About AvPlan – and why I have invested in it

I’ve just made a substantial investment in AvSoft Australia Pty Ltd, the company behind AvPlan (http://www.avplan.com.au).

I hope that as you read this, the reasons why I was keen to invest in AvPlan should become obvious. That decision was driven from two strong passions of mine – technology and aviation. AvPlan represents a brilliant intersection between those two realms that presses all the right buttons for me :)

So… what is AvPlan?

AvPlan is a brilliant tool for pilots to allow an iPad to replace a mountain of paper books, paper maps, and paper charts.

It is certified by CASA as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) for pilots in Australia. It also works across the USA, supporting the full gamut of maps and data required for operations in that country.

AvPlan is far more than just an electronic map. It brilliantly automates the substantial workload involved in properly planning a flight (especially an Instrument Flight Rules – IFR flight) from start to finish. It fits the needs of a busy IFR pilot in the modern world like a glove.

Using an AvPlan chart

Using an AvPlan chart (Photo: Tony Lewis)

I was a convert to using AvPlan from the day I first saw it. AvPlan eats those old Windows based IFR flight planners (that I used to use) for lunch.

You can hold it in your hands, plan a complex IFR flight in minutes, step into the cockpit with the same tool, and fly that plan.

Importantly, this is not just a moving map with a GPS location shown on it.

The core of AvPlan and its data models is your IFR (or VFR) flight plan.

Everything else it does, including the in-flight moving map functionality, is built around that plan, rather than the plan merely being bolted onto the side of a map.

Like all tools doing a job as sophisticated as this one, some investment of time is needed in getting set up with it. This is especially true in terms of taking the time to enter (once only of course) the detailed performance specifications and weight & balance data for your aircraft, to get the most benefit out of using it.

That said, an increasing number of detailed aircraft specification data files are now online on the AvPlan site, contributed by other AvPlan users. You can download and work with those files to save you much of the time and effort otherwise needed if you were starting from scratch.

The reward for this effort (especially for a high performance turbine aircraft like mine, where fuel burn changes radically with altitude) is that AvPlan can show you the best altitude to fly in order to optimise for time or fuel burn, by integrating aircraft performance with the  detailed wind data at all flight levels across your route. The money (in terms of saved fuel)  that this can save for a single flight, by choosing the best flight level, is typically well in excess of the annual cost for a full AvPlan subscription.

It also features advanced capabilities in terms of automatic determination of optimal IFR airway routing for your intended flight. If you want to modify the flight routing once initially chosen, you can edit waypoints on the flight plan window, or you can change the routing with simple drag-and-drop gestures right on the map.

After each routing change, all the related information about your flight (weight and balance, flight leg durations and fuel burn adjusted for en-route winds at your chosen flight level, impact on fuel reserves, etc etc) are dynamically re-calculated.

When ready, you can file your flight plan online with a couple of taps on the screen. Then you can create a PDF document package containing all of the necessary paperwork for your flight. That document can be printed, emailed, or forwarded into a PDF viewer app such as “Goodreader”.

AvPlan integrates a huge number of features and functions into one app that used to need a fistful of different apps to manage. And it has lots of other features, like Dropbox and Airdrop support.

My investment in AvPlan, then, is really is just an instance of putting my money where my mouth is. As I said up front, I’m passionate about both technology and aviation, and AvPlan links the two things together wonderfully… its a win-win :)

I’m really enjoying working with Bevan Anderson (the founder of AvPlan) on a heap of bright ideas that will make this great tool even greater over the coming years.

Those interested can click here to read the formal press release announcing the investment – it contains some further details about the deal that we’ve struck, and about AvPlan in general.

Simon and Bevan in front of VH-TCP

Bevan Anderson and Simon Hackett standing in front of Pilatus PC-12NG VH-TCP (Photo: Tony Lewis)

(All photos by Tony Lewis: http://www.tonylewis.com.au)

Flying in and out of Sydney International

In June 2013 I flew for the first time into Sydney International Airport (YSSY) in the PC-12, and then flew back home to Adelaide a week later.

Flying into YSSY is a different kettle of fish, compared to coming into smaller airports. It is ‘procedurally intense’. There is more going on, including more rapid-fire changes of radio frequency.

On the way in, you don’t just get sequenced from Centre to Approach to Tower to Ground, but there’s one more layer of radio (Sydney Director) added. There are also two tower frequencies and two ground frequencies. Its all about scale and volume…

Flight path into Sydney

Flight path into Sydney

Coming in, we were vectored out over the bay into a big descending teardrop pattern to line us up for Runway 34R. Getting from the runway to the parking area was done with great care – there are a lot of taxiways in Sydney, and some of them are ‘one way’ … and all of them seemed to have aircraft… BIG aircraft… moving around on them when I landed :)

For the flight home at the end of the week (YSSY back to YPAD), I had a friend on board who brought a GoPro camera with him.

Based on that footage, I’ve put together a couple of YouTube videos that show you the view from the cockpit, and what goes on in mechanical terms, to start the aircraft and depart, and later to land the aircraft and shut down.

Here’s the startup/takeoff video from Sydney:

And here’s the landing/shutdown video into Adelaide:

 

The visibility was much better than it appeared (though it was raining in Sydney). The GoPro is doing the best it can with the extreme difference in light level between the cockpit and the outside world, and as a result, the outside world component of the image is over-exposed.

Amongst the many nifty things in a modern glass cockpit, you can see on the main pilot displays that there is a computer rendition of the runway. This is ‘synthetic vision’ – a situational awareness enhancement that is essentially a flight sim running inside the display computer, verifying what you should see out of the window at the time – including runways, land, water, mountains, etc…

The landing into Adelaide was visual and again the visibility was much better than the video would make you think that it was. We got pushed around a bit on the approach due to a crosswind. You can see me having to work a bit to hold the aircraft on the approach path as a result, though it settled out well during the latter part of the approach and flare.

I do claim to be getting the hang of smooth landings in this aircraft at this point :)

The Man Who Climbed Mount Pilatus

Recently I took the editor of the Australian AOPA magazine, Kreisha Ballantyne, for a fly in my PC-12NG and she wrote a story about it for the magazine :)

She has kindly let me post the resulting magazine article online on my blog – so here it is!

Pilatus article from AOPA magazine  (PDF, 3 pages)

If you like this sort of article, please support AOPA Australia so they can write more of them!

PC-12 over Sydney Harbour

A few weeks ago, TCP was used for ground and flying sessions for an upcoming flying magazine article.

As part of that process, after taking shots inside and around the aircraft on the ground, John Absolon (who did the flying and the photography) went flying to Kangaroo Island to try the plane out for himself.

It was later flown to Sydney for air to air shots in the vicinity of the appropriate famous landmarks!

Unfortunately access restrictions due to the weather (specifically, strong winds driving limited runway selection at Sydney Airport) was such that it wasn’t possible to get right into the harbour as intended. There were still some great shots taken with the harbour in the background, taken from the vicinity of Chatswood.

You can see a selection of the photos taken on these days at John Absolon’s photoshelter site, here:

http://johnabsolon.photoshelter.com/gallery/Aviation-Magazine-Work/G0000W74PMn0PxC0/20

This is my favourite shot (with thanks to John Absolon for letting me post it here):

VH-TCP flying over Chatswood with Sydney harbour visible in the background