Don’t you just love it when someone starts a conversation with this?

“Kids these days need to keep their heads outside! Watch for traffic. They’re too busy looking at screens and following the magenta line.”

You’ve heard some variation of this. Maybe you’re the one saying it.

Age is a poor qualifier for most things. Experience and age are NOT the same things. I know plenty of 65-year-olds who have been running the rat race during the day and go home to watch TV, which results in little life experience to lean on.

Somehow they’ve actively avoided learning a damn thing.

When I hear “kids spend all of their time flying by looking at a screen” I can’t help but roll my eyes.

I learned to fly 4 years ago. I was right on that edge where flight training was done on paper charts with a plotter and an E6B. My instructor was very curious about Electronic Flight Bags and they were widely available, but I still had to do things by hand.

You know what? I think the “old way” is actually considerably less safe. The problem is that people with this old way attitude just haven’t spent any time TRAINING on this new fangled technology.

Juggling a plotter, a pencil, an E6B, a kitchen timer on my lap while trying to determine my closest divert on a paper chart took… a while. WAY longer than glancing at ForeFlight on my iPad and pinching with two fingers to find me a rough distance and heading.

Let’s have a contest. You and I fly in a simulator side by side. You use an E6B (and the slide rule kind, if you’re gonna be a Luddite, there’s no electronic version for you). I’ll not only beat you to the solution, thereby allowing less head down time and more time looking for traffic and flying the plane, I’ll be more accurate.

BUT WHAT IF YOUR IPAD FAILS?

Whatever.

Can it fail? Sure it can. I also have a smartphone in my pocket, and an EFIS in the panel with the same information. When flying with friends we often chuckle about this. It’s not uncommon to have 6 or 7 ways to get this information in the plane. You mean to tell me that they are ALL going to fail? I have AT LEAST two sets of charts with me this way.

DO YOU HAVE 2 SETS OF PAPER CHARTS?

No, you don’t. And what if you spill coffee on your paper charts? Do you have 6 backups?

BUT WHAT IF GPS GOES DOWN?

Okay, fair question.

First, my EFB doesn’t stop working when GPS signal is not available. I still have the charts, landmarks, and other resources.

And I still have a compass and I know the general direction don’t I? Oh, and don’t forget that VORs fail and are subject to interference. As an aside, I also have a VOR receiver in my handheld backup radio, so there’s navigation redundancy number 8. And I have two built in radios and a handheld.

Do I think there’s value in understanding HOW we came up with those numbers your EFB gives you? Of course I do. Do I NEED that manual calculation ability to be a safe pilot? I’m not sure. I don’t NEED to know how to calculate my wing’s critical angle of attack to be able to safely fly the plane, so how is this any different?

Sometimes I think we like to point at the new thing and make fun of it to protect our egos.

Imagine the horseshoe maker who pointed at the Wright Brothers and laughed.

We always long for “the way it was”.

Do I think that doing it “the old way” makes you a safer pilot? Not even close.