Posts Tagged ‘ iPad ’

Experience Is The New Gadget

Every few years or so, Apple comes out with a new gadget, and competitors flock to rip it off to compete in the marketplace.  The reason that the iPad and iPhone have been such massive successes is not because of their new, wiz-bang gizmo…it’s because of the experience that people get when they interact with that gizmo.  Love it or hate it, Apple has the smoothest, most reliable user interface on the planet.  You can’t trip up an iPad even with multiple apps open, whereas my (first-gen) Samsung Galaxy got a wireless version 2.0 upgrade and would freeze up just making a phone call. Not only that, Apple products feel expensive, and elevate the user’s social status by having them.  Image

In any case, the consumer market will shift more toward experiences in the near future, as technological advances happen more and more frequently and people begin to become unimpressed by them.  Truthfully though, experiences are what life is about, not gadgets. 

Think about it.  You’ve been chasing them all along.

When I was 8 years old, I absolutely relished the first ride I ever had in a small plane.  When I was 18, one of my friends asked me, “What could possibly possess you to dive into a puddle while it’s 38 degrees out?”  When I was 22, my Aunt Lori (a dental hygienist), asked me, “What would make you want to get your tongue pierced?”  When I was 24, my Dad saw my tattoo for the first time from afar, and yelled, “What is that?!” at me from down the hall.  Even now, at 31, my wife tells me that entering a room full of people she doesn’t know is “my version of hell.”


Our dog, Kilee. She’s about 2 years old here.

Each of these things has given me an experience.  Good or bad, it’s given me a story to tell, a way to connect with others who have experienced the same thing.  If I meet a person who is shy or averse to meeting new people, I have an idea of what their boundaries are likely to be, given that my wife is the same way.  I can relate to someone who is describing the pain of getting a piercing or a tattoo, or someone describing the freedom of the wind in your face on a motorcycle, or the visceral feeling of leaving the ground during the miracle of flight while you are in control of the airplane.  I know the absolute exhaustion that comes from working 12-hour overnight shifts, and drinking at 7am on your Friday (which is actually Wednesday morning) to blow off steam after work.  I know the familiar burn of cigarette smoke entering my lungs, and I understand the jokes that old guys make about it burning when they pee because of kidney stones.  I understand the frustration that comes from a new dog entering your household.  I know the feeling of control someone has over a vehicle that has a manual transmission, and I know the sheer, effortless beauty of my wife in the morning.

It’s the same reason you ride roller coasters, go on reality TV shows, train to climb Everest, or move out of your parents’ house:  you want to know what it’s like on the other side, or at the top.  It’s life’s experiences that make you a rich person, not the amount of money you have…but if you are someone who knows the feeling of paying cash for a quarter-million dollar car, you also have a unique experience with which to share.  The saying, “The first million is the hardest” wasn’t coined by a homeless guy, after all.  Anything to relate to those around you.  Networking is the engine of the world, and experiences give you the fuel.

I think you’ll see a rise in experience-based products and services in the next ten years, particularly for the upwardly mobile.  There are already several hundred seats booked for the first flights into space, once they become available, and they aren’t cheap.

For ideas to chase your next awesome experience, check out my friends over at Bucket List Publications.  They’ve got fantastic ideas, if you are in need.  If you aren’t, they have a contest going to see who has the Biggest, Baddest Bucket List around, and you can submit your own to win a chance to actually complete it.  

What’s on your bucket list?  What would you do if money was no object?  What would you do if you could not fail at it?  What have you been aching to do for years, but put off because you “just can’t afford it?”  Also, what things have you knocked off your Bucket List that were awesome?



Flight Planning By Hand: Becoming Obsolete, Or Already There?

I have to admit that ever since I was a flight student beginning ten years ago, actually planning the flight was an understood, extremely lengthy necessity.  Depending on the length of your trip, you had to sit there with your whiz wheel and plot out exactly what time you would cross your checkpoint, which was illustrated by a highlighted line on your necessary-but-obnoxiously large sectional chart.  (Not my personal chart here.)    You have to (by law) carry your sectionals with you in the aircraft, and if you’re flying IFR, you have to have approach plates (pieces of paper with the approach information on them) for every approach listed at a particular airport.  This gets particularly cumbersome for pilots because each airport could have as many as three or four approaches per runway. (Remember–if you have a runway with a compass heading of 36 (due north), you also have a runway 18 (due south).  This means that if you have four approaches for 36, you also must have four approaches for 18–eight pieces of paper for the same piece of asphalt!  Now imagine flying into an airport with three or four runways (or, in fact, six or eight runways)–you’ll have to carry upwards of thirty pages of approaches just to shoot an approach there.

