John Ewing, the blogger behind Aviation Mentor, has written a lengthy post comparing the traditional E6B calculator or slide rule with some of those new fangled E6B apps for the iPad or smartphone. John began his post by writing that for older traditionalist pilots:
…the E6B is synonymous with "slide rule" and the mere mention of electronic E6B calculators and smartphone apps will get them on their soapbox in a heartbeat, praising the slide rule and preaching against the dangers of new-fangled electronic contraptions. Young upstart pilots, having likely never used a slide rule, may find this attachment a bit odd. Frankly I do too.
Nevertheless, John quickly added that even though electronic E6Bs are becoming widespread, there is “still a place for the old fashioned E6B slide rule.”
The pros and cons of the E6B calculator
John then wrote what he thinks is good about an old fashioned E6B – namely that it does not require batteries, is lightweight and can do a huge variety of calculations. On the other hand, he also pointed out that a user must provide most of the problem-solving context (which can be difficult when in a stressful flying situation) plus use an old fashioned dose of common sense when using one as the device is not completely fool proof.
Enter E6B apps for the iPad or smartphone
For non-traditionalist pilots, John noted that there are at least 30 E6B apps available from the iTunes store with his favorite iPhone/iPad E6B app being the PFMA thanks to its simple and shallow menu structure. However, he also pointed out that student pilots will not be able to bring any new fangled electronic device that runs such apps into an FAA knowledge test session.
Moreover, John ended his post by writing that:
There’s a undeniable pride student pilots feel once they have mastered basic calculations with an E6B. That’s understandable because acquiring slide rule prowess is like learning a magic trick. Your friends are bound to be impressed, especially if the E6B you use is contained on the face of a flashy pilot watch. Pushing buttons on a calculator? Anyone can do that!
Hence, he will still continue to teach his students how to use paper charts and a slide rule E6B. However, he will also not discourage his student pilots from embracing new technology like E6B apps if they so choose to.