March 2009 Issue
Reader Plates: Close, No Cigar
The Sony PRS-505 is an inexpensive and easy-to-view e-reader with a good interface. But portrait versus landscape viewing for plate scaling isnít ideal.
Blame it on Elrey Jeppesen: If he hadnít invented what has become the modern approach plate as a means of saving his own hide, we wouldnít be up to our shoulder harnesses in paper charts today. Approach plates from the FAA alone occupy 24 bound volumes averaging an inch thick for full U.S. coverage. And even if we can display approach plates on panel-mounted avionics, the Luddites among us also carry some paper charts, guarding against the day (or night) that all that expensive equipment soils the bed. And still, the industry toils mightily to devise the perfect electronic solution to allow us to ditch the paper. Thatís the easy part. Choosing from among the many hardware and software options for displaying electronic charts and picking the best one is tough and no one has hit the jackpot yet. A recent entry is what weíll call the inexpensive electronic flight bag or EFB and itís called Reader Plates. It uses a Sony electronic paper platform, the idea being to keep costs low. Reader Plates uses Sonyís PRS-505 e-book hardware to display the entire collection of more than 13,000 approaches, arrivals, departures and other pages in the FAA/NACO instrument approach procedures database. Reader Plates converts the charts into a downloadable format for either Windows or Macintosh and the user can then transfer it to the e-book reader via USB. Youíll need a solid broadband Internet connection to be able to download the data file from Reader Plates, which amounts to 1.3GB. Every 28 days, when charts are updated, users have the option of paying $9.95 for the most current data or skipping the download altogether. Itís all or nothing. You canít obtain, say, procedures for a single state or region. Thatís by design, since one of the main ideas of doing away with paper plates is the ability to have all the procedures at your fingertips. And, unlike some other EFB solutions, the charts donít expire or otherwise become unusable after a period of time. If you already own a PRS-505ósorry, Reader Plates isnít available for other e-readersóyouíre golden.
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