Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Daylight-compatible EFB for VFR and IFR
The newest EFB from FlightPrep offers charts and airport diagrams, and a moving map with optional weather and traffic-avoidance functions. The 2.6-pound, 10.1-inch touch screen unit is preloaded with ChartCase Professional software.
The ChartBook-S hardware is based on a tablet PC running Microsoft Windows 7. It has an Intel Atom 1.66 GHz processor, 2 GB random access memory and either a 64 or 128 GB solid-state hard disk (which works at any altitude and makes the unit shock-resistant). It’s powered by a four-cell Li-Ion battery, which can operate the unit for more than four hours on a full charge. An optional DC adaptor lets you run off the aircraft electrical system and save the battery for emergencies.
The unit’s 10.1-inch touch-sensitive display is excellent, offering both high brightness and contrast—I had no trouble reading it, even in direct sunlight, though glare can be a problem. A FlightPrep representative told me they plan to offer a protective screen overlay with a matte finish to cut down on glare. FlightPrep supplies the ChartBook-S with a wireless GPS module that can be placed on the glare shield. It has a built-in rechargeable battery that will operate for more than six hours on a charge or, like the computer, can be powered by an optional DC adapter.
The ChartBook-S comes preloaded with FlightPrep’s ChartCase Professional software and a flexible license allowing you to install that software on up to two additional computers. It has two operating modes. The preflight mode has a conventional Windows menu bar and offers full flight planning and filing (including a sophisticated plain-language router function that lets you combine automatic routing at selected altitudes on victor airways with specific fixes), and full DUATS weather briefing and filing functions, with both a configurable vector chart and a raster-scanned version of FAA paper charts. I found this mode to be frustrating on the ChartBook-S, due to the small size of menu items and the need to pop up an on-screen keyboard when typing in navigational fixes. An optional wireless keyboard helped, or you could do preflight planning on another computer.
The ChartBook-S touch screen works much better in ChartCase’s in-flight mode (selected from a toolbar icon) that does away with the Windows menu bar, instead operating from large on-screen buttons that are easily selected with a fingertip. By default, the in-flight mode splits the display between an editable route list and a GPS moving map, but a press of the “Charts” button switches to a full-screen view of any of the available chart formats (sectional, WAC, TAC, and low- or high-altitude en route) with the aircraft position superimposed over it. Another button press takes you to instrument procedures, which are cleverly selected using an on-screen display (pan to the area around your destination and zoom in to limit the number of airports; the list of procedures will match the airports on the display). Most instrument procedures and airport diagrams are geo-referenced, so you’ll actually “see” the airplane flying down an ILS localizer. There’s even a “highway in the sky” (HITS) function that provides a display similar to the synthetic vision feature of the latest glass panels, showing terrain ahead of the aircraft and a “tunnel” illustrating the flight plan. Add an optional WxWorx satellite weather receiver and/or a Zaon XRX traffic receiver, and the default moving-map display can show weather and traffic, much like a glass-panel multifunction display.
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