Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First IFR Flight with the iPad2

I apologize in advance for the limited video footage from this trip.  I experienced a couple of technical issues with both the camera and mount, which limited the amount of video I was able to capture and caused excessive shaking during the footage I did manage to acquire.  Besides that, the weather was MVFR (Marginal Visual Flight Rules) with lots of haze, so there wasn't a ton to see anyway.  Nonetheless, it was a fun trip.

So, we begin at my home base of 8D4 (Sparta, Michigan) where I was fortunate enough to have a close friend come along for the trip down to Indianapolis (KUMP).  The weather was great at both our departure and destination, however, it was LIFR (Low Instrument Flight Rules) at most locations in between.  For those that are not pilots, this means that the weather at most other airports along our route of flight had very limited visibilities.  In the case of an emergency, these airports may not be available for landing.  With that and since we weren't in any real hurry, I elected to push back our departure to let the fog burn off a bit along our route.

We departed about 90 minutes later than originally planned in clear blue skies, but we soon began overflying a broken fog layer just south of Grand Rapids.  This slowly dissipated as we flew through northern Indiana.  We did get to see an interesting phenomena related to the fog.  Around Kalamazoo, we noticed a black cloud protruding above the white fog.  As we flew closer to it, we could see that it was smoke or pollution sitting on top of the fog.  The contrast really made for an interesting sight.

Smoke on Top of the Fog
The remainder of our flight to Indy was pretty uneventful, though there was quite a bit of traffic as we entered the pattern, especially considering the limited visibility at our destination.  That made for a busy time looking for traffic through some pretty thick haze.  We eventually made a nice landing and taxied to the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) to get our rental car.

After taking care of our business and grabbing some lunch, we were headed back to Sparta ahead of some weather associated with a front cutting through central Indiana.  Aside from a couple of pockets of turbulence, the flight was more of the same - hazy, overcast and smooth.  The fog had burned off though, so at least my passenger and I had more to look at during our return.

That brings me to the title of this blog post (finally).....this was my first full IFR trip with the iPad2.  I have been trying different mounts to use in the DA40 aircraft.  Anyone familiar with this aircraft knows that lap/kneeboard space is limited.  I tried a kneeboard "clip" device on a previous VFR flight.  It worked okay, but I just wasn't comfortable with the clearance between the stick and the clips on the mount.  For this trip, I had a Ram Mount cradle.  This device has a heavy duty suction cup on one end and a cradle for the iPad2 on the other.  As it turns out, it works perfectly in the DA40.  The iPad2 was very easy to see and actually close enough that I was still able to use my right had to tap the screen.  This means my left hand never has to leave the controls.

I have the 64GB Verizon 3G version of the iPad2.  This allows me to actually pull down weather and other information via the various flying apps that I have installed.  My core apps consist of ForeFlight, Jeppesen Mobile TC, Garmin Pilot-My-Cast and the Sporty's E6B Flight Computer.  All of these apps performed at least as well as expected.  I maintained 3G coverage for most all of the flight and I never noticed the GPS go out of service at all.  In fact, I do not recall the reported accuracy going above 10 meters; staying on 5 meters most of the time.  Of course, as pilots, we all know that the information on the iPad is for situational awareness only.  What a great tool it is for that!

The video footage I have included below is really just to show you the iPad2 mount as I had it configured in the DA40 on this trip.  As previosuly mentioned, the video is very shaky, so I've limited it to a minute or so.  While the lighting doesn't allow you to see the actual data on the screen very well (if at all), you can see how it is mounted and you can even see me interact with the device (tapping) on a couple of occasions.

Well, I guess that pretty much does it for this time.  I will do my best to get some more footage here in the next week or so.  Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about the iPad2, the apps, the mount or any general flying questions, please do not hesitate to comment.

More from the air soon...