Chart on iPad
6 min read

I was back in the sim for annual recurrent training which, naturally enough, includes flying lots of instrument approaches, typically in pretty low simulated weather conditions.

A standard procedure in crew flying is to “brief” the approach before beginning the procedure. Single pilots are taught to do the same thing, though the “brief” amounts to talking to oneself.

Several years ago, Jeppesen created and trade marked the “briefing strip” across the top of its approach charts. The briefing strip includes all the basic information such as navaid frequency and indent, inbound course, final fix crossing altitude and decision altitude. It’s all very convenient for one pilot to read aloud and agree with the other pilot on how the procedure will be flown.

In the meantime, I selected the approach procedure from the menu on the flight management system (FMS). The system tuned the ILS frequency, identified it and showed me the ident letters in plain English, set the inbound course on the HSI display, and posted the crossing altitudes for the fixes involved in the approach. I could see this this critical information on the HSI, on the moving map, and on the active flight plan.

Chart on iPad

It’s still just a digital version of a paper chart.

So why did we as a crew, and even more critically a single pilot, spend valuable time reading from an approach chart information and functions that the FMS had accomplished automatically, and clearly displayed, with a single entry? Because the approach briefing from a chart is a leftover from the days when we had no other options to obtain the necessary information to fly an approach.

Remember when you had to actually reach for knobs to dial in the ILS frequency? And then reach for another knob to set the inbound course? And if you were very careful you listened to the Morse code beeps to confirm the identification of the localizer signal? And then clipped the approach chart to the control wheel in front of you to refer back to the various crossing altitudes because that was the only place to see them?

That seems like eons ago for most of us—in piston singles or turbine airplanes—flying IFR with fully integrated nav systems, and electronic display of approach charts. But in the training system it’s still 1980 and no automation has happened, or at least been fully accepted, and we still spend time staring at replicas of paper charts displayed on one of the many screens that are now in nearly all cockpits.

My sim instructors told me that some pilots they had trained recently even dug into the nav system to make sure it displayed the same five-digit channel number shown on the chart for a GPS based LPV approach. I wonder if they were trying to impress the instructors with their diligence, or actually did that in real life flying.

But, you say, we need to consult the approach chart to be sure the FMS has not made a mistake in tuning the frequency or setting the course. Really?

Guess what? I just loaded both the nav database that feeds all the approach information to the FMS and the new approach chart updates into the system. And both databases were on the same memstick. The nav database came through the Collins system, maker of our avionics suite. The charts came directly from Jepp. But do you think Collins generates its own nav data? Of course not. Collins, or Garmin or Avidyne are in the hardware business, not nav data business. The nav data and charts are both created from common sources of electronic data. And the entire process is electronic, no matter if displayed only electronically, or directed to a printer to put ink on paper.

But, you say, the chart shows lots of extra information such as nearby obstructions. Yes. But the TAWS (terrain awareness and warning system) found even in panel mounted GPS/IFR navigators shows me obstructions on the moving map. Get too close the obstructions displayed change color to alert me. Get really close and a voice yells at me to take avoidance action. Can the chart do any of that?

The approach chart clearly shows missed approach instructions. Some formats use arrows to show which direction to fly and when to turn. But any FMS worthy of the name does much better. Click the go-around button and you get lateral and vertical guidance to fly the miss, including where and how to enter any hold in the procedure. And that info is on the active flight plan display if you want to review it before starting the approach. Engage the autopilot on the miss and it will fly the procedure automatically, including altitude and heading changes, and entering the hold.

G1000 approach

Most modern GPS navigators display all the essential information, including altitudes.

When electronic displays of approach charts first become available, we all marveled at the convenience. No more filing chart updates, no lugging around big binders of charts, and no need to take out a chart page and clip it to the yoke.

It all became even more magical when we could see our little “own ship” airplane moving across the approach chart. What great situational awareness.

