Considering a return to active much technology?

I'm about to return to the instruction ranks. I've had my CFI for 30+ years and I've taught ~250 people to fly. But none in the last 15 years. I've kept my CFI current along the way.

My question is about how much technology to introduce to new primary students. Something like ForeFlight didn't even exist during my main stint of instructing (hell - I was using LORAN).

Is it best to stick to the basics, paper charts, and logbooks at first? Is there a benefit to using something like ForeFlight from the start (especially with young tech-savvy students)?

Love to hear thoughts?


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Former FAA official (and current HAI President/CEO) Jim Viola said while he was head of the FAA General Aviation and Commercial Division which governed Part 61 that it was important that pilot trainees be trained and tested on their ability to use the tools they would be using after receiving their new certificate/rating.  As such, if you spend all your time beating them over the head with an E-6B and a plotter in a 6-pack airplane is inappropriate if you know they'll be flying with an EFB/flight planner and an EFIS panel the day after they get their Private or Instrument.  I think he's right.

That doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good idea to start them with a sectional chart, pencil, paper log, plotter, and E-6B as tools to create an understanding of the basic navigational concepts, and then graduate them to an iPad/Foreflight once they understand those concepts and can detect errors in the electronic planning (say, due to inaccurate data entry).  Same for training them on a 6-pack panel versus EFIS.  But to train them entirely with legacy methods when you know they'll be flying a G1000 panel immediately after the checkride is inappropriate, and possibly irresponsible. 

Of course, if you're giving primary training to someone who's going to be flying a Piper Cub for $50 hamburgers (Cubs don't really go far enough for a $100 hambuger), you'd be silly to spend a lot of time on systems they won't be using after they get their ticket.

As for starting them with only fully integrated electronic flight planning, I offer the story I read many years ago in a construction management journal.  The company had been given a request for proposal for construction of a factory building.  The division manager gave the project to a team of junior engineers to come up with a bid, including price.  They came back with a figure that boggled the manager's mind – about twice what he expected for a building of that size.  He called in the team and told them they'd just wasted their time and the company's money because there was no way a bid that high could possible succeed.  They said, “Well, that's what came out of the computer.”  

The manager dug further into it and found that half the cost of the project was the drainage pond.  The size of the pond was enough to drop the Empire State Building without making a splash.  Turned out the team had at one point moved a decimal point one place to the right when they entered it in the computer.  He asked them if they had any idea how big that pond was, and how big a pond for that size project should be.  What he got back was shrugs – they had no visualization of the issue.  

The upshot of that article was that those of us who grew up on slide rules had to have a rough idea of the answer based on experience before we could effectively use the decimal-pointless number our slide rules gave us.  OTOH, with calculators and computers, input errors can produce irrational answers that you may not recognize them as irrational if you don't understand the order of magnitude that should be expected.  Same with E-6B's (essentially circular slide rules) versus iPad's with Foreflight.

So yes, I recommend starting with paper-and-pencil, especially with those raised solely on electronic devices for doing their math.


Great comments - I appreciate that……


When you train them on modern tools such as EFB/ForeFlight/iPad and panel GPS, be sure to spend some time on what to do when one of these devices doesn't work. I've had my iPad shut down due to thermal overload in Summer while charging. I've also had my panel GPS internal battery fail and take out the entire GPS/COM in flight. If they are flying one aircraft, you should customize the training for the aircraft that the student is flying rather than generic instruction. For example, my airplane doesn't have an ADF so training would focus on how to use my panel mount GTN 650 for NDB approaches. If they are going to be flying a variety of rental aircraft with different avionics, then it's wise to train them on generic procedures like finding your position with two VORs or one VOR and a DME or just one VOR.


I gave a flight school check ride once for a new younger instructor in a nearby flight academy that did not offer their aircraft for personal rentals. He brought along his large ipad and I watched in dis-belief as he spent 20 minutes attaching it to his knee board and calling up the airport diagram or sectional, not sure which. As he was fumbling with it he asked a lot of questions on best instructor practices, techniques. We had a long discussion and I said something like it really demands your awareness and observation on what works best for the student to learn the fundamentals, then adapt, but what ever you do make sure you now how to use the tools you use before you employ them. 


Good point. EFBs have so many features and multiple ways to use them that it takes a lot of time to master them. I've found that it's quicker and easier to have a set of scenarios to run through. The scenarios should cover the most common situations but there should also be some less common ones and definitely some emergencies.


Just a quick follow up here.  I took everyone comments here and in other forums into account.  I've started my primary student with the basics.  Paper sectionals, manual x/c planing with a plotter and chart.  Once he's proficient with these skils - I'll introduce ForeFlight (or something similar).

Thank for everyone's help and comments…