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Electronic E6B on the Checkride

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
IFR Checkride Reviewer, April, 2009
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Checkride Tools:  GPS on the Checkride | E6B on the Checkride | Visi-Plotter | Visi-Hold

This article is the second of two articles eschewing modern technologies in the conduct of checkrides.  The theory has always been that you'd be in real trouble of any of the battery operated pilot tools died during crunch time.  It's the same reason we've always carried more than one flashlight, pen/pencil, etc. I've had a number of students show up to ground school and checkrides with an electronic flightcomputer/e6b.  Now I'm not against modern tools, but I have always counseled students to avoid becoming dependent on electronic devices.  The electronic flightcomputer/e6b makes things easy by doing a number of calculations easily without really knowing how to perform the calculation.  That's a nice shortcut that can save time. 

But all in all, its still a shortcut.  Shortcuts aren't all that bad are they?  There are great programs on the market that will not only check the weather, but create a navigation long, maps, and approach plates for a given cross country.  All you have to do is tell the computer when and where you're going.  For me, that's a fantastic shortcut.  Of course I know how to do it the old-school way and I'm just as good as the computer in producing the products needed to be safe and legal during a cross country flight.  I keep those skills sharp by not using the automated tools all the time.  I must say that while I've certainly tried the electronic flightcomputer/e6b, I don't own one.  For me, the traditional E6B is the right price, works every time, and doesn't use batteries.

Kevin writes:
No flight computer on an IFR checkride? I would find another examiner. I believe the checkride should match what a pilot will normally be doing. Yes, I understand that he needs to know how to do some backup items, but taking a checkride in a G1000 and using a manual E6B to me seems like practicing ADF procedures.

Kevin, thanks for your email.  Your oral exam (during which you might use the e6b) will not likely have the G1000 panel available.  In flight, you would obviously use the G1000 but should also be able to use an e6b.  Just like you should be able to do a GPS approach, and just like you should be able to do a VOR with raw data (i.e. G1000 moving map failed).

Why stop at an electronic E6B though?  Why not bring a laptop to the checkride with any of the commercial flight planning packages?  Not only on the oral, but many laptops are small enough you should be able to use during flight.  With so many attachments available, you could have an external GPS attached to help you there too.  That would help you judge remaining fuel and other flight planning considerations.  Of course these electronic devices do not prove you know how to perform flight planning.  The use of a nav log and an old-school E6B proves it without a doubt, and they're hard for an examiner to "fail" during your checkride.

Online, "Eclipse" says:
With a little bit of practice, you can use an E6-B faster than a calculator since you won't need to push a lot of buttons.  This will also make it easier to use in an actual airplane, especially in IFR conditions.  E6Bs also do not need batteries, and give you as much accuracy as you need.  Why do professional schools still use it?  Cause airline pilots still use it!  Take the time to learn it and you'll be a better pilot!

I happen to agree with Eclipse and believe that all students should learn and demonstrate flight planning with an E6B. Rob asks, "The manual E6B is driving me crazy. I'm sure I can pick it up eventually, but would like to buy an electronic one. I know that you can use them on the written. Are they forbidden on checkrides?" 

I can't find any documentation which says an electronic flight computer/e6b is not permitted during the oral or practical phase of a checkride.  So I called one of my favorite examiners and he says, "I will always 'fail' the electronic gadgets to determine if the applicant really knows how to perform flight planning without a computer."   The examiner must be able to determine where pilot skill ends and technical intelligence picks up. 

Rob's trouble is that he doesn't have a strong understanding of what it measures, how it works, how that information is important, and how fits in with the larger flight planning puzzle.  A solid training session on flight planning will correct these deficiencies and turn Rob into an E6B fanatic.

The bottom line is that if you are able to explain and demonstrate the calculations you'd use for flight planning, then there isn't any reason why you shouldn't use an electronic shortcut.  This statement assumes that you'll stay current on your old-school E6B and nav log so that your skill is maintained and you'll be able to use it when the batteries fail on electronic one.

NEXT:  GPS on the Checkride >>

 "What is chiefly needed is skill rather than machinery." — Wilbur Wright, 1902 

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