Flight and engine instruments used to be the old school style type round gauges we all (well most of us) learned to fly with. These are familiar to everyone. The latest trend in general aviation is electronic displays in cockpits and aircraft are then sometimes called 'New Generation' or NextGen by their manufacturers.
Most pilots, if not all, like electronic gadgets. Ranging from moving map GPS equipped navigation systems or netbooks to mobile phones integrated into the intercom system of the aircraft. All with the intention to get the cockpit free of paper items like maps, approach charts, weather reports and notams.
Having everything electronic means updating these databases regularly, like the paper stuff. But make sure that the cockpit doesn't become a mess with wires, mini gps receivers and other devices needed to run these systems.
This is very useful addition as it keeps the cockpit free of checklists, maps and approach charts. Updating of its aviation databases is very simple through a pc or direct Internet connection, worldwide airports and approach, terminal and taxi charts are available from Jeppesen and other sources.
If you are interested in using an EFB or a pocket type FMS system (on a iPad or equivalent device) in your aircraft then the next list of articles are a must read:
Most EFBs have a checklist function which is very cool as it keeps the pilot focused on checking the systems and not flipping through the checklist or a pilot manual heads down in the cockpit. More sophisticated models have a voice annunciation for the checklist, traffic and terrain alerts. This audio will sound through the device speakers, so a wired or bluetooth connection to the intercom/ headset is preferable.
More sophisticated EFBs feature a complete document/ flight management system with weather layers depicted on the maps. ForeFlight is such an example. This app is also a great tool for flight instructors tracking progress of their students.
From the EASA we obtained the following document about using Advanced Navigation Technology for general aviation pilots. A very interesting read!
We compiled a list of EFB systems available for the general aviation pilot, keep in mind that this will list the most popular ones. I have used three of the ones listed below and which one to use depends on your amount of time you fly per week, VFR or IFR flying and if you are an instructor like myself.
ForeFlight LLC is based out of Houston, Texas with offices in Austin, Portland Maine and Odense Denmark. They have been creating very professional software that makes flight planning easier for the IFR and VFR pilot. The software runs on Apple devices (think stability) and provides you with charts, weather (very useful wx information), airport information, document management, synthetic vision and more. Support is very good and the app receives monthly updates. See the product page at: ForeFlight Mobile.
This EFB from Garmin is available for Android, iPad and iPhone. Its a global, rich and interactive mapping software with weather. You can file, amend and close VFR flight plans globally and IFR in the U.S. and Europe. The software also keeps track of your flight with automatic logging, currency reporting and photo's made during your flight can be attached. See the product page at: Garmin Pilot.
From Europe, this software is aimed at the European VFR pilot. Runs on all devices, Windows Android, Apple and OS X, but Linux is not included. Their EasyVFR AeroData can be used as an update for your avionics: LXnav, Dynon, Advanced Flight System, MGL Avionics and NavITer. Like all the others they have georeferenced charts and plates. Chart add-ons are available too for some countries that sells them commercially. This valid for all EFBs. There is also a free VFR basic solution, but with limited functionality and only for the Netherlands and the U.K. at this time. Read more on their product page: PocketFMS.
Based in the United Kingdom and primarily aimed at the European VFR pilot but they do have charts for the U.S. Weather depiction is not in the same class as flagship products ForeFlight or Garmin. The community is active and helpful. The software is also regularly updated. The website is not very clear in what the application can and can not do. See the webpage at: SkyDemon.
And the answer is: it depends. Mostly on the type of flying you do. Are you a professional flying or just going for the weekend hamburger and some cross countries every now and then? Most offer a free 30-day trial period so you can make an informed decision.
My personal choice after using PocketFMS, SkyDemon and ForeFlight would be the last one. It is by far the most professional software with very complete weather data and very configurable application on the market. Its not cheap, but the complete version will cost less than a dollar/euro per day, without add-ons.Written by EAI.