Going Digital vs Paper, Round Gauges vs EFIS, The Cost of Getting your CFI.
October 19th, 2021
Going Digital vs Paper.
As many of you know, I’m not a fan of paper anything. I think that it wastes resources, takes if they are ever sold in the first place.
The advantages of electronic charts and documents far outweigh the “comfort” of using paper. Now, I would agree that there are some situations in that paper is better, but overall I think digital charts and handbooks are the way to go.
So here’s my pitch so I can try to convince you to get on board. First, it makes economic sense over the long run. You can get free FAA handbooks from FAA.gov and save about 30.00 per handbook. You can also get anything the FAA makes, like ACs, ACS/PTS, and so on. As far as charts go why in the world would you want to fold and unfold a chart? You can just pinch and zoom on the iPad. Also, if you travel cross-country how will you get your charts? Will you go to Amazon and just buy charts for the places you will be traveling through? The whole country? Imagine the situation where you have to divert due to weather to a place you didn’t buy a chart for. Now what? With my iPad and ForeFlight, I have every chart there is and they are always current. ForeFlight will place a red label at the top of any Instrument Approach Procedure if there has been a NOTAM issued. Paper can’t do that.
In addition to having everything I need, flight planning is fast and easy. Minutes not hours. Also, ForeFlight has something called Route Advisor. This feature lets me see the routes ATC has issued to other airplanes going to the same airport as I want to go. You will see the same routes over and over and you are almost certain to get that. There is no equivalent to using paper.
As far as documents go, take ASAs FAR/AIM for iPad. Here I can search by keyword. I can bookmark a FAR and I can Highlight. I can then search for bookmarks or highlighted text only. That’s fast and easy. In addition, the FAR/AIM is always current. No need to re-tab anything.
The biggest pushback I get by trying to convince people to leave the world of newspapers, charts, and publications is that it is more difficult for them or that somehow the iPad may fail, and then they don’t have anything. There are solutions. ForeFlight for example allows you to install that on both your iPad and iPhone. The thing that’s missing is a solid Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for how to use the iPad. For example making sure the iPad is less than two years old, or you’ve replaced the battery, making sure you have a battery pack charged up so you can use it if the electrical system on your plane isn’t functioning, etc. Also for overheating where the iPad shuts down you can do many things to not let that happen.
In terms of chart and publication, pilots are a strange bunch. We will easily invest a few thousand dollars into learning the latest avionics package from Garmin flying it around with an instructor but we won’t invest any time into understanding how to navigate using digital sources instead of paper. What I mean by that is every time I see people struggle it’s usually because they don’t fully understand how to use the iPad or their laptop. They have made it functional for them by doing things like put everything in a folder on the desktop, etc. but they don’t quite understand how to do some of the key things an iPad can do. Search is an example. Because people use paper they don’t understand the power of being able to search on the iPad or laptop by a keyword. You can find things very quickly if you just know that. Other things I find are people will ask me to send them a link to a file, image, or something else even though I already sent that to them and they opened it up before on their iPad. They don’t know where it is on the iPad so they just want an easy solution to a problem that they can fix easily with a 20-minute video on how to use the iPad or their laptop. I guess what I’m getting at is that, just like an airplane, you need to understand how to use it and what its limitations are. It is not a good strategy to just buy an iPad, load ForeFlight on it, and then play around trying to figure things out in pieces. If people would spend a little less than an hour watching a few videos on how to use the iPad they would struggle far less. Going further, if they will understand some best practices and search techniques they wouldn’t struggle using digital documents vs paper. I think that most of us who grew up before the internet developed a certain strategy about how we flew, worked, and lived using paper. It's all we knew. I have also noticed that people who are retired mostly have this in common. The technology they were using at the date of their retirement is pretty much what they know. If something new comes along they don’t seem to want to use it. After some years things change and so they are left with wanting to use a feature or the entire thing but recognize the amount of learning it's going to take. So my only solution to any of this is to just show you how to do it. I’m going to do a Power Hour on how to use digital charts and documents instead of paper here in a few weeks. It will be fun, interesting and may even convert some of you to be “digital refugees” like me.
