It’s often standing room only at the educational forums offered during SUN ‘n FUN and AirVenture, but there’s one that stood out at both shows: Gary Reeves’ forum on “10 Ways Using Your iPad Can Cause FAA Violations and Accidents.”
“With so many pilots now using Apple iPads for navigation and weather information, FAA violations related to them have increased tenfold,” says Reeves, a Master Flight Instructor with an ATP rating and 5,500 hours total time.
Recently honored as the FAA’s 2014 Instructor of the Year for the Long Beach, California district, Reeves loves to teach. He founded Pilot Safety Institute and he offers free membership in the non-profit organization dedicated to reducing general aviation accidents.
“My goal is to keep little airplanes off the evening news,” he says.
In his new role, Reeves has transitioned from one-on-one flight instruction to webinars and public speaking on aviation-related subjects. His six most popular programs have been recorded and are now available for purchase on DVD.
Although Reeves is a huge fan of ForeFlight, as are many pilots using iPads in the cockpit, his forum was an eye-opener.
Just a week after SUN ’n FUN, the lessons he taught were reinforced when American Airlines, an early adopter of iPads on the flight deck, had to delay dozens of flights due to a Jeppeson software glitch that caused pilots’ iPads to malfunction.
According to news reports, a quick fix was to “uninstall” and reinstall the app. At least one flight had to taxi back to the terminal so the pilots could get Internet access.
So what are the 10 ways you can get into trouble using an iPad?
Many pilots figure they can learn a new program “on the fly” and therefore don’t put enough time and effort into learning all the features of their software. This can lead to critical mistakes, such as wandering into a TFR because ForeFlight’s airspace warning feature was not turned on.
THE DREADED BLACK SCREEN
Another common problem occurs when an iPad turns off due to overheating, often at a critical time. The obvious solution is to keep the device out of direct sunlight, but that can be a challenge in some cockpits.
It would also seem obvious to fully charge all electronic devices prior to a flight, but pilots get in a hurry and forget. Therefore, Reeves recommends having an external power supply available.
HEAD DOWN ISSUES
Although pilots should be looking outside the cockpit while taxiing or flying, multitasking and “head down” issues related to iPad use are common, he noted. For emphasis, Reeves showed a picture of a Cessna imbedded in a hangar wall because the pilot was trying to enter a flight plan while taxiing.
The ability to zoom in and out on an iPad screen is one of its best features — but failing to zoom out far enough ahead to see the next waypoint or perhaps a TFR — can lead to trouble.
ADS-B and XM weather depictions are not “live” and should only be used for long-range planning, but many pilots are relying on this dated weather data for in-flight decisions. With the FAA’s Flight Watch service being terminated soon, getting a good weather briefing on the ground is more important than ever, as is looking outside.
ForeFlight and other navigation programs make terrain awareness much easier than before, but depending completely on the software to stay safe is asking for trouble. Everyone should know by now that red indicates terrain within 100 feet of your altitude, but a yellow terrain depiction does not mean you’re high enough over the ground. Flying over a yellow section of the map means there could be only 101 feet of clearance and mountain waves can easily cause you to lose that much altitude.
GEO, I MESSED UP
After you’re airborne, it’s too late to download and save current geo-referenced data from ForeFlight. That’s why Reeves recommends always having paper charts available.
With numerous good sources of weather information available these days, it’s easy to forget that you are required to get a complete and “legal” FAA weather briefing, meaning that it’s recorded somehow in the FAA’s system, whether on the phone or online.
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT
Programming errors (garbage in — garbage out) can lead to violations, such selecting and flying the wrong Standard Instrument Departure (SID).
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
Because the FAA’s obsolete radar systems are not as accurate as our modern GPS in-cockpit navigators, it may appear to the FAA that you’ve crossed the line when you’re actually just skirting the edge of restricted airspace. Although software such as CloudAhoy can help prove that you did not violate airspace, Reeves recommends staying at least two miles away to avoid the chance of getting busted.