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Handhelds and Palm Pilots and Aviation

We will look at several of these in this month's article. The Visor Deluxe, as with most new Palm Pilots, will let you add a modem for email when traveling.

Due to an unfortunate accident where my trusty old and quite small Palm Pilot fell into an unmentionable oval object containing water, it did not function very well afterwards. So I ended up replacing it with a Handspring Visor De Luxe. This unit was built by the original Palm Pilot designer, I believe, and runs on the Palm Operating system, thus opening it up to a large collection of software. Since my old Palm Pilot was small and the new one has 8Mb of RAM, I researched the net for new programs. I found some very useful free ones for doctors and a lot of really interesting ones for pilots. We will look at several of these in this month's article. The Visor Deluxe, as with most new Palm Pilots, will let you add a modem for email when traveling. The Handspring is particularly robust, but the night vision feature is not as good as Palm Pilot's. It fits onto the belt and does not get in the way in the cockpit. Accessing the information on short finals is not a good idea!

Airport Insight
This program has been developed by Brad Benson of the Notam Development Group. It will eventually give you all the airports of the US, and will shortly have Canadian airports as well, downloadable onto a Palm Pilot. At the moment Brad has sent me all the U.S. airports. The really neat thing, noticed right away, is the ability to control from the desktop computer which U.S. States are loaded into your Palm Pilot. So you download the original database from the internet website and then get a demo version, or send $24.99 US to purchase the whole works. No comparable single book contains the whole U.S. including Alaskan Airports in such a portable fashion. It has frequency, runway, navigation, and other information available for all public use airports in the United States. Airport Insight provides a wealth of aviation information. It provides a useful flight-planning tool, and has been designed to be easy to use in the cockpit as well for those unplanned diversions. Using the quick database access capabilities of the Palm OS, you can look up airport information far faster than is possible with traditional printed information. Airport Insight provides you with all the latest frequencies for your airport of choice. Detailed runway information includes the size, magnetic alignment for both the base and reciprocal runway ends, surface type and condition, weight restrictions, and runway obstruction remarks. If a particular runway has a right hand traffic specified, that information would be shown as well. It will do a density altitude calculation for you as well. For either left or right hand traffic, Airport Insight can even tell you how to enter the pattern when you tap on the name of the runway you wish to use. All nearby navigational aids such as VORs, VOR/DMEs, VORTACs, and NDBs are available in a concise format that is easy to read while allowing you to continue your #1 task: flying the airplane! The full database of public use airports in the United States consumes approximately 4MB of memory, however, you can easily trim this to fit in almost any Palm. Most States require only 50KB-60KB or so of memory. If you are just flying in a small area, take only the data you need with you! The desktop conduit, managed from your Palm Pilot desktop program lets you decide which databases to load or unload into your handheld. Brad is working hard on getting the Canadian Database into this as well. It may be in the upgrades by the time the article is printed.
Comments: almost worth the purchase of a handheld for this info at your fingertips.

PocketTest is another program for Palm family handhelds. It can be downloaded and viewed as a demo first. Full purchase gets the registration keys for each level exam. For someone on the go a lot the portability of these tests will provide an ever-present method of keeping you studying. Right now they use the Gleim Publishing aviation study books and so at present this is only geared to the U.S. market. The author Patrick Malone, Malone Consulting has expressed an interest to me to create a Canadian version for all the tests as soon as he can locate a publisher willing to let him use the material. If Canadian programmers don't jump on the computer market opportunities then we'll encourage others to do it for us! Malone consulting is a little high in price for the tests at $59-$69 U.S. for the PPL to IPL tests but they are simple to use and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. The online site gives a good overview of what is offered. I mention this program as much to show pilots where computers and handhelds are heading as much as for current purchasing utility. The program includes all levels from Private Pilot to ATP in separate tests. You are marked as you go and given look up references. Of course, again, relevance is to U.S. testing and references, right now.

Patrick's own story is worth mentioning: - 'After years of programming educational software for children in the high-tech heart of California, one day I decided to take a break from the maddening pace of the techno/digital world and set off to fulfill a long-time dream of becoming a bush pilot -- delivering doctors and medicines to villages too remote for access by ground transport. To support myself in the meantime (and to help me get through the exams myself), I developed the PocketTest series of handheld study tools for student pilots. From time to time I post progress reports on the misadventures of this quest.

At present, I've located an agency to work with in Mozambique, but the recent stock market bust has evaporated the avgas money that was to get me and my little 1962 C-185 Skywagon across the ocean. I'm considering heading north to Alaska (or Canada) for some flying work to save up the money, but it will be somewhat of a race to earn enough before the weather window for crossing the North Atlantic has passed this summer.'

Gobzi is a small utility for the Palm family that is a free download and then you may send $5 to Peter Tapolyai, who works for NASA. The utility is probably aimed at private pilots or student pilots but is really a useful little program. It comes with a couple of pages of programming, very small memory use in the Palm Pilot, and a checklist. I emailed Peter and he emailed me back my full checklist for the Cessna 210, which I had asked him to add into my copy of the program. He did this within 24 hours. I think he wrote a utility for himself and then just popped it on the net. He has not sold many yet but will be improving it so please consider sending him the $5 encouragement money. The program can be found on which is where you order the registration key. The first page gives you simple enroute calculations such as distance, speed, fuel burn, headwind and crosswind relative to wind direction and speed. It will do a groundspeed check; you just need the usual ground checkpoints. On the next page are conversions for density altitude and pressure altitude, and then volume and weight conversions for gas, and also a few general metric to US conversions. Finally there is a generic (172) checklist, which I am sure Peter would also alter for you if you wish.

