While I was wondering how I was going to lay hands on Enroute Charts and Approach Plates covering my intended routing down the Outer Banks, across the Appalachians and then back home, a solution came along courtesy of Tony Oliva. Tony is a retired USAF pilot, with thousands of hours in B-47's, C-130's, C-141's and who knows what else. These days he flies a 1977 C-182Q, a sister to N631S. Tony is also a member of the Cessna Pilot's Association, and he described in a post on CPA's forum his acquisition of a tablet computer and a subscription to an on-line service that furnishes all of the Sectionals, Enroute Charts, and Approach Plates you could ever desire. If Tony, whose wisdom on all matters related to aviation I respect immensely, thinks something is a good idea that's good enough for me. So on the Saturday before our intended departure I set out to replicate what he had done.
You can enter flight plan way-points and the software draws a magenta line on the screen showing the intended route of flight. You can tap additional waypoints on the screen and insert them into the flight plan. If you tap an airport you can then bring up the A/F-D (that's the "Airport/Facilities Directory") information on it...and another tap brings up any Approach Plate you may need. The Iconia's 10.1" screen provides a crisp, legible display. Finally, the internal GPS allows the system to track your progress (via a little airplane icon) as your flight proceeds.
The now-familiar "pinching" gesture on the touch-screen lets you scale the displayed chart to suit the situation and a "sliding" gesture re-centers the chart as needed. And you can switch between the Sectional view and the Enroute Chart view virtually instantaneously.
The display is, let's say, acceptable in bright sunlight...which is pretty good for an LCD. Battery life is excellent I ran it for about 5.5 hours and still had plenty of charge in reserve.
There are a couple of things I need to work on. First, the tablet needs a home. Just sitting on my knee or on the right seat isn't a permanent answer. Second, the Iconia's internal GPS doesn't hold satellite lock very well. I'm looking at the possibility of getting a low-cost Bluetooth GPS receiver that could sit up on the glare-shield and pair with the tablet. But other than those items, I really like the system. I need to fly with this solution for a while to be sure that I understand where any pitfalls may be. But it looks like I'll be able to let my paper chart subscriptions lapse.
And yet... I just like the paper charts so much. A decade ago, Stephan Wilkinson had an article in Air & Space Magazine titled "The Art of the Chart", wherein he gave voice to the affection we pilots (of a certain age?) have for those lovely paper artifacts. As long as paper charts are printed, N631S will have on board at least the local Sectional so that twice a year I can unfold and admire a new one.
The end of my previous post left us on the ground at KJWN in Nashville. Patricia and I enjoyed three days of seeing the sights in and around that fair city but on Friday it was time to head home. With the expected tailwind, there was no need to plan a fuel stop, but a "butt break" would be in order. So I filed a fairly direct route to Charleston, WV's Yeager Airport (KCRW).
We landed at KCRW and bought sandwiches and salads from the deli case at Executive Air Terminal, the FBO actually quite fresh and tasty. Then we took off on our last leg, climbed to 9,000 feet (to get 4,000 feet of terrain clearance over the mountains) and headed for home. After an uneventful flight we landed at KVKX about 3:30 PM.
Over the six days since leaving on Sunday morning we'd put 11.6 hours onto N631S's tach. We'd flown over five states and landed at six airports. And we'd burned about 128 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline at an average cost of $5.33/gallon. And we had fun!