But those advantages only lasted a few years. The terrain avoidance systems came along and show us the location and our proximity to obstructions. Synthetic vision systems (SVS) really sealed the deal by displaying the terrain and actual runway so we could not only see approach guidance, but where we we’re aimed and what we needed to miss.

Several major flight departments I know have changed their SOPs to not show the approach chart on the multi-function display (MFD) during the approach. They found it to be distracting and not adding useful information. Charts are, naturally, displayed north up which, when approaching a runway in any direction but to the north, is in visual conflict with the SVS, moving map, and TAWS displays which are shown course up.

But there’s still one reason we have to look at approach charts—to find our specific minimums. So far, no system I know of in general aviation airplanes, shows minimum altitudes and visibilities for your specific situation. The reason is there are many variables. For example, approach minimums can vary with approach speed category, or available altimeter setting, or failure of some equipment such as approach lights. Minimums are really a matrix, so we need to consult the lower portion of the approach chart to see our actual descent and visibility minimums for that approach.

I’m hoping that soon the avionics companies will automatically show the minimums approach matrix when we select an approach to fly in the same way it automatically dials frequencies and sets the course. That would save the time of having to call up the chart just to check mins.

I know most pilots won’t give up approach charts anytime soon. But having spent a career creating publications on paper I can tell you that no matter how much proofreading one does, mistakes make it into print. So charts hold no sanctity of accuracy for me. At least no more accuracy than to trump the electronic database that was the source for the charts anyway.

Briefing the approach is still an essential element in crew coordination and safety, but instead of looking at a chart, we can brief the procedure right from the graphic and text displayed right in front of us. Jepp’s briefing strip is great, but seeing the plan mapped out for you is even better.

Mac McClellan
54 replies
  1. Gary Moore
    Gary Moore says:

    Interesting insights as always from Mr. McClellan ….. though it seems a gentle reminder might be in order. There are many of us not flying behind a glass panel. Many of us still fly with a six-pack of dials, King radios, and the most basic of GPS. I’m not quite ready to give up on paper just yet :)

  2. Gary Moore
    Gary Moore says:

    Check out the newest Foreflight release (that came out today) – you might have gotten your wish to “automatically show the minimums approach matrix when we select an approach to fly”…..

  3. Roca
    Roca says:

    I am teaching basic instrument students in Piper Cherokees with Garmin 430Ws. While I can load the approaches and get a picture on my display, it does not give me all the info I need, so those approach plates (digital or paper) are still necessary. In my personal plane I don’t even have GPS yet due to cost constraints. While I think FMS and GPS and digital displays will continue to be the standard in commercial flying- the high costs of such systems will still keep a lot of flight schools and private owners locked out. That won’t change anytime soon.

    • Kim Hunter
      Kim Hunter says:

      There are a lot of us flying behind the 430W. The Garmin navigator allows an economical combination of data from charted and electronic sources – a reflection of when it was designed.

      I agree with you the 430 series (like the B-52) is going to be with us for some time to come. And for the same reasons.

  4. Zglass
    Zglass says:

    There are still mistakes made by FMS databases. For the last two years the database in Boeing’s going into PANC (Anchorage) disobeyed the Max altitude on the approach prior FAF. Granted it’s rare to see an approach that has one, but the 7R does. If you did not review the approach plate and make the at or above altitude on the FMS an AT altitude the aircraft would not honor the restriction. Approximately 6 months ago they recoded the FMS database to include a Lat/Long waypoint (that is not on arrival or approach charts) that had the min 1600-max 3000 Altitude restriction. Just in time for the NOTAM that states to disregard the altitude block. The point is, the Approach plate, in consideration of Notams, is still the controlling document. Not the FMS Database.

