Flying in to watch the Badminton Horse Trials was my first opportunity to use my PDA/GPS in the air and had a number of advantages, among them, the not-insignificant fact that I already knew the way and wouldn’t even feel remotely reliant on the thing! It also left my sister’s hands free to potch with the thing while I flew if it didn’t work straight off the bat.
I did have some initial problems getting going. I don’t think I gave it long enough to acquire satellites before blatting off, and finding a position in the cockpit in which it would hold a signal reliably needed a bit of trial and error. I think the best option will be to get one of the window mounted “sucker” cradle, so I can plonk it on the window. The Garmins that most of my flying mates use, rest handily on the instrument coaming, but as the GPS is essentially flat, I’d need a periscope to see it if I did that!
On the way back, I let it sit and pick up satellites while I went through a leisurely check and watched the line of aircraft ahead of us depart, and things went more to plan.
The battery comfortably lasted the hour there and back and about another hour in the car home, while I fiddled and took some rather wobbly photographs. (With sister driving!)
The first is the moving map (There’s actually two and you can set different scales and levels of detail on each which had the potential to be incredibly useful). The backlight here is set to max for the purposes of the photograph but it was usable at a much lower (and less battery guzzling setting). In fact, even when the backlight kicked into power-saver mode it required only a slight tilt and squint for a quick check on position. On a sun-and-showers day it was easy enough to read, though in sunnier moments there was some glare.
The default colour of the plot plane is green when it’s got a 3D fix and red when it’s got a 2D fix and black when no fix, but I think I’m going to swap them around. 2 D is better than nothing and red is too alarming somehow!
The second photo is the default set of onscreen buttons. These were still “pokeable” with a finger even on a mildly turbulent day (though I’ll need some good screen cleaner!). I understand that it’s possible to customise the layout of these. So far I’ve been using it mostly in portrait mode, partly because the button size is larger that way. It works OK landscape, but does add the need to scroll things like the flightplanning window, which can be quite “busy” anyway. You can also see a bit of glare and reflection on the screen here.
I think the current estimate of battery time on my monitor software is a bit pessimistic, but the help file assures me that it adapts to your own normal usage and gets more accurate over time. Veering on the stingy side I never buy accessories upfront, prefering to muddle along for a while and figure out what I really want/need as I go. But, in addition to the mounting kit, I’ve seen a handy on-the-go charger which will take a couple of AA batteries, which looks incredibly handy and not at all dear.
In general I’m still pretty happy. Now I’ve got everything “settled down” I haven’t crashed the thing again, although I have found that, (as PocketFMS suggest) things run more smoothly if the PDA gets a soft reset before running it. Happily one of the bits of extra utility software has an onscreen button for reset, to save the “stick the end of the pen in the tiny hole” performance every time.