When I started flying by sole reference to the airplane’s instruments (IFR) five years ago, I would always carry over 10 pounds of documents in my pilot bag, and I had to update most of them every few months. These would include:
- Terminal area charts
- Sectional charts
- IFR enroute charts
- IFR approach plates
- Airport maps
- FAR/AIM regulations
- Aircraft flight manual
- Emergency procedures
- Flight plan forms
Last week, I flew with a couple of friends to Oshkosh, WI, for EAA AirVenture. There, 500,000 people and 10,000 planes gather for the world’s largest aviation celebration. And instead of carrying a bunch of dead trees in our plane, all we had was an iPad and an app (ForeFlight).
Thanks to its built-in 3G modem (which you can use in flight) and its embedded GPS, the iPad could download all the data we needed, and plot our course on the map in real time. It can also display weather data with an amazing level of details, which allowed us to avoid a few thunderstorms along the way. All in all, it gave us all the static content that I used to carry in my pilot bag, plus a lot more, constantly updated. Total weight: 1.46 pounds.
This is one of the things that I love about technology: the ability to simplify our lives by replacing obsolete tools and techniques with modern ones that are easier to use. By making the pilot’s flight bag electronic and using mainstream technologies, the industry is dramatically reducing the complexity of flying a general aviation aircraft, making it accessible to more aspiring pilots.
In designing our platform, we’re getting inspiration from this trend, especially with respect to the way good mobile applications are being designed. With Sutoiku, we want to allow anyone to build applications for the cloud, without requiring any technical skills or specific training. And if we can make our tool as easy to use as the one we used to fly across the United States, we will know that we’re on the right track.