Should student pilots use iPads during flight training?

We have written extensively about pilots using the iPad in the cockpit but recently someone named Phil, presumably a CFI, has posted a great question on Ask a Flight Instructor about the use of iPads during flight training by student pilots. Specifically, Phil wrote:

This question is in regards to the use of iPads and iOS applications for flight training, specifically when do you recommend their use and how to incorporate apps in your training syllabus…

….What do you think about iPads in the cockpit for students, when do you recommend their use, and how do you incorporate them into your training syllabus?

Phil further added that they have been testing an application with some students called AeroFlare that will record and analyze landings and landing performances plus record cross country flights. So far, Phil says they have found the application useful for student solos in the pattern and cross country flights because naturally, CFIs can then debrief the student pilots afterwards regarding any issues about air speed, location and altitude. However, Phil also commented that adding a tool inside the cockpit could be a distraction along with an additional layer of complexity on top of a complicated training program.

Nathan Parker replied to Phil’s question by writing that as long as the iPad wasn’t mounted and visible to the student at all times, it could be a valuable tool in the cockpit. On the other hand, Nathan added that he does not think he would require a student pilot to use an iPad during flight training unless they already use one.

In addition, Sam Dawson doesn’t have an issue with starting a student pilot with an iPad from day one of flight training but he also wrote that there are times when an iPad needs to be folded up and set aside. Nevertheless, Sam says an iPad in the cockpit is a useful tool and student pilots need to learn how to deal with distractions – including those created by iPads.

However, we want to hear what you think – especially from any student pilot or pilot who is not accustomed to using fancy new technology: Do you think using an iPad during flight training as a student pilot is a good idea or should student pilots concentrate on learning the basics of flying first e.g. the old steam gauges verses glass cockpit argument?

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3 Responses to Should student pilots use iPads during flight training?

  1. fernando November 8, 2012 at 14:06 #

    No I think this system will just increase the incident and accident level because it can reduce the attention on the most important part of any fly : to aviate wwhich is to say to fly the aircraft.

  2. Steve R. November 9, 2012 at 06:01 #

    During the initial training phases, having a ipad or any similar device does not really serve any purpose. As they progress into cross-country navigation those devices can be added to enhance the traing in map reading and pilotage. They can be useful preflight data tools, too. Everyone needs to learn the skills of flying without all the electronic gadgets first, and then move into using them to progress toward the more sophisticated uses they provide. Let’s face it, the first several hours can be sensory overload for most people….and how many flight instructors have trouble getting students to get their heads out of the cockpit during the early learning phases.

  3. Larry Overstreet November 11, 2012 at 19:29 #

    Yes, of course. Asked another way – “Do we want new private pilots to get their rating knowing nothing about how to properly use an iPad in the cockpit?”. Of course not. It can be a valuable tool, like pilotage, VOR navigation, and GPS. The value of having up-to-date charts and AFD, great flight planning tools, access to weather, a handy (and current) copy of the FAR/AIM is an obvious benefit, and should be taught.

    At the beginning, use it to check for weather, get a briefing, look for TFRs, look things up in the FAR/AIM, etc., but perhaps not use it while flying. Later on, add in capabilities as they fit into scenarios. Please DO have it mounted so there is no fumbling for it, dropping it on the floor, etc. There is an off switch; the iPad doesn’t have to be on all the time.

    Can an iPad be a distraction in the cockpit? You bet. As can trying to tune and identify the correct VOR station, and then get the OBS set correctly (“…should that be TO or FROM…?”) while talking with ATC. And new pilots need to be taught how to properly pre-flight an iPad, and respond to anything unexpected.

    Should pilots also be taught pilotage, dead reckoning, VOR navigation, etc.? Absolutely. Using NDBs or Loran? Well ,OK, maybe not that – at least in most locations. 😉

    My bottom line, a private pilot should be able to proficiently use all tools available to them, on the ground and in the air. An iPad is merely one of these, albeit an incredibly useful one.

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