Joining The Club
By Peter Conant - I've finally joined the world of modern technology! With a Nexus 32 Gig Android tablet and Garmin Pilot as my software, my flying will be assisted by such benefits as XM weather, TCAS, in-flight weather, Safe Taxi, terrain and more. Although Garmin's ADS-B antenna is necessary, the hardware and software to accomplish this will still be extremely affordable. Whereas portable products such as Garminís Aera and 796 looked attractive, shelling out several thousand dollars was still beyond my comfort zone. Waiting apparently was the right thing to do.
Although I can't yet report on my success in the cockpit with these devices (I'm still evaluating Garmin Pilot under a 30-day free trial), there is no doubt that the Nexus tablet will find a permanent place in my flight bag. Just the security of knowing where the traffic is in my area will be a huge relief. My biggest worry has always been running into someone, which is why I always ask ATC for flight advisories (flight following) on every VFR flight, no matter how close my destination. I'm well read enough to know that TCAS on a tablet is not foolproof, and that false readings can be generated from airplanes on the ground, but it's still an enormous improvement from flying around with an IFR clearance on a skuzzy (a technical term) afternoon while transitioning to a circling approach at an uncontrolled field and hoping no one is nearby.
At one of our IMC chapter meeting a while back, a pilot described his decision to divert to an airport on Long Island and wait out the approaching rain, rather than pushing on south through a growing line of thunderstorms toward North Carolina. I wondered how he could have made that decision based on EFAS reports as I would have. But now, having XM weather right there in the cockpit (yes, I know the radar returns can be up to eight minutes old) and weather graphics for surrounding airports showing up with a push of a button, a whole lot of useful information will be available that I've never had access to. Early in my IFR training I listened to a newly minted instrument pilot lament that he was never going to be able to use the rating, always being doubtful of what lay ahead in the clouds. Getting a weather briefing, however thorough, from Flight Service at 9 AM was not really good enough to penetrate a line of clouds with confidence after a three hour flight. I feel, after all these years, as though I've unwrapped the present and now I can see the contents. And it's a great feeling.