They make binders full of these approach plates, which are printed on the kind of uber-thin paper that Bibles are printed on, but still you must carry them with you in the aircraft wherever you go.  Think of it:  If you have to carry fifteen pounds worth of approach plates (not uncommon), that’s fifteen pounds of fuel you couldn’t, and while two gallons of fuel probably won’t make the difference between making a trip and not making it, it’s still nearly always better to have more fuel than not.

About twenty years ago, a FedEx saw the need to reduce to reduce the rediculous amount of paper in the cockpit, and had the technology to do it.  It began with a laptop, but from the loins of that idea came nearly every pilot’s best friend:  The Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).  This is basically a handheld computer (which is not always in a bag, despite the title) that has all of these approach plates and sectionals stored on a hard drive (typically as PDF files), and can quickly call up any approach plate or sectional (or section of a sectional) to accurately give you only the information you’ll need to safely fly your route and approach.  Many other companies picked up on the idea, of course, and now there are EFBs of every option and price range.  Most often nowadays, they are linked to satellites and provide a GPS location of your aircraft over the ground (in the form of a moving map), as well as real-time precipitation overlays which show your proximity to  any weather in the area–a real help to pilots, as a good percentage of accidents are, in fact, weather-related.  Many times also, they give you the option of filing or cancelling a flight plan online while you’re still in the air–even just ten years ago, you had to do it by phone from the ground.

So.  As a student, you’re taught to do everything by hand–starting from the absolute basics.  I believe this is still the smartest way to teach people to fly initially, particularly since the new student (I can tell you from experience) needs every understanding of how to keep from getting lost or in hot water up there.  It’s easy to do–if you are not sure of your position over the ground, it is easy to wander into a military munitions test zone, for example, without knowing it.  All of a sudden you’re face-to-face with a pair of F-16s, and have no idea why.  They have this form that basically looks like a flow chart of information, on which you would fill in the blanks with the information needed, and make calculations down to the minute  about when you will cross your checkpoint.  Very time consuming, but worth the lessons. 

So the basics are the way to start off.  But I posed the question to all of my pilot friends on Facebook:  With the advent of these EFBs, is it even worth it for the average General Aviation (GA) pilot to plan trips on paper anymore?  The answers I got summarily sided with EFBs.  One of my buddies who flies 757s even told me flat out, “I haven’t planned a personal trip on paper since I left (college).”

Another factor regarding flight planning ease and organization has been linked to price.  Garmin is one of the foremost authorities on GPS and avionics technology, and their EFBs range in price from around $2500 on up, depending on options.  Also, in most cases, you have to have a subscription to update all of these chart files that ranges from two hundred to five hundred dollars a year, depending on the provider.

But finally, things are getting easier (and cheaper) for GA pilots.  Technology is accelerating the ease of teaching (and further, the accessibility) of GA to many people who previously had not considered it to be on their radar (no pun intended).  One product in particular perked my ears up the second I saw it:  The Apple iPad.  I would never have considered buying this oversized iPod, this laptop-that-isn’t-a-laptop, except for one feature that it has–a huge, beautiful, bright, HD screen, and the ability to display and navigate pictures quickly, concisely, and with great versatility.  Obviously in the context of this article, it’s plain to see what (to me) is the iPad’s most obvious purpose.

The iPad-as-EFB will be realized soon enough, as Apps are being made available for pilots, by pilots at lightning speed.  These apps supplement all of the other programs that have forced an aviation cross-country trip to be more fun than work–websites like and let you put in your cross-country planned airports, and they literally give you nearly every detail you’ll need to make the trip.  They link you directly to current weather reports, special advisories, pilot reports (PIREPS)…these websites will even take the current winds and calculate your airspeed and times for you.  They’ve effectively done for pilots what the TI-83 calculator did for trigonometry.  And for a “mere” nine hundred bucks for the unit, twenty bucks for the app, and people making sectional PDFs available online (which you have access to in the air) for free, the Apple iPad is now top on my list of discount-GA-Pilot EFB choices.

I think it’s clear that paper-planning trips is a thing of the past (again, unless you’re a student–you need to have those skills to fall back in if your electronics quit on you to safely fly).  And of course, we flyers need to have safeguards in place against complacency, as complacency causes accidents.  But do you feel these new technologies will promote complacency, or will they actually make people more aware, more alert pilots because they have more information in a far more organized way at their fingertips?

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