Monday, March 07, 2011

iPad as Electronic Flight Bag (revisited)

Last year, Apple announced something that over the past year has taken mobile computing by storm, the iPad.

Shortly after I posted a blog post "The Apple iPad: Electronic Flight Bag?", which I considered the potential the device has for aviation. Namely, getting rid of the ridiculously overpriced and underpowered specialty "electronic flight bag" (or EFB) computers.

Now when I made that prediction, I had no clue how quickly the aviation industry would step up and embrace this device. Let's face it, sometimes with certain technology, aviation isn't always up to current times (I'm looking at you DUATs & NOTAMs).

So what's the secret to the iPad's success? Long battery life, great fit and finish, it's portable, beautiful screen, lots of power and memory, those are important, but what the iPad has that other EFBs don't is a diverse platform for developers to write excellent aviation apps. Apps such as Foreflight, Jeppesen Mobile TC, Skycharts Pro, and even the simple PDF reader app GoodReader.

Private pilots aren't the only ones noticing that the iPad is a great platform for managing a flight. The FAA has approved an EFB app from Jeppesen to be used for Executive Jet. Wonder what kind of tests the FAA has done on the device to certify it for cockpit use?

FAA authorisation came after an intensive three-month in-flight evaluation, which included a successful rapid decompression test on the iPad to 51,000ft (15,555m) and non-interference testing.

With the iPad2 coming out in a few short days, the future is looking pretty good for pilots who want a low-cost solution to having an EFB and getting rid of the paper charts. The new iPad will be lighter, thinner, and will include a built-in gyroscope. Coupled with the Bad ELF GPS, the iPad and the apps will just keep getting better.

Finally, as an aside, I really want Android to step into this space as well. Hopefully with the Motorola Xoom we'll start seeing some comparable aviation apps for Android as well.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

By the Numbers

Now that has been around for over a year, I felt now would be a great time to do a deep dive on the stats and determine how pilots are using CTL.

Currently we have 159 questions, 257 answers, and over 81 users. Fifteen of those users have collected over 100 reputation points, with two users having over 1000 points.

Over the past year, CTL has had 34,160 page views and 6,800 visits. The ten top visited questions on Circle To Land are:

Figuring out the best glide-speed/glide-ratio
Helpful aviation memory mnemonics
Logging flight time, PIC vs Solo
Trouble with Steep Turns
Difference between Vx & Vy

The top five questions with the most votes are:

Diabetic pilots
Difference between Vx/Vy
How long until YOU solo'd
Night logging question
Definition of Cl/Cd max speed

As you can see, we've come a long way in a year. When I started CTL I wasn't sure how many pilots would be interested in a community Q&A or if I could get the kind of answers/questions that would be engaging to an audience of pilots. It's been amazing the amount of great questions and great answers the site has generated. With practically nothing but word of mouth advertising and general outreach.

To all the pilots who have logged in CircleToLand and posted a question or answer, thank you, you're the ones who make this site a success. I can't wait to see what happens in 2011.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

European Aviation Safety Agency Bill, or "Why I'm grateful I fly in the US"

The European Parlament is expected today to sign a bill today that will cancel priveleges of pilots holding FAA certificates in European Union countries.

Once the bill is signed into law, FAA ticket holders must undergo the conversion process to a JAA/EASA equivalent. A process that could involve several medical exams and additional knowledge exams.

The situation is even grimmer for those who wish to fly IFR. Unlike the US, IFR requirements are stricter under JAA/EASA, which is closer to obtaining an ATP license in the US. The estimated amount of time to obtain an IFR rating in Europe for an average pilot with a family would be a year of groundschool and nearly cost nearly $30,000.

Don't think this won't impact the United States either. While there aren't hard numbers out there, it's been estimated that the FAA issues certificates to several hundred international students every year. After the bill is signed into effect, it would be pointless for international students to come to the US to train. This could have a severe financial impact on an already struggling flight training market.

For more information, check out the IAOPA October newsletter, and listen to this special podcast from AvWeb and Emmanuel Davidson, vice president of AOPA in France.

In my opinion, this bill has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with political protectionism. The EU is trying to address why so few pilots have a JAA/EASA license and spend money training in Europe by brute force. What they'll find is that this measure (like user fees) will only shrink aviation in Europe more until it is only available to the very rich or to airlines.

I just hope some "brilliant" politician or lobby group doesn't get the same idea here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Leave it to Weaver

In between marathons of Airplane!, Top Gun, One-Six Right, and Hot Shots, you might want to check out another high-octane feature (shot and directed by a pilot).

This was a week long video project my girlfriend (Haley Weaver) put together for a video contest. The prize is a free trip to New Orleans for the National REALTORS Conference and Expo.

If you like it, please vote for Haley Weaver - Columbus, OH here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

5 Tips on getting fantastic aviation answers

So you ask a great aviation question on a flying forum (AOPA, EAA, etc) but you haven't gotten any responses? Your question might not be as great as you think. Here are five tips that I put together for the users of on how to ask great aviation questions and get excellent answers from pilots.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

FIFI the B29, flies again

The Commemorative Air Force (CAF)'s B-29, with help from a number of sponsers and volunteers, took to the sky today for the first time since 2004. Its regained its status as the world's only flyable B-29 Superfortress.

The work that the CAF does is so important to aviation, its a link to aviation's past and the aircraft the organization restores and flies inspires future aviators of all ages around the country. Please go to their site and find a way to help volunteer, donate, or just spread the word about the great things this organization does.

Monday, July 12, 2010

CircleToLand : 0 SFREM, my website for pilot questions and answers, has just completed its major face-lift and software overhaul. For the software geeks, I'm now using a Q&A package called OSQA. Its still in a beta stage and there are some rough spots, but there are some advantages to using the new software package:

1. Its open source, meaning I can change and modify the code to meet the specific needs of

2. I can host it on my own servers, meaning that as grows I have control over expanding the server capacity without having to pay an exorbitant monthly fee.

3. Since StackExchange changed their model from an entrepreneur-based service to a community owned forum, switching to OSQA means that maintain a greater control over how I want the site to grow and expand.

4. User will see the benefits of aviation-specific tools and controls in, I'm planning on making it easier to include chart images in questions.

There are a few downsides to OSQA over StackExchange:

1. Its written in Python and Django, so while its open source, I'm not too familiar with the language and framework, so there's a learning curve as I poke around and try to fix issues.

2. Hosting the software myself means I have to make sure the software gets updated and maintained regularly, before StackExchange was covering the software upgrades and installs.

3. Bugs bugs bugs, there's a weird issue with Yahoo Open ID (I'm recommending all of my users to create a password backup if they use OpenID, so they can still login), also the Markdown control has some issues with images, and I'm sure more bugs will keep rolling in.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the new site and how simple it was to migrate the site over. The guys at OSQA have made a great product and their main contributor, HernĂ¢ni Cerqueira, is an excellent source for help and support. I think my users will be happy with the new changes and I can finally put my efforts to growing!