training procedures that give them the skills needed to fly a plane without the technology in the market.  For example, the ability to use dead reckoning with paper charts like they did before we had all the fancy gizmos and gadgets. Obviously their are many more procedures and skills needed, but the point is that technology should not replace a pilots skill set in the cockpit rather it should be used as a training enhancement tool; a tool that can improve student learning via applications as well as prepare a student for a career as a pilot in the twenty first century.  

Technology isn’t going anywhere and it is high time that the flight training industry embraced it and made it work to their benefit, not only for the sake of the students but for the sake of the industry. Technology has the ability to make flying sexy again!