Check ride cross-country tip
Most check rides start with a cross country. Why is it that the majority of applicants fail to set up and use their GPS (or other Navigation equipment) for that cross country?
My advice, do what you would do in real life. If you normally fly using that GPS, then use it for the check ride. Don't start yourself off with a disadvantage! If the examiner needs to see you navigate without it, he/she will fail it at some point.
Pitfalls of aviation gadgetry
I love all the new gadgets we have available to us. I recently added dual Garmin G5's and the G500 autopilot to my 182. Combined with ADSB In and Out, I now have traffic and various forms of weather products. Even if you're not flying a nicely equipped airplane, you can have the same features with Foreflight, WingX Pro, Garmin Pilot and some sort of ADSB receiver. All of this stuff is supposed to enhance situational awareness and safety. For the most part, it does but it can have a real negative effect on safety as well. People much smarter than me have written books on the subject. I would like to cover a couple of items that have played a major issue during check rides.
The first issue is not knowing how to use those gadgets. Lets take Foreflight or Garmin Pilot for example. Do you know where to find Hot Spots or how to determine the the altitudes of an MOA, Restricted or Prohibited Area? How did that App figure out that ground speed? Did you input that data for your airplane or did you select the basic (generic) profile? What power setting will achieve that TAS?
Regarding the Airplane itself. How do you determine if the data bases are current on your GPS? In a twin engine airplane, can we use the autopilot with an engine inop? If you're a private pilot pilot, do you even know how to use the autopilot. Do you know what the failure modes are for your MFD, PFD and how they present themselves? Can you fix them in flight or are you stuck with the backup instruments?
Those are knowledge areas we should have tucked safely in our brain just in case a bad situation presents itself. Imagine being a newly minted private pilot in an inadvertent IMC situation and not knowing how to use that autopilot.
The second issue that crops up is fixation on the equipment and not flying the airplane. Put yourself cruising along at 3500 feet when the engine suddenly runs rough or fails. What's the first thing you do? Is it go to Foreflight, go to Maps, then settings and then select "Glide Advisor" to On? Or is it select Nearest on the Garmin 430? I would certainly hope NOT! First and foremost, Fly the freaking Aircraft!
I've recently had a couple of private pilot applicants do just as described in the previous paragraph. While they focused their attention elsewhere, they failed to establish and maintain Best Glide, select and glide to a landing area and failed to trouble shoot the problem until they where to low to safely land.
In the past there use to be a saying "Don't drop the airplane to fly the mike." Pilots would get so involved with talking with ATC they would stop flying the airplane. Now it seems that we are dropping the airplane to fly the iPad (or what ever fancy fancy equipment the pilot is fixated on).
Now before I have a flood of folks saying Chris doesn't want you using this or that, I'll say this; We need to have a healthy balance on knowing how to use our fancy equipment and flying the airplane. That fancy equipment should enhance our performance as a pilot and not be a distraction.