Terry got a new iPad 3 a couple of weeks ago, and I inherited her ancient iPad 1. I had tried it with Foreflight a few weeks ago, and determined that the iPad was a very workable replacement for paper charts. I decided to do the acid test on the SNF trip.

I loaded Foreflight with all the required US sectional charts, low altitude IFR charts, instrument approach plates, etc. I also loaded the SNF NOTAM, my RV–8 POH, the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), Transport Canada AIM, etc. For electronic backup, I also loaded ForeFlight on my iPod Touch. And for paper backup, I took along my Air Chart Systems VFR Sectional Atlas and IFR Atlas, just in case. I had also printed out approach charts for all my planned destination, alternate and potential diversion airfields.

I found that I used neither the Air Chart Systems charts nor the hard copy approach charts I had printed out. I did prefer the printed copy of the SNF NOTAM to the electronic copy. The iPad was reasonably visible in all lighting conditions, including bright sunlight. But, in bright sun, I did occassionally have to change its angle on my knee, to avoid glare.

I found that I tended to keep Foreflight showing the VFR sectional chart most of the time, so I could keep an eye on the local terrain and airports. The one time that I did get a reroute from ATC, it was easy to drag the route line to the new waypoints.

It was comforting to see the moving airplane symbol motoring along the chart. But, something was interferering with the GPS signal for about an hour over Pennsylvania and West Virgina. The iPad GPS lost lock, and the Aera 510 showed lower GPS signal strength (but it never lost lock). The GNS 430W never lost lock, but it showed a small degradation in Horizontal Figure of Merit. Interestingly, this GPS interference was also present on the way home, in the same geographical area. But, all this did is stop the little airplane symbol from moving along the track line. The functionality without the moving aircraft was no different than if I was using paper charts.

I bought a Dual Bluetooth GPS at SNF. I didn’t use it on the way home as I wanted to try it on VFR flights before using it for an IFR trip, just in case it somehow disrupted the iPad or ForeFlight. I have since used it on several flights, and it works well with both the iPad and the iPod Touch. It can only send data to one device at a time, and it takes a bit of fiddling around to switch it from one device to the other. It’ll be interesting to see how it works on next year’s SNF trip.

I concluded that I will move to 100% electronic charts and approach plates in the USA, and mostly electronic in Canada. I will not renew my subscription to Air Chart Systems, nor will I renew my subscription to the Nav Canada aeronautical publications, except for the Canada Flight Supplement, which appears to be not included in the Forelight Canadian content. I’ll still need to purchase paper Canadian VFR charts, as they are not yet available electronically.