For years, U.S. instrument pilots have had a choice between charts from the FAA’s National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO) and from Jeppesen, the overwhelming choice among commercial pilots. When it comes to electronic charts, though, NACO leads the competition: Its charts are available in electronic form and can be viewed on several third-party devices. Until recently, the only way to get electronic Jeppesen charts was with a Windows-based application called JeppView that runs on notebook and tablet PCs and EFBs. There was no option to get Jeppesen charts on other portable devices—until now.
SolidFX LLC has licensed Jeppesen’s charts for display on an e-book viewer. The resulting FX10 portable aviation information manager is the first e-book viewer to display Jeppesen’s charts. Because those charts are available for worldwide airports, it’s also the first e-book viewer usable on international flights.
The FX10’s 10.2-inch display is high contrast and nearly glare-free. It’s controlled using capacitive sensor buttons and an electronic stylus. SolidFX has configured its FXview software to be controlled with the stylus, so you only use a sensor to turn the unit on. The stylus is fine in smooth air, but can be problematic in turbulence.
FXview’s user interface is simple. All charts are associated with airports. If you know the ICAO identifier, pick the letters from a large on-screen keyboard. There’s also a search function that uses the airport name or city. Once an airport is selected, charts can be chosen from an on-screen menu. Selected charts from within each airport can be added to the virtual clipboard (similar to removing pages from your Airway Manual for a flight).
Area and en route charts aren’t provided on the FX10, though SolidFX told me it’s in discussion with Jeppesen about providing those charts electronically. For now, you’ll have to use paper, which is included in the Jeppesen subscription service for the FX10.
I tested the FX10 on a volunteer flight for Liga International from Modesto, Calif., to El Fuerte, Mexico. The airport-based charts on the FX10 had identical information to those on equivalent paper-based charts. The demo FX10 came preloaded with worldwide charts, but lacked the text that makes up the first half of typical Jeppesen binders, including chart legends, NOTAMs, etc. Subscribers are provided with this material in an electronic form.
The FX10 is about an inch longer than a typical Jeppesen chart binder, but at less than an inch thick and just over a pound, it sat comfortably on my lap and stowed easily in a seat-back pocket. The only downside: You can’t remove a particular approach plate and clip it on your yoke. SolidFX should provide a Velcro leg strap to keep the unit secure.
The FX10 is not a full-function EFB. It offers no flight planning, Internet access, weather or GPS moving-map functions. It can read documents other than charts, and it has some note-taking capability.
I had two glitches with the test unit. The first was a problem with the license for the Jeppesen content, which SolidFX solved by shipping me a new data card. With a regular subscription, I could have simply reloaded the data. The second problem came when I accidentally left the unit on overnight, flattening the battery. A full recharge takes five hours; a hardware reset was required before the unit would work properly.
Aside from that, battery life was outstanding. I ran the unit intermittently for over a week on one charge—including leaving it on for over three hours—and barely dropped battery capacity by half. After recharging, I deliberately left it on for an extended period: It lost about 17% in two hours. I’m confident it could be run continuously for an eight-hour day if fully charged.
The FX10 sells for $1,595, plus an electronic chart subscription for the area of your choice. Several coverage options are available: 48-state coverage costs $700 yearly; worldwide coverage costs $9,860. Single-issue “trip kit” coverage also is available (Mexico is just $20). Some prices represent substantial discounts in comparison with traditional Jeppesen paper-chart subscriptions ($1,167 for a standard U.S. subscription, for example). Users may find that the FX10 soon pays for itself. Visit www.solidfx.com.