Flight Operations - Electronic Flight Charts and Publications

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Pilots who use Canadian Aviation Regulation (CAR)602.60(1)(b) for bedtime reading know that under certain conditions, this regulation requires pilots of power-driven aircraft to take along aeronautical charts and publications. That's pretty logical and pretty easy. In the olden days, pilots understood the need for maps and stuff like the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS), the Canada Air Pilot (CAP), and anything else needed for the flight. The biggest questions were "Do I have everything I need?" "Are my publications and charts current?" and "Can I carry this much weight on board?"

Now, another question gets asked: "Can I use electronic aeronautical publications and charts?" The answer is, "of course." Pilots need safety information for their flights. If an electronic device contains the necessary information and can display it to the pilot, the requirement is met. After all, the root of the word "publication" is "public," not "printed."

However, there are some points you should think about before throwing away those paper publications in favour of electronic ones:

  • The regulation (and common sense) calls for "current" charts and publications. That GPS unit with its database of aerodrome information was probably current when new, but it may be out of date now. Even electronic data have to be kept current.
  • If the unit is battery-powered, think about spare batteries. Depending on the kind of batteries the unit uses, there may be a limit to how many you can carry before those spare batteries become dangerous goods.
  • If the electronic device is handheld, things are pretty simple. If you bolt it onto the aircraft, it's called a "modification," and you need approval; if you connect it to some of the aircraft's systems, depending on the extent of the connection, you may also need approval. In either case, it would be a good idea to check first with someone who knows about airworthiness matters.
  • Most of us think of portable electronic devices as CD players, computers and printers that passengers bring on board. CAR602.08 deals with all portable electronic devices - even ones pilots take along to use during flight. The regulation puts the onus on aircraft operators to make sure that portable electronic devices don't impair the functioning of other aircraft systems or equipment.

"Can I use electronic aeronautical charts and publications?" Absolutely! Check that the electronic information is current. Make sure the device doesn't run out of power. Confirm that it doesn't interfere with the aircraft's other systems. If you plan to connect the device to the aircraft in any way, take care that the work is done properly.

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