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4 Answers

If airlines are going paperless cockpits and that is FAA approved, why do they have you learn all these charts?

Asked by: 2127 views Commercial Pilot

I am having the hardest time studying something I know is strictly to pass a test.  I know that someone people say, well what if you end up without your app to do the calculation.  But if airlines and the military are setting up cockpits to not have those charts but instaed use technology to do these calculations (which makes sense that having 20lbs of stuff to lug around) than why will you be tested on it and not be able to use the very same apps that pilots are currently using?

4 Answers



  1. Paul Tocknell on Jan 27, 2013

    I’m not sure what charts in particular you are referring to but let me come in defense of:

    1) Performance Charts – regardless of aircraft type, size or included avionics package. Knowing how to read a performance chart is a crucial pilot skill. Frankly, being able to interpolate and calculate critical performance numbers will keep you alive. Remember all those boxes and apps have to be programmed and sometimes they get it wrong and sometimes the apps don’t work. The boss or passengers don’t care if the app doesn’t work, they just want to know if you will make it off the ground on that ice / water / snow covered runway.

    2) Instrument approach charts – regardless of electronic or paper, you have to read and know what EVERY symbol on a chart means. Again, knowing if that tower is lighted or unlighted. What side of the runway will you be looking for the PAPI or VASI when you break out at 200 feet. Important skills to know.

    I know it can be frustrating but you are laying the foundation on which all of these technologies are based. Knowing how those figures are determined is important and knowing how to calculate them when all that technology fails (because it will) is even more so.

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  2. John D. Collins on Jan 27, 2013

    To add to what Paul said, whether the charts are on paper or on the screen of a iPad, you have to understand and be able to interpret and use what you are seeing. They are the identical charts displayed in a different media, for example Sectionals, IFR Low Altitude Enroute charts, Approach charts, etc.

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  3. Ben on Jan 27, 2013

    I agree with the other posters, as a student pilot, I do use the EFB tools on my iPad mini with Garmin and Wing X moving maps but still carry paper charts as backup on my kneeboard. You still need to understand how to read charts and weather charts as well as PIREPS, AIRMET, SIGMET and so forth to be a safe good pilot. It would be a very bad day indeed if you failed to realize a lighted obstacle for example was in your flight path at 2000 MSL and you are at altitude of 2000 without understanding how to read a chart.

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  4. JB on Jan 28, 2013

    Just the other day I was in my brand new Boeing 777 and the EFB’s (Electronic Flight Bags) were deferred. I had to bust out the old paper charts and use them for the flight like the “old days”. It’s a good thing I learned how to read them when I was starting out like you Kev.

    It’s true that we have a highly automated jet, with moving maps and electronic chart viewers, performance computers for takeoff and landing data, but…the brake cooling chart and engine out landing distance charts, for example, are done the old fashioned way. They are a nightmare but follow the convention of a C-172’s performance chart – just bigger numbers and a few more columns!

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