iPad Crash Leaves Pilots Wandering

Here’s the latest on the iPad craze for pilots.  I love ’em.  But there’s a hitch.  What happens when the applications purchased by pilots fail?  En mass?  That’s just occurred in the US.  Dozens of flights were delayed apparently due to a digital failure that took out the filed flight plans.  Pilots use what’s known as plates for instrument or IFR aviation which used to be purchased as hard copies only.  Now these approach plates and others are available for download on iPad which is great.  The Jeppesen plates weight quite a few kilogrammes.  Commercial pilots may not fly without these important documents.  While many still have copies of Jeppesen files in their flight bags,  most have converted to carrying the nifty pad instead.

But you also use them to file flight plans which then are uploaded via the cloud.  We all do that now.   This has created a dependency and a lack of redundancy – two things we should be most wary about as pilots.    Most pilots don’t print out hard copies of these plans – they just load them straight onto their iPads.

It’s being reported that “several dozen”  flights in the US have been affected as iPads shut down automatically in various cockpits.   Quartz reports from direct sources indicating the outage last night was widespread.   Pilots on board various flights in Dallas, New York and Chicago also reported their iPads crashed.   The software that powers their pads are used by South Africans too – its Jeppesen.

FALA VOR approach plates.
FALA VOR approach plates.

I was training on instruments two nights ago using the iPad on board ZS-BOR with instructor, Steve Wide.  But in my case it was not the flight plan on the pad,  just the charts.  I’ve loaded a picture of what they look like alongside.  We use File2fly in South Africa in order to file flight plans which is a very effective on-line tool.  These can then be printed out featuring the course, speed and so on making it easy and quick.  The downside is when there’s a power failure – or the cloud breaks down.

Commercial pilot madness

I'm flying a Cirrus SR 20, and have a Maule MX7, Sports Cruiser and Cessna 172 rating.
I’m flying a Cirrus SR 20, and have a Maule MX7, Sports Cruiser and Cessna 172 rating.

The spirit of indominatable energy has flooded through the hallways at Latham manse.  It must be the first few days of a new year,  or perhaps its the sound of a mid-life crisis part II.  Bit like a world war, but fought introspectively, yet publically.  How quaint.  It has become necessary for the blogger known as ANC (aviate navigate communicate) to enter into that crazy world of commercial piloting.

Now don’t be confused.  The author is over half a century not out, and looking at making a ton.  So what would reduce this perfectly abnormal quad-dad into setting himself up to write the dreaded Commercial Pilot’s exams?  Perhaps its the psychosis of a youth born in the 60’s where men (mainly) walked on the moon?  A desperado intent on throwing his ageing chromosomes into the stratosphere?  Yes, probably.

In 2009 I managed to pass both the PPL exams and the crucial flight test to earn my wings as a Private Pilot.  Notice the words are in upper case.  Private Pilot.  Yes, we are a besotted lot, all whenwe stories and machine logic.  Still,  if anyone reading this is thinking of entering the aviation world through the General Aviation back door,  a few words of caution.

At the controls of the SR20 after landing. Note the side stick which takes some getting used to after a yoke and central controls.

It’s about dosh, darlings and daring.

The dosh part you get.  It’ll cost you around R250 000 in flying and training fees.  Then add transport costs to and from the aerodrome. Books.  Then exams. Then insurance (oh, and by the way,  no company offering life insurance will cover you until you earn your Commercial License… so don’t die before then please.)  It’s going to cost you a pretty bitcoin.  If you find anyone out there who’ll accept bitcoins.   While you continue to pay those other bills in your life.  Like rent, food, school fees, holidays to the Seychelles.  You know, the basic costs.

The darlings part are your loved one’s.  Changing your life to fit flying into the scheme of things will have an effect on your private life.  If Darling A et al aren’t ready for your new Starship Enterprise Endeavour – it’ll be divorce or dislocation.

Daring.  Do you really want to swing around the sky upside down attached to a small aircraft that responds to the buffeting atmospheric conditions like a wasp in a sandstorm?  Do you have the nerve.  No really, do you?  It’s not like buying a super Evinrude-powered speed boat and zooming up and down the Vaal while showing off to your entangled mistress and her two brats.  This is life and death in a moment stuff, solo.  If your tree falls in the big wide blue forest,  no-one will hear you scream.

And that’s just the beginning.

But like all folks who start flying then can’t stop,  I love the drug.  It’s true life, no buffing.  No outcome based rubbish here.  If you’re not good enough, boys and girls,  you just die.  If you are,  then you are still facing life and death decisions.  And that’s the drug, my puppies.  There’s no place for losers who bewail their imperfect youth and unequal social standing, waiting for some knight in political armour to offer a bail out clause for failure.  No place for the paternal state to assuage  your ego because you’ve maybe .. kind of .. not met the required outcome.  If you can’t fly,  you FAIL.

It’s pure.  No obfuscation.  Any dereliction and you’re putrification.  To misquote Puff-Adder-Diddly.  {The alternative fashion conscious rapping rockerbilly.}

As we meander our way through this commercial flying malarky,  I’ll keep updating this miserable little blog with the hope that somewhere, somehow, someone reads it an donates the further R300 000 I require to become a fully fledged ATPL Instructor Class 2 pilot.   Or even a full R500 000 to further cover other day-to-day expenses.