Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Daylight-compatible EFB for VFR and IFR
I tested the ChartBook-S during a 1.5-hour IFR flight from my home base in Modesto, Calif., to Bakersfield, Calif., 160 miles to the southeast. I used the yoke mount, and found that the unit worked best in a vertical orientation. With some fiddling, I was able to come up with a position that didn’t obscure my flight instruments. Having the aircraft position clearly indicated on the airport diagram was nice, and would be genuinely useful at an unfamiliar airport. After departure, I switched between en route IFR and sectional views, and found the unit quite effective as a functional replacement for my IFR and VFR chart atlases. The ability to quickly switch to a sectional chart display was extremely helpful when weather forced me to change destinations and ATC cleared me for a visual approach under a low cloud deck in marginal visibility.
As the sun went down on my return flight, which began at dusk several days later, I found the ChartBook-S display far too bright. Turning down the backlight as far as it would go helped, but not enough. Ultimately, I turned the unit off and switched to paper charts for the remainder of the flight. This problem isn’t unique to the ChartBook-S. Every off-the-shelf computer we’ve tried in the cockpit has the same problem. ChartCase has a trip kit function that lets you print the charts you expect to use; I could have used that for my return trip with the ChartBook stowed. I also experienced one anomaly: ChartCase distorted its low-altitude en route chart display in the vicinity of Lemoore Naval Air Station (about halfway between Modesto and Bakersfield). I reported this to FlightPrep, and they told me they would get the problem fixed. Aside from that, my overall experience was quite good.
FlightPrep doesn’t provide a full printed manual, though they do have a comprehensive online help system and a quick reference guide. A printed version of the online help is available for $29.95.
Pricing for the ChartBook-S starts at $1,295 for the 64 GB model. Built-in vector data is free, but the raster charts require a subscription, which runs $124 to $299 per year depending on whether you want VFR charts, IFR charts or both. A wide range of accessories are available at additional cost. For more information, visit www.flightprep.com.
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