Electronic flight bag (EFB) apps running on a tablet computer, as depicted above, have greatly increased the typical pilot’s SA (situational awareness). As this article’s main text relates, some pilots haven’t figured out how to use their EFBs to answer the many questions necessary to legally and safely pick alternate airports. They supposedly prefer paper charts and a plotter. (Really. Have you guys seen the size and number of books of Aeronav charts required for 48-state coverage lately? The proliferation of LPV, LNAV and similar approaches has swollen them in size, weight and number.)
While there’s no question an EFB app running on a tablet in our cockpit has brought enhanced SA along for the ride, there’s also no question they can be somewhat inscrutable. And since each app is different, we can’t give you specific instructions on how to do this part of your flight planning. But we can suggest the following as a checklist of sorts for anyone to use when it comes to navigating an EFB app and choosing an alternate.
– Start with a complete weather briefing. Use it (and any tricks your EFB app has) to determine the forecast weather at your destination. If it has a published approach and 2000/3 or better an hour each side of your ETA, you’re done.
– If you need to declare an alternate based on the weather forecast you’re looking at, use the app’s flight-planning capability to determine how much fuel you’ll have available in hours. Subtract 45 minutes. If the result is less than zero, go back and re-plan your flight to include a fuel stop.
– In the app’s map mode, pinch, spread, pan—whatever voodoo you need to do to view nearby airports—and look at a couple of them, specifically their approach procedures and whether they have published alternate minimums. Will the forecast weather be sufficient to use them?
– If so, add that airport to your flight plan and again note the fuel remaining. Still have 45 minutes or more? If so, you’re done.
– If you won’t have enough fuel, you’ll need to plan an en route fuel stop. If the forecast weather isn’t good enough for that potential alternate, pan around to find another one. Rinse, repeat until the numbers work. Remember that it’s entirely possible the flight can’t legally be made, thanks to the weather and/or available fuel.