      Mac MCCLELLAN says:

      Hi Zglass,
      I spent my career producing a product printed on paper–Flying Magazine.
      In 1991 Flying was the first large circulation magazine to convert to electronic production of the materials sent to the printer. We used an experimental program that grew to become Windows. A companion magazine in our company, Elle Decor, used another experimental system from a smaller company, Apple. We know how those experiments eventually turned out as Apply grew to dominate graphics and other types of visual arts.
      What I know is that errors made it into print before Flying converted to electronic production. And after.
      The approach charts we see–either on cockpit displays or printed on paper–are also created electronically. As is the data base stored in the FMS.
      My question is why is a chart more error proof than a data base since both were derived from the same basic electronic store of data of fix definitions, crossing altitudes, obstructions and the rest? My answer is that the chart has no trump in this case.
      As you say, notams correct errors, and we need them. But those errors are on the chart, too. So we have that long list of living proof that errors make it to charts.
      Bottom line is for me the printed–or replica of a printed–chart holds no sacred place in using nav data to fly safely. I lived through the era of hot type printing transforming into fully electronic, and try as we did, mistakes, probably in similar numbers, made it into both finished products.
      Mac Mc

      • Rivegauche610
        Rivegauche610 says:

        You’re such a highly respected aviation professional and writer, but you used a specific word twice that wasn’t necessary. With all the words available, and with your admission that proofreading and editing has been a part of your past, there must be a substitute for one that is now permanently attached to both a national and planetary catastrophic experience, a word that probably deserves to be redacted from dictionaries everywhere, except perhaps in bridge card games, but even there, too.

        • David T-G
          David T-G says:

          Wait, what? Really? Are you actually attempting to turn this useful & practical discussion into a political statement AND too afraid to say The Word?
          My interest in an on-topic discussion, not to mention the proper use of a well-defined and fully integrated piece of language, trumps your politics. Please keep to the discussion at hand.

          Speaking of that, I jokingly ask “What’s an FMS?” to represent all of us in simpler & legacy aircraft. While cockpit modernization and automation are both excellent, there is a whole world out there of aircraft that do quite well with what may seem antiquated basic equipment that satisfies the mission at hand — which, for my students, starts with understanding the “manual” approach to cement the learning before allowing technology to take up some of the workload. YMMV, of course :-)

          • John Cowan
            John Cowan says:

            Yes, Rivegauche’s comment was uncalled for, but your obviously disparaging use of the term “woke” is name calling, an example of the very politicization you decry.

  5. Drew Gillett
    Drew Gillett says:

    2 reasons
    1as stated above gigo as at bml odp which takes u into a mountain for last two years since corrected twice by notam good luck finding that and
    2 so pilot has some idea of details of approach for situational awareness

    3 abonus all available info for flight

  6. Jim Kilpatrick
    Jim Kilpatrick says:

    I always enjoy your insight derived from your extensive past history. Once again you are right on and willing to accept and promote change. Airline flying was always slow to change and we called it “ancestor worship” -we can’t change because we have always done it that way. I miss your writings in Flying and EAA, keep the good observations coming.

    • Mac McClellan
      Mac McClellan says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Jim.
      Ancestor worship is a great description. Learn from our elders, yes. Worship is the problem.
      Mac Mc

  7. Charles Jung
    Charles Jung says:

    I agree with this article. By the way ForeFlight just released new update that allows pilots to select minimums for the approach right on the Moving map display. I’ve aLways felt briefing from the approach chart is obsolete IF YOU ARE FLYING WITH Full EFIS PANEL. Obviously the author of this article is clearly addressing those of us flying aircraft with full EFIS PANEL, and not the ones flying with steam gauge instruments so any criticism of this article reflects that reader failed in reading comprehension.

  8. Paul Evenson
    Paul Evenson says:

    I am an electrical engineer and have had a control systems integration company for more than 30 years. Aviation still astounds me as to how archaic and druid like the FAA and some flight instructors are. The glass cockpit/EFIS were technologies we were deploying in factories and chemical plants 30 years ago.

    Flying home from Ohio in the late 90’s I asked the fight attendant if I could use my little Garmin III GPS hooked up to my laptop. The pilot told the flight attendant it was okay. The pilot sent the co-pilot back to see what I had. After several trips back and forth to the cockpit the co-pilot sent the pilot back With a big smile he said what I had was better than what they had up front. Then asked for the model number of GPS.

