My tablet, a ViewSonic gTablet, on the other hand, has been a disaster. Its software was horrible — I couldn’t even access the Android app store with it. So I decided to void my warranty and installed open-source software. It works much better now, though it’s far from perfect.
Furthermore, there are very few aviation apps available for it.
When it comes to my phone, Apple’s heavy-handed approach over what software goes on its devices is too heavy-handed for me. When it comes to the iPad, that approach is just right.
This debate over open versus closed access is a story that predates the introduction of the iPad by about 30 years. It’s an open versus closed architecture argument, a Mac versus PC argument, a people power versus corporate control argument.
And it’s an argument that won’t be settled here.
Still, when it comes to using the iPad in the cockpit, I’m convinced that Apple’s approach is a better fit.
I asked Tyson Weihs, co-founder and principal developer of ForeFlight, a terrific iPad multifunction navigation app, for his take on it.
“With the iPad,” he wrote in an e-mail to me, “ developers can more easily create a consistent and remarkable experience for all users with much less risk that some variation in device configuration ends up creating a degraded experience.
“With Android,” he continued, “developers have to spend more time making sure their apps work across a wide range of device configurations; the variability means having to create ‘least common denominator’ solutions; the risk of apps not working perfectly across all Android devices is high.
“This is,” he concluded, “the Southwest Airlines versus American Airlines argument — flying one make and model gives you many advantages.”
Another important iPad developer, Hilton Goldstein, CEO of Hilton Software, developers of WingX Pro, a terrific product that’s a direct competitor with ForeFlight, said he had a different take on the issue. Whereas Weihs focused on risk and product compatibility, Goldstein talked about options and flexibility.
“The Android platform,” Goldstein wrote to me, “has tremendous potential in aviation because of its feature and platform flexibility. Pilots will have the option of device size, screen size, cost and feature set instead of being limited to a single form factor [as they are on the iPad].” He went on to point out that the company’s software is available on both platforms. “We are very excited about the capabilities of the new Android phones and tablets for our flagship product.”
I’m excited too. Look for a review of WingX Pro for Android in these pages soon. Still, if I had to suggest a platform for pilots looking for a tablet, at this point, it’s no contest.
Buy an iPad.
Young Eagles Triumphs
Young Eagles, in case you’ve been off looking for clues to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the South Pacific these past 20 years, has been a huge success, with more than 1.5 million young people having been taken on official Young Eagles flights. The original goal was to fly a million young people by the anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight, which it achieved. But the program was just too good to retire, so EAA set a new annual goal of getting 100,000 Young Eagles in the air every year.
Those kids, once their flight information has been entered in the world’s biggest logbook (check out youngeagles.com to see it for yourself), can sign up for free online ground school through sportys.com, they can get free student membership in EAA, and they can join the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
As terrific a program as Young Eagles is, EAA gets as much out of the program as it puts into it, if not more. Not only does Young Eagles mobilize the membership to contribute generously, but the EAA’s rank-and-file members also have a new and exciting activity, giving Young Eagles rides, to make them a real part of the future of flying. It’s a contribution of which they can rightfully be proud.
EAA has come up with some tantalizing figures. It claims that Young Eagles are more than five times as likely to become pilots as their non-Eagle counterparts and that 2 percent of Young Eagles who get their ride at age 17 — which makes them more likely to want to learn to fly — become pilots.
Still, I think the overall good it will do for us in aviation might not start to be seen for another 20 years, when the first big wave of Young Eagles takes to the skies as owners of private airplanes of every description. Even those who don’t are likely to wind up on the side of personal aviation on subjects such as airport access and federal funding. We want all Young Eagles to become pilots, but since that’s not going to happen for every one of them, we can live with the consolation prize of the rest being lifelong friends to aviation.