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Paperless Cockpit… A Slippery Slope for Instructors


By Randy Rowles


During a recent private pilot examination, I asked the applicant to show me his planned cross-country route and associated planning documents. The applicant pulled out an iPad that was mounted to a kneeboard and said, “I’m ready!” As an opened-minded person, I was intrigued by the applicant’s quick study and preparedness for the task at hand. However, I was concerned the applicant hadn’t properly heard my request and restated that I desired to review all           wind correction, etc. “Yes Sir” was the applicant’s reply. “I’m ready to go. It’s all right here,” he said while holding up his iPad. The lack of materials the applicant had brought with him for the examination caught my attention.


                    classroom monitor, allowing for the iPad to be displayed. The            allowing both of us to review the sectional chart with relative ease. The applicant could move around the sectional chart,           symbols, airspace, and many other activities found challenging when using a paper chart.


Randy Rowles has been an FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter          


All was going well with the applicant demonstrating extensive knowledge of both the material being discussed, and the aviation software utilized on the iPad. As we proceeded to the cross-country portion of the discussion, I asked the applicant to walk me through each step of the planning process. Since the applicant is provided a scenario, which includes the destination of the cross-country in advance of the exam, it was prudent to ensure the applicant completed the cross-country planning process on his own. This could be accomplished only by extensive questioning and a simple demonstration by the applicant of the planning process.


My initial question was, “So how do you determine the course between two points?” The applicant showed me our current position, then touched the iPad screen at the location of the destination. He said, “Just push the ‘Direct To’ icon and it will determine your course for you.” He then showed me how the software would automatically correct for wind, calculate ground speed, and a host of other elements of cross-country planning. It was at this point that things took a turn for the worse!


While demonstrating the ability to scale the screen (make the            our position and a portion of the sectional chart remained on the     display. The applicant said, “I didn’t download the chart. I didn’t  in an area that has poor internet and cell coverage. After waiting nearly 15 minutes for the chart to reload while we took a break, I asked the applicant what he planned to do since the iPad wasn’t  was his response. When asked about a paper sectional chart backup…”I’ve never even touched one.”


I’m not against technology. I am however against unsafe practices and fostering mediocrity. Blind faith has no place in aviation. Teach preparedness, options, and problem solving. Someone’s life may depend on it!


82 July/Aug 2017


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