    There is still one flight instructor at my home airport that forces pilots on their BFR to shutoff their tablets and use paper charts in flight. Have you tried to buy a paper chart lately?

  9. Chris Wolf
    Chris Wolf says:

    Are you kidding me? Most us can barely afford to put gas in our airplanes, let alone afford a “Collins suite” of electronics. What if your glorious MFD goes blank, and you have nothing but back up mechanical instruments? This article is only relevant for corporate pilots who fly someone else’s airplane.

    • Jerry Morris
      Jerry Morris says:

      I’m old school, 53 years and multi thousand hour, 8 type ratings etc. Been there, done that. But, my little experimental RV8 has more bells and whistles and capability than all but the newest generations of airliners. I still fly corporate and love to mentor young pilots. One thing I’ve tried to instill in them is that once you’ve briefed the approach and set up your cockpit, put the plate away and fly the plane. That was true with round gauges and it’s true with all the glass. It astounds me that a lot of pilots want to slide their finger along on a plate to monitor their progress on an approach. Situational awareness is important and all that plate does after a good brief is get in the way, round gauges, or not.

  10. David
    David says:

    With the flip of a switch the DoD can turn off WAAS. GPS outages are a thing. Maybe you forgot to verify RAIM? Uh oh. Now that LPV approach with 200’ minimums you were planning to fly is reduced to a basic RNAV with 800’ minimums. The only way to get in is to fly the ILS. Bad news for the pink-needle-only crowd that never brief an approach because all the information is spoon fed to them. So why not brief a GPS approach the exact same way as a green-needle approach? Keeps you sharp for when things go sideways.

    • Mac McClellan
      Mac McClellan says:

      Hi David,
      Every FMS that I am aware of treats a “green needle” raw data approach the same as an RNAV. The system sets the course, tunes the ILS receiver, shows altitudes and the rest for the green needles.
      So, no need to alter your procedures for either type of approach. If GPS signals are unavailable the FMS will treat the ILS the same. And if it’s an LPV, the guidance is angular exactly like the ILS.
      Mac Mc

    • Victor
      Victor says:

      Agree with Mac. Plus, when the DoD shuts down WAAS with “the flip of a switch”, it will most likely be for a very good reason and will include grounding of most public aviation.

      • T. Boyle
        T. Boyle says:

        Sadly, the DoD disables not just WAAS but the entire GPS system on a semi-regular basis across huge areas of (ironically) the US.
        If terrorists did it, it would make national news several times a year and there would be a task force trying to track down the perps. Apparently the military does it to train for situations where hostile forces interfere with GPS. This seems to be roughly the equivalent of practicing partial panel procedures – but putting everyone within hundreds of miles on partial panel at the same time, creating such a massive safety of flight issue I’m amazed there isn’t a large body count.
        GA effectively needs a reliable alternative to GPS. If this actually happens – and it needs to – it would leave only the US military relying on GPS, a technology vulnerable to interference that it should have stopped relying on for critical functions decades ago.

        • Travis Peacock
          Travis Peacock says:

          I don’t know about fancy built in systems but my Status has GLONAS support, there are already alternatives these systems SHOULD fall back on

  11. BJ High
    BJ High says:

    Being forced into a transition from a comfort zone to the NextGen, which is now the only system some pilots of today have ever known, has it’s rewards. It grounds a lot of Geezers. A friend went from L-1011 Captain to Wal-Mart greeter. Didn’t even know how to fly VFR. “What goes around comes around”. Be iteresting to see what “NewGen” comes next.
    LF Adcock.

