First Word: 02/07


Sometimes, when I head to the airport to go flying, Im reminded of the B.B. King blues standard, The Thrill is Gone. Its not that I don’t enjoy flying airplanes, having done it now for about 35 years. Im not really bored with slipping the surly bonds. But increasingly, I find myself annoyed at the hassle factor and this relates to the pace of modern life. Who really has time to stare in the rear view mirror waiting for the stupid security gate to close or to plow through 300 lines of text describing some asinine temporary flight restriction? There’s just no thrill in that.

My guess is that Im not alone and I further surmise that this has something to do with why instrument pilots have been blas about electronic charting systems for fully a decade. As we report on page 16 of this issue, Jeppesen has been trying for 10 years to sell the idea of electronic chart products to pilots. While it has made

Jeppesen Hand Held

inroads, pilots by a five to one margin still favor paper. Its not that JeppView doesnt work or isn’t a good product, its just that the old technology works just fine and has a much lower hassle factor. The reality is that even if you fly a lot and even if you file, you don’t always need approach plates. Mine stay on the backseat most of the time; I pull frequencies and other routine data for VFR flying off the GNS530.

If you convert to e-charts, you have just complicated your life. Now you need to think about and buy a tablet computer, wire it into the airplane power system, then keep track of revisions on CD-ROM and, to actually read the charts, you have to manipulate the computer. Im not Luddite, but the less computer manipulation I have to do while flying, the happier I am. Further, if you still want backup paper, you now have to set aside time to actually figure out what charts you want, then print them and carry them along.

Its way the hell easier and less complicated to just reach over the seat, grab the appropriate NACO or Jeppesen plate and brief it up. In other words, the e-charts complicate life without delivering much discernible benefit, at least in the cockpit. All you want to know is if the DA is 256 feet or the inbound course is 166 degrees. The easier it is to find out, the better.

Jeppesen thinks 2007 will be the year of e-charts, the tipping point when more than half of its customers go electronic. I have my doubts. These are the arcane thoughts that occur to me when Im waiting on that dumb gate.


Reader Fred Oakley called me the other day and basically chewed me a new one. How, he wondered, can an outfit like us stay in business if we never answer the phone? He had phoned the Used Aircraft Guide number to order a reprint and somehow, the ball got dropped. When he phoned me, there was no answer. Thats because the electronic answering machine on my desk goes on unannounced holiday for reasons that elude me. Another reader complained about it, too. Well, theyre right to be annoyed.

So I have overhauled the response mechanism. Going forward, the new contact number for Aviation Consumer is 941-929-1693. Both the postal address and the phone are in Florida, on east coast time. Because I spend a lot of time flying, shooting photos and product testing, Im not always here to answer the phone. But Im assured that the phone robot is as reliable as these things get.

So if I don’t answer directly, leave a message and Ill get back to you as soon as I possibly can. By far, the better way to contact me is via e-mail, at [email protected]. I try to respond to queries and calls promptly. And if its a customer service issue that I cant fix, Ill connect you with someone who can. -Paul Bertorelli

Paul Bertorelli is Aviation Consumer’s Editor at Large. In addition to his valued contributions to Aviation Consumer, his in-depth video productions on sister publication AVweb cover a wide variety of topics that greatly contribute to safety, operation and aircraft ownership. When Paul isn’t writing or filming, he’s out flying his J3 Cub.