Once again, a late posting – this originally appeared in the May issue of the EAA 14 Newsletter.
As you may recall from Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, this is a series of 5 articles about Android Tablets as Electronic Flight Bags, this series is arranged as follows:
• Part 1 – an introduction to the EFB, the Regulatory environment and Terminology
• Part 2 discussed Software/Applications
• Part 3 discussed Hardware
• Part 4 discussed Accessories
• Part 5 (this article) will discuss Training and Simulation
In last month’s article we reviewed accessories for EFB applications and hardware. In this fifth and final piece, we are going to review training and simulation concepts that can be used to prepare for inflight use of EFB hardware and applications.
As I have mentioned before, none of the devices or accessories discussed here are approved for use as a primary navigation source – but as also touched on in the previous articles, no approval is required for use as a source of supplemental information.
Training and Simulation
As someone who has been fortunate to fly a number of aircraft from ultralights to high-performance turboprop singles I am a big proponent of training to help learn new aircraft types. Differences in weights, rotation speeds, power settings and so on can cause confusion, but good training can introduce these variations and ensure that as pilots we are prepared.
For certain types of aircraft and operations, simulation is used to lower training expenses and allow for the development of more varied training scenarios without putting aircrew or aircraft in danger (e.g., military and airline training). Many years ago I was fortunate to go through the FlightSafety Bonanza Initial training course in Wichita, we were able to practice scenarios like engine failure after takeoff, vacuum failure in IMC, and other situations that cannot be safely practiced. With that said however, in General Aviation and especially Experimental Aviation, we admittedly have fewer opportunities for professional level simulation based training.
All is not lost however, as we do have possibilities. Several of the EFB applications do offer some level of in-app training as well as decent documentation, and all can be used for flight planning, map usage, and other basic functions while on the ground. But, if you are a flight simulation user such as X-Plane or Microsoft Flight Simulator, several of the Apps can be paired to flight simulators as a data source which then allows you to exercise the EFB App and Hardware while also (in the simulation) ‘flying’.
Because there are many EFB Apps as covered in Part 2, as well as many different devices as covered in Part 3, and several different flight simulation programs, I am going to focus in this Part on my personal EFB and simulation setup, but will really only be addressing training scenarios, although the principles are applicable across most combinations of EFB, hardware and flight simulator.
My current EFB Application is the paid version of Garmin Pilot (3.0.1) with SafeTaxi. I am running it on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 android tablet. My simulator setup is Microsoft Flight Simulator X Gold (we’ll call it FSX for short) running on a basic home business class HP desktop computer using a 32” flat screen TV as monitor. I also have a head tracking setup that lets me look around by moving my head.
A major development in flight training over the past few years has been the concept of Scenario Based Training (SBT). The idea is that rather than follow the traditional building block learning approach, SBT uses real-world scenarios to enforce not only skillset development but also decision making.
The scenario based training concepts that I use and will be recommending require the ability to export air data/GPS data from the simulator program to the EFB so that you can use the EFB in conjunction with the simulator, as you would in flight in the real world.
For FSX, there is a 3rd party bit of software called FSUIPC (payware) that will take positional information from the simulator and make it available outside the simulator. In my case, I use a USB Bluetooth transceiver to broadcast the GPS data from FSUIPC using the ‘GPSOUT’ function. This takes information from within the simulator and converts it to the standard syntax for GPS receivers so that the EFB can be ‘fooled’ into thinking it is flying. X-Plane which I have also used has some of this functionality built-in – consult the manuals for your specific simulator and EFB App for how to connect them.
Garmin Pilot allows you to use external GPS sources, so I activate the Bluetooth receiver on the Tablet and pair it to the computer running FSX (this is done on the Settings, GPS page, select External Bluetooth GPS). Once the simulator is loaded and running, the EFB will use the GPS/Air Data from FSX instead of the internal source, and will behave as if you are flying ‘in’ the simulator. That is, the EFB moving map will reflect your location, altitude and airspeed based on the data in the simulator.
As mentioned above, the training scenarios should be in-line with the real-world missions you typically fly to maximize the training value. If you regularly fly to Avalon (KAVX) use that mission, if you fly to Oshkosh (KOSH), use that mission. The aim is to use as many of the EFB capabilities in preflight planning and ‘in flight’ as possible with the simulator, so that you become comfortable/familiar with their use and won’t need to look up how to get your whiz-bang tool to do something while in flight or worse, while dealing with system malfunctions.
I recommend establishing a planned training scenario that begins with flight planning, getting weather and a briefing (I do this in the EFB App but do not exercise an actual briefer), then flying the flight. I typically will set up night or bad weather flights to force me to use the EFB and instruments rather than ‘looking outside’.
Every few flights I will either set a malfunction timer (this lets the simulator create a system malfunction at some time during the flight) or just choose to divert part-way through the flight, to keep my ability to pick new airports, set Direct-To, look up runway or frequency information etc.
When ‘flying’ the simulator, I usually use my kneeboard with the EFB mounted on my leg like when I fly. This is important because it introduces the potential disruption of going ‘heads down’ to look at the EFB and then back to ‘heads up’ to look ‘outside’. It is surprising how things like this can aid in improving the immersive nature of training and this is where the best learning occurs.
Again, the objective is to use the EFB App and Hardware just as you will use it in flight so that it becomes second nature.
This series of articles was intended to introduce Android Tablets as Electronic Flight Bags. Over the past few months we have covered an introduction to the EFB including the Regulatory environment and Terminology, discussed Software/Applications, Hardware, Accessories, and lastly Training and Simulation. This has of course introduced a lot of new terms and concepts, I have tried to answer the questions that typically come up around these apps and devices.
I hope that the information has been helpful and inspires pilots to consider using these amazing tools to increase their situational awareness and hopefully be better aviators. Please feel free to send questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, via my blog (https://acrogimp.wordpress.com/) or if you see me around the hangar.
About the Author
John Knolla is currently Manager, Product Support Engineering Group for an Engineering Services company in San Diego, CA. He has nearly 20 years of Technical and Management experience in Reliability, Maintainability & Safety Engineering, Integrated Logistics Support, Systems and Project Engineering, and Technical Documentation supporting Aerospace and Defense companies such as Hawker-Beechcraft Corporation, Eclipse Aviation, Dassault FalconJet, ITT, BAE Systems, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, Embraer, and The Spaceship Company.
He has served on Air Transport Association (ATA) Working Groups defining Digital Display and Flight Operations approaches for the airline industry, and the FAA/industry panel that developed Advisory Circular AC120-76/120-76A Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags.
He currently holds an Instrument Rating and Commercial Pilot’s License and has flight experience in more than 30 different make/model fixed and rotary wing aircraft. John maintains membership in EAA (since 1987), AOPA, the International Aerobatic Club (IAC), the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and the Redstar Pilot’s Association (RPA).