Technology in the Cockpit

By Meg Godlewski, seven-time Master CFI, Gold Seal Instructor, with more than 5,100 hours of instruction given

September 2019

Editor’s Note: Starting January 1, 2020, you must be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out to fly in most controlled airspace1. This article, from a CFI’s point of view, is worth reading.


I was flying with a CFI candidate in his airplane equipped with ADS-B. The mission was to determine how to best integrate the use of ADS-B into the private pilot curriculum.


According to the screen, there was traffic at our 10 o'clock, 1,200 below us, crossing left to right and climbing. We both looked--no joy--then as a precaution turned away from the target and climbed. We never did see the aircraft that had been called to our attention. The flight continued, and there were more traffic advisories. Some targets we saw, some we did not.

After the flight, the CFI candidate expressed concern that the ADS-B might be more distracting than a help to a student, noting the tendency for most beginning students is to keep the eyes inside. My concern is it may lull some pilots into a false sense of security--ADS-B will negate the need to look out the window. On January 1, 2020, the ADS-B mandate goes into effect. If your aircraft is equipped with an engine-driven electrical system, and you are flying in Class B and Class C airspace and Class E airspace within the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia at and above 10,000 feet MSL, excluding the airspace at and below 2,500 feet above the surface, you need to have ADS-B on board and in good working order.

The purpose of ADS-B is to provide real-time traffic, hazardous weather and terrain and even identify TFRs that pop up.

The first time you fly with ADS-B on a training flight, you may be surprised to see how many other aircraft are operating nearby that you cannot see with the naked eye. Sometimes this is because the pilot wasn't aware he or she was flying in the vicinity of an instrument approach.

So how do you incorporate ADS-B into each flight lesson when the emphasis, especially for private pilots, is to be looking out the window? I suggest the same way you add flight following (FF) to the mix: a little at a time. At first, the CFI is in charge of the technology and the flights are kept short and if possible, in lower traffic areas.

ADS-B is similar to FF in the airport practice area.  FF provides another layer of safety, in that ATC has a better "bigger picture" and can warn you about traffic. It also gets the client used to using FF before the pilot begins taking cross-country flights and prepares them for instrument training.

With FF, there is a verbal warning of traffic from the controllers--ADS-B provides both a verbal and pictorial image of the traffic and its location in relation to the aircraft.

There are apps for flight planning, weight and balance, E6-Bs, and more. One of my favorites is Cloud Ahoy. It records the flight and allows you to play it back during the debrief, minute by minute, to see how you did.  You will find this listed under "Debrief and More." Using this tool, a CFI can show the client what went right, and what needs a little work, and there is a pictorial presentation to back you up. Cloud Ahoy can be imported into ForeFlight and most GPS apps.

It is much easier to haul around a tablet with the aircraft POH/AFM, FAR/AIM, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, and airport diagram, than carry around a stack of books.

The FAR/AIM is a living document that is always being updated, hence the value of the digital FAR/AIM that can be updated by simply downloading the most recent addition. I keep a paper FAR/AIM on hand, as I have yet to have my paper one run out of batteries. But I have found that certain-age students find it difficult to navigate a paper book. Be prepared to demonstrate that skill.

If you are using an app like Foreflight or FlyQ, you are familiar with the digital sectional. It can also be updated by download, and it is much easier to “move” across the sectional with a stroke of a finger, rather than wrestling with a large sheet of paper. The downside of tablets is that their screens are easily scratched and can be difficult to read in direct sunlight. Batteries can fail, cords get lost and if you drop your tablet, you can probably kiss it goodbye. Paper sectionals are still the sturdier choice, especially if you have an unscheduled off-airport landing.

Introduce the technology slowly. Insist your private student learn how to use digital ocular navigation--that is looking out the window with one finger on the map--before GPS is taught. Teach the magnetic compass, pilotage, and dead reckoning. Then move on to VORs and lastly, GPS. NDBs are no longer required for private pilots. If the airplane has an ADF receiver, you might as well throw it in as it might come in handy.



This article was previously featured in the July/August 2019 Aviation for Women magazine and has been reprinted with the permission of the magazine and the writer.

We’d love to know what you think of this PIREP. Please email us at [email protected] and let us know. 

To sign up for our monthly Avemco PIREP series, click here.

Reprint by permission only. If you would like to obtain reprint requirements and request permission, please email us at [email protected]

Meg Godlewski is a Gold Seal flight instructor, with more than 5,100 hours of instruction given, and an aviation journalist. When she is not performing the duties of the Chief CFI at a Seattle area flight school, Meg is a writer for Aviation for Women magazine, where she generates the Ask the CFI column. In her spare time Meg teaches Rusty Pilot seminars for AOPA and creates curriculum for MzeroA ground schools. Meg's specialty is scenario-based training using Redbird and One-G simulation technologies.

Avemco® does not provide technical or legal advice, and is not affiliated with companies whose products and services are highlighted, advertised, or discussed in content contained herein. Content is for general information and discussion only, and is not a full analysis of the matters presented. The information provided may not be applicable in all situations, and readers should always seek specific advice from the FAA and/or appropriate technical and legal experts (including the most current applicable guidelines) before taking any action with respect to any matters discussed herein. In addition, columns and articles solely reflect the views of their respective authors, and should also not be regarded as technical or legal advice.