Everything I have said in this article is meant to educate and not knock anything you are doing with paper. I do feel the need to explain and try to convince pilots that there might just be a better way. By showing pilots how to migrate to digital it allows that person to take the good from digital, use it if they want, or use paper in certain situations. It opens opportunities and that’s always good. Look for that here in a few weeks. If you don’t know what the Power Hour is, go to cfibootcamp.com and click on the red bar that appears at the bottom of every page. That will opt you in to get email reminders and the link to a one-hour live show every Saturday from 1600 UTC (Noon – 1 PM) Eastern time. It’s free and there are usually between 50 and 100 people watching. If you want to see some that were previously recorded click this link and you can get our Basic Membership to Bootcamp Plus for free. A lot of great stuff is in there!
Round Gauges vs EFIS
I attended a conference a little while ago and was in a panel discussion about whether pilots should learn on round gauges first or EFIS if they have a choice. There were some really strong opinions for both. The conversation had both sides of which is better along with underlying reasoning for their conclusions. All of the people there were either experienced flight instructors and many were flight school owners. Of course, I have a strong opinion about this. So when it was my time to chime in, I did exactly that. Here is what I said.
It doesn’t matter if you prefer glass or round gauges. Number one, use what's in your fleet if you have one or the other. You need to train people on EFIS first if they are going to fly that. It doesn’t make a worse pilot. We need to train the pilot the same way we teach in round gauges and that is by a combination of looking outside and checking results with the instruments inside no matter if they are analog or digital. We need to make sure the training isn’t all about the EFIS. It's about learning to fly an airplane by outside and inside reference. It's learning how to coordinate an airplane without looking at the “Ball”. All of this can be done with either platform.
I went on to say that whether you like it or not, in 10 years or so the fleet will be mostly EFIS. All of the manufacturers of airplanes aren’t giving round gauges as an option. They are all shipping glass. Even older airplanes are getting upgraded because the price of replacement EFIS has dropped so much. You just get more for your money when you upgrade to glass, so the old fleet is getting a much-needed upgrade in the avionics and instruments.
This means two things. One is that you need to teach people to fly no differently in terms of stick and rudder skills. Two, there are additional training opportunities by which you or your school can benefit financially. You need to instruct the student to program and use EFIS. This improves your bottom like and gives the student real instruction on the features of EFIS that will help them get more out of flying.
The Cost Of Getting Your CFI.
One of the questions we get a lot here at CFI Bootcamp is why the dual-rate is so high. Our rate is $105/hr. The school next to us in Miami is $50/hr.
The answer to the question is that the school next to us doesn’t do CFIs or they rarely do them. Which poses two prob-lems. One is that they rarely do them and the second is that the CFI doing the training for the other CFI really doesn’t know the material. They have just been an instructor for 2 years or more and have over 200 hours of dual given.
For a flight instructor to stay beyond 2 years they either don’t have the ATP requirements for flight hours or they are going to stay a flight instructor and not go to a regional or major airline. That is a rare person by the way.
Flight instructors at regular flight schools know about student, private, and sometimes commercial pilot requirements and endorsements. They rarely if ever know the fundamentals of instructing, how to solo pilots who already hold a pilot certificate in a different category or class etc. The depth and scope of knowledge required to train a CFI are well beyond what most instructors do day to day and even though they have 2 years under their belt, most feel uncomfort-able with the aeronautical knowledge they need to do that kind of training.
So all of this means that we need to put on CFIs who are very experienced in CFI training. Those CFIs aren’t going to settle for a plain vanilla CFI rate of pay so we need to pay them more.
On the plus side, you don’t need a lot of dual instruction if you are current and fairly proficient in the commercial maneuvers.
At CFI Bootcamp we rely on our online course, which is 42 hours of video instruction combined with our 7-day live class where we work on scenarios and learn to teach. That is about 90 hours of ground instruction. That means your time with the 105/hr CFI is lowered by a lot. Typically students need 15 hours of flight instruction, 6 or so hours of pre and post-flight briefings, and about 6-10 hours of one-to-one ground instruction in preparation for the checkride.
We must use experienced CFIs who know the material and train CFIs regularly. This takes the overall cost down and you will see light at the end of the tunnel.
The worst way you can train for your CFI is to use a local instructor who does student, private, and the occasional commercial student. This isn’t always the case but it’s generally true. We hear from students all over who say their CFI has no real plan and all they do is meet once or twice a week and they are told to make lesson plans. They also have no idea when they might be done. One way using a local CFI can work is for you to get our online course and have the local CFI check your knowledge and shore it up where needed. Plenty of people do that with great results.
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