  12. Steve
    Steve says:

    I am a low time PPL, working on the early stages of my IFR training. I am also a 1st time aircraft owner. I readily concede I know nothing about anything… BUT
    As an “outsider” to the “system” I am at times horrified by the glacial pace of adoption that I witness.
    I have the greatest respect for anyone that is still flying six pack and the owners of 40-50 yr old aircraft that fly to this day competently and safely. BUT.. I am not that pilot!
    I own a half million dollar, Jet-A burning, FADEC controlled plane with enough synthetic vision to read road signs (I jest).
    My IFR syllabus is still preoccupied with six pack instruments, engine mixture, prop control problems and other WW2 era NAV technology. Much of which is being “decommissioned” as it dies.

    I would gladly accept a “glass only” limitation on my rating…
    Briefing approach plates is just yet another legacy procedure that starts to look increasingly extraneous.
    The relevancy of much of my IFR syllabus has been relegated to “you just have to do this to pass….” Not the best endorsement for any type of training.

    • Jong Lee
      Jong Lee says:

      Great to hear you’re pressing on.
      Getting a “glass only” limitation would indeed be a great option. Of course that would require a modification to the ACS. Yes, that too would take years. But I feel your pain. Hang in there!

  13. Scott
    Scott says:

    So we stop using the charts, as you suggest, when we have glass panels with integrated nav equipment. You’re hard IMC on an approach, all the information is on the display to refer to, and your panel fails. Good luck with that approach. Hope you memorized that DME arc you’ve never done before off that one brief you did before you started.

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Tough to fly a DME arc without DME, too.

      You’re assuming the primary and backup “glass” systems have failed. If that actually happened – which would require an event more severe than a total loss of ship’s electrical power – it’s not likely the DME would still be working. You’d still have airspeed, altitude, VSI and vacuum gyros, but not DME, VOR, ILS, ship’s comm radios, or transponder.

  14. Karl Sherwood
    Karl Sherwood says:

    My airline has gone the way Mac suggests. We have electronic charts but we don’t brief track / distance stuff as it is in the FMS. Pilot Flying sets it all up and Pilot Monitoring checks the picture from the plan view. A complex RNAV or VOR will still need some talking about though. The point now is more about how you fly the approach and a discussion on threats – what is different today for example.

    But we still use the charts as a back up. A good reason would be a dual FMS failure. Pretty rare luckily but something they like in the sim. Now you can of course ask for vectors but having a chart to follow is helpful.

    Also, charts show the terrain much better than the aircraft, in the Airbus anyway. I never in 14 years found a discrepancy though between the paper chart and the FMS.

    In GA VFR flying I still use paper myself as my aircraft only has a 430 and you can’t taxi off that.

  15. David St. George
    David St. George says:

    I now fly mostly “Jurassic jets” (20-year-old equipment upgraded to glass and SBAS) but also flew the Honeywell APEX. The primary reason we MUST brief is to include the human in this (largely automatic) process. Who is “flying” after all?
    We already know the automation can fly better than the pilot (*if* everything goes right!). Our metacognitive oversight is the critical “situational awareness” that creates the layer of safety above the mechanical operation. Otherwise, the human (still on board?) is just a “mouse in the maze” (along for the ride). To successfully monitor the approach (command authority) it is essential to brief and mentally fly a procedure *before* the jet goes there. I have seen some pretty weird equipment (computer and fat-finger) failures.

  16. Pilotgil
    Pilotgil says:

    The answer is simply. Training relies on the lowest common denominator school of thought. Even though my 1970’s airplane is an up to date electronic marvel, I have to train in it like I’m stuck in 1970.

  17. rodney cahow
    rodney cahow says:

    I have to agree with David St.George. I also agree with Mac concerning automation and the future. But as a pilot who spent the last 50 years “being the guy in charge”, I don’t want to be just a passenger on my plane. Briefing an approach chart is similar to looking at a road map before you hit the “road trip”! You still verify with your new Denali nav map as you go but you also have a semi rough idea where the next turn is!
    (Has anyone ever allowed you right seat passenger tell you turn by turn, how to get to your destination without some pre-brief prior to the drive?)
    I’ll continue to get my act together prior to shooting that approach, if nothing than to insure me and Mr. Automation are on the same trac!
    Btw in 50 year, 24000 hrs and still active in flight training, I’ve seen all the automation evolve into what we have today! And my hope for the next generation of pilots is that the “automation” doesn’t remove the pilot from the “front seat”!!