FlyBy Nav E6B Calculator and FlyBy Nav 1.53 Aviation C-Country Flight Planner.
These two programs are among the very best reviewed for the Palm Pilot family. The two programs are designed by a professional pilot who flies out of Calgary, Alberta. I strongly recommend the purchase of the package, of two programs, if your Palm Pilot/Handspring Visor has enough memory. For the purchase price of $29.95 it offers a great deal. All of the existing Flight Calculators are made redundant by the ability of the Palm Pilot to store data and to function as a programmable flight calculator. Most of those limited devices sold for twice the price of these programs. True, you need a Palm Pilot/Handspring Visor in the first place, but that is a one time purchase and useful for so many other things as well. Mine is 8Mbs and I am in the process of adding a modem card and an additional 8Mbs. The nice thing about skywritersoft's programs is the artificial intelligence built in to the program. It has built in intelligent search on the Flight Planner program. Of all the download demos available this one was my choice before I contacted the vendor for a full review copy and then discovered the Canadian Cultural content quota was being met as well. Lonnie' downloads include the U.S. and Canadian Airports and that includes Alaska. I have not yet seen the panel mount option for the Palm Pilot but that will soon be on the market, it would seem. That plus an external power supply for pilots would be great. The FlyBy E6B can be purchased more cheaply as a standalone but take a look at the other FlyBy Nav programs online.

FlyBy E6B Features:

  • Airspeed Calculations: True Airspeed using Calibrated Airspeed-- True Airspeed, using Mach# --Calibrated Airspeed-- Equivalent Airspeed--Mach#.
  • Wind Calculation:
    • Find Wind Direction and Speed
    • Find Wind Component (headwind and crosswind)
  • Heading and Ground speed
  • Time-Speed-Distance: Find Estimated Time Enroute, Find Ground Speed, Find Distance, Find Fuel Time, Find Fuel Flow, Find Fuel Burned, Find Estimated Time of Arrival.
  • Altitude Calculations:
    • Density Altitude
    • Pressure Altitude
    • True Altitude
  • Vertical Navigation Calculations: Distance and Time using Altitude Change, Ground Speed, Vertical Speed, Rate of Descent using Altitude Change, Ground Speed, Distance, Rate of Descent using Altitude Change, Ground Speed, Glideslope, Feet/Nm using Vertical Speed, Ground Speed, Rate of Climb using Required Climb Gradient and Ground Speed.
  • Navigation Calculations: Critical Point--Point of No Return--Time to Minimum Descent Altitude--Track and Distance between two points--Radius of Turn
  • Conversions:
  • Volume:
    • US Gallons
    • Imperial Gallons
    • Liters
  • Temperature:
    • Celsius
    • Fahrenheit
  • Weight:
    • Pounds
    • Kilograms
  • Altimeter:
    • Inches Hg
    • Millibars/Hectopascals
    • mmHg
  • Fuel, Temperature Corrected, JetA, JetB, AvGas: US Gallons--Imperial Gallons---Liters---Pounds---Kilograms

FlyByNav Flight Planner and FlyByNavPro
Flight planning is now as easy as tapping in your point of departure, arrival and winds! In one screen, FlyBy Nav displays track, heading, distance, ground speed, time enroute, ETA, and fuel burn. Nearly all public airports and navigation aids in the U.S. are stored in it's database - so FlyBy Nav knows where you're going. You have an option of loading and unloading data from your unit, much as described with Airport Insight. The airport database in this software is not a full airport information database as with Airport Insight, but more of a rapid identifier for calculations. You can still add notes to the data and upgrade with frequencies etc. It represents one more leap towards the paperless cockpit!

  • A virtually unlimited customizable waypoint database. (The only limitation is your Palm's available memory.)
  • Lightning fast database search and lookup of waypoints. The search function lets you search for an airport using its city name or identifier.
  • Single screen flight planning. Displays all the trips information in one screen.
  • Familiar user interface using standard Palm program features. So if you already know how to use the Palm's built in applications you will know how to use FlyBy Nav.
  • Stores up to 30 of your favorite aircraft cruise performance numbers.
  • Quick Charter Quote feature.

The new version, a FlyByNavPro, includes the ability to plan full routes and save them, this will be an advanced version of FlyByNav. I have tested it already and it has all legs and works just great for the new 'paperless plane' concept.

Palm Pilots and Handspring Visors are here to stay, mine goes with me every day for medical information ( is quite amazing) and now the plane has a little velcro'd pocket on the side for the 'pilot's pilot' and it contains the checklist as well as all the above. I didn't cover GPS link-ups nor modem capabilities, but they all have them, weather downloads etc are all possible items.

Personal Models of Your Own Plane
Finally I want to just put a quick plug for a local woodworker in the Kootenays. Wilson Rempel has been carving various planes for several years. He hand carves from photos and has mostly done warbirds. I had bought a couple and given him a few comments on improvements and then he offered to make my own 210 model. He did such a nice job on this that we decided to advertise online on the website for his models. He is not a pilot but just loves planes and will finish up any owner's model until it is to their satisfaction. We can offer a special, almost at wholesale. Get your own plane made to order. Satisfaction guaranteed or money back! Please contact me if interested. All we need are some mailed photos of your own plane!! Size can be variable with cost.

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About This Author:
John Dale has been a member of COPA for thirty years, since he began to fly. He has accumulated 2500 hours on 65 types of aeroplanes and added Flight Simming to his addiction about two years ago. He is an Aviation Medical Examiner in Nelson BC, where he belongs to the Nelson Pilot’s Association. He also runs, which offers aerial tours to the north, as well as a database of BC and northern flying tips. Details of this can be found at
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