There’s no question, using an iPad in the cockpit in place of paper charts and approach plates is better in almost every conceivable way – especially after the flight, when it’s time for chart updates, which with most popular apps from companies like Jeppesen or ForeFlight can be accomplished with just a couple of button presses and a few minutes of upload time.
But if you’re about to make the switch from paper to digital charts, there are a few points to consider before taking the plunge. First, because of the layout of some VFR and IFR chart apps, the chart legends and sidebars are not always included on the iPad screen. The only way to know for sure is to check whether the legends are there, and if they’re not, determine where this information can be found. Likewise, terminal instrument procedure data such as takeoff minima, alternate minima and legends, can take a while to locate in some apps. The same can be said of the Airport/Facilities Directory, especially if you’re looking for the legend information in the front of the book, which in some apps is omitted altogether.
Equally as important as knowing where to find information within the app is closely studying what’s included on the e-charts themselves. It’s incredibly easy to input a flight plan using the typical aviation chart app, complete with a magenta course line drawn out for you and even precise distance and time data calculated automatically based on your airplane’s performance. While the iPad can eliminate all kinds of mental gymnastics and in the process make your life easier, this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to familiarizing yourself with your planned route.
Just as you used to do when you laid out a paper chart on the kitchen table and drew your course lines with a pencil, pay particular attention to minimum safe altitudes for your route, as well as hazards such as airports along the way with glider or parachute jumping activity and military operations areas.
As long as you don’t allow the technology at your disposal to distract you from performing all the pre-flight tasks you’re still required to accomplish, you’ll find using an iPad can greatly ease your workload while boosting overall safety.