  18. Luther Veale
    Luther Veale says:

    Mac, just a heads up from an old printer, the proof reader seems to be an endangered species if not as dead as the Dodo bird!
    The “Spell Checker” seems to have replaced the proof reader and now you can’t believe anything you read.

  19. Tom Nasser
    Tom Nasser says:

    Great article and good discussion. I fly a Cirrus SR22T with the G1000 and it shows all the info I need including the IFR Jepp approach charts on the MFD. I alway bring my iPad as a backup just in case there is any failure but rarely use it. I’m still surprised so many Cirrus pilots continue to mount their iPad on the window showing the chart and weather that is still visible on the MFD. Lot’s of redundancy but better safe than sorry. Thanks again for all the great articles.

  20. Bill Palmer
    Bill Palmer says:

    I’m a non-instrument-rated PP-ASEL, and working on my instrument rating. Despite the “ancestor worship” coursing through major airline flight decks, it seems a good idea for single-pilot IFR ops to be ready for a total electrical failure, and to practice navigating by paper in flight. I have a subscription to Low-level IFR and VFR charts – as another commenter said, they’re mostly good as gift wrapping, but they’re also part of my pre-flight. Drawing out my route on a current chart helps deepen my awareness of the flight, helps me visualize what navaids and airports are along my route of flight. In defense of the FAA, they are a huge bureaucracy that, like any government bureaucracy, moves at a glacial pace. They have employees that are the best in their line of work and care tremendously about the quality of their work, but you don’t read about those employees in the headlines, only the ones the whistleblowers talk about. Sadly, I think the sophistication of flight deck automation (Garmin Autoland) will eventually supplant humans. It will be adopted by the airlines to improve their profit, and will be heralded as the next big step in aviation safety – removing the human from the flight deck. Looking at all the autonomous urban-air mobility efforts, and all the startups fielding UAM vehicles, it reminds of me of how aviation was exploding across the globe 100 years ago. But if you look at Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors in an integrated circuit (IC) doubles about every two years, the IT industry has reached the point where it can put a gazillion transistors on the head of a pin, and so develop highly sophisticated flight decks. I hope there will be some room in future for those of us who still want to do the flying ourselves.

  21. Brent
    Brent says:

    I’m with the folks who mentioned the analog gauges and the GNS 430. I’m thrilled with the advances available for even the smallest planes, they come at a price that not everyone can afford. With that in mind, I’m happy to see the regs default to the lowest common denominator on this point. The alternative is to do away with the charts and strand a good percentage of the airplane/pilot population. On the other hand, perhaps that would drive more affordability in electronics (and kudos to date) but affordability obviously varies by circumstance. The priority for my thinking is access and growing the flying population; that’s a unique thing in the U.S, and we’re lucky.

  22. Jim
    Jim says:

    I come from a long line of farmers, who adapt themselves to many different machines throughout the season. My grandfather, who died in 1971 once said (and I translate), “the more complicated a piece of machinery is, the greater the likelihood that something will malfunction”. The danger of enjoying breathtaking levels of automation is becoming far too complacent that the avionics and servos will indeed take care of everything for you on a gnarly approach to minimums only to find, to your dismay, that you are suddenly hand flying you and your family in the soup. I’ll take a good look at my approach plate on every flight in real IFR weather as I have seen my coupled autopilot carefully start down the wrong path on several occasions, leaving me as the only PIC. A healthy dose of skepticism has kept me alive and happy flying in real IFR since 2003.

  23. Bob
    Bob says:

    Altough technology continues to advance ‘the population of equipment less than new is vast’… Approach plates will be needed both for reference, teaching new student competitency and allowing the transition of newer features at a reasonable economic pace.

  24. Matt W
    Matt W says:

    The more salient point for me is both the FAA and Jepp charts have largely failed to keep up with modern human factors design. Charts are woefully antiquated in symbology, legibility, and layout. Perhaps they would have more utility if they were brought up to modern standards.

    • Tony B.
      Tony B. says:

      The FAA plans to address that; just as soon as they decide what to do with the ancient requirement that large or multi-engine turbines and 135 ops carry a least two D-cell battery flashlights.

  25. Tony B.
    Tony B. says:

    Great idea! I got rid of all my chart subscriptions after reading this. Now, I sit in the airplane for an hour before each flight going through pages of info of my GPS to plan my flight. Lesson being: maybe approach plates are obsolete in the cockpit depending on what one fly’s, but on the ground… they are still quite useful.

  26. Larryo
    Larryo says:

    Good points, and we sure are trending toward electronics and away from paper. I, too, was one that gave up paper for my private flying many years ago, but always make a paper copy of the approach plates that I might use, backed up by my Ipad.
    And in the airline business, still had paper after I retired a few years ago, and “all” of the info wasn’t in the FMS. And, ofter it was just easier to find it on a paper chart.
    I could argue, for most of us, there are many reasons to keep the paper plates. First, they are still dirt simple to produce, dirt simple to make notes on them and dirt simple to read… and they are just handy, way easier than digging thru the database or FMS or even the Ipad.
    And there’s many of us that choose not to update the data in the glass on a regular basis and just verify with paper. Yes, this is also done on the Ipad.
    And, there’s still a lot of us that don’t have glass or an FMS in our planes.

    So, it depends. I’d certainly not fault one that does not have printed plates, but not for all of us. I would only hope that we can access the correct info needed to get the job done.

  27. Bigmax
    Bigmax says:

    As a retired schoolteacher I saw the problem with calculators. They are great but if students pressed the wrong button and got an answer that was way off the mark they often had no instinctive feeling of what the answer should be they mindlessly put down whatever answer was on the screen. I hope all the technology doesn’t have the same effect on pilots.

  28. SteveY
    SteveY says:

    As a newly minted IFR rated pilot with his own Frankenstein Mooney panel (steam gauges but with an Avidyne 540/440 nav/com). I can attest that the reality of flying the FMS is far safer unless there is a catastrophic failure. I have Foreflight with a sentry link as backup on all my flights. Lastly if everything goes 9/11 sideways we have ATC to give vectors and the MON. I believe in redundancy, that’s where the safety lies. Technology may make us loose some basic primacy skills but when was the last time you reached for that E6B or hand charted a flight plan? It’s not a test of who is the better pilot. If you want to go all old school, have at it, but don’t be a Luddite and profess that all of us “modern” pilots will end up in smoking holes. That’s just not realistic.

  29. Mac McClellan
    Mac McClellan says:

    Hi Steve,
    To all the pilots worrying that a GPS failure is their greatest threat I suggest look out the window and count the engines. Yes GPS, or your avionics system can fail, maybe at in opportune time. But is GPS and your avionics less reliable than that one engine you need for every minute of every flight?
    So if you want to lay awake and worry about what can go wrong at the wrong time GPS and FMS and glass displays don’t make it to the top of my list.
    Mac Mc

    • SteveY
      SteveY says:

      Mac, Spot on. Aviation is all about risk mitigation AND risk acceptance. We are professional bookies every flight we take. The calculous changes all the time so one of the best things we can do is be open to all the information available to us and technology provides that. Thanks for a great article!

  30. Laura
    Laura says:

    Hi, Mac…

    What would you say to a someone (with absolutely no flight experience or knowledge of aircraft whatsoever) wanting to send a 15 yr old kid up in a single engine plane piloted by a ‘buddy’ ‘just for the fun of it’? For the sake of reference, the ‘buddy’ is little more than an acquaintance – as in, “Hey, I know this guy who has a plane… .” Thank you for your time and opinion.


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