A flight computer is an indispensable tool for every student pilot. But which one to get? Should you buy an electronic one, or just an analog rotating E6B computer? Read on!
"A flight computer is a form of circular slide rule used in aviation and one of a very few analog computers in widespread use in the 21st century." - Wikipedia
Flight computers are also often called by their model names, such as E6B (most popular), CR or CRP-5. They are mostly used in flight training, but many pilots still carry and use flight computers. As with anything, analog tools are often being replaced with electronic versions, although it's quite remarkable an analog rotating 'computer' is still being so widely used in 2019.
They can be used to calculate fuel burn, wind correction, time en route, and other useful data. In the air, the flight computer can be used to calculate ground speed, estimated fuel burn and updated estimated time of arrival. The back is designed for wind correction calculations.
Basically, there exist two main versions of a flight computer. You can either buy the standard analog often circular slide rule that's practically being used for as long as aviation exists, or you can opt for the more modern electronic version.
Most flight schools will include the analog one, as you are expected to know how to use it. Of course, you are free to use the electronic version as well, which allows for easier and faster calculations.
While you can get an analog flight computer for as little as $13, electronic flight computers could set you back a little more.
Important to note is that electronic flight computers can be used on FAA exams but pilots are still expected to know how to use the analog version.
One of the most popular analog models is the E6B flight computer.
A popular electronic option is the ASA CX-3 electronic flight computer.
Although most flight computers offer very similar functions, not all have the same capabilities. In general, electronic flight computers offer a little more flexibility and the ability to perform more extensive and complicated calculations.
Luckily, all flight computers come with some sort of quick start guide and manual to explain every function and calculation.
This is the flight computer I personally used during my flight training.
It's easy to use and read, has a clear instruction booklet and comes with a handy case to store it in your flight bag.
The E6B Metal Flight Computer can perform multiple calculations ranging from basic arithmetic and flight planning problems to complex in-flight computations. The calculator side of the computer uses conventional slide rule procedures to solve for multiplication, division, and unit conversion and employs scales for performing time, speed, distance, rate, fuel consumption, altitude, airspeed, air temperature, and pressure pattern calculations. The wind side of the computer provides a graphic method of solving problems and displaying the answers in a useful form. Use the wind side for simple addition and subraction problems and also to solve for true wind, winds in flight, true course and ground speed, true heading and true airspeed, and off-course correction calculations. The matte finish on the wind side of the calculator can be marked with a pencil during use, and easly wiped clean to allow input for the next problem.
The E6B Metal Flight Computer is a great tool to use during flight planning, flight training or studying, and may be used during FAA written knowledge exams.
This is the color version of the above-mentioned ASA E6B flight computer. Enhanced with color allows for even easier readability. It includes a vinyl case and instruction booklet as well.
If you're looking for a more compact flight computer, this E6B circular flight computer might be a good option.
Compact and lightweight at just 6" (diameter) and 0.7 lbs, this colorful whiz wheel will serve you well in even the tightest of cockpit configurations. The calculator side makes it a cinch to perform time, speed, and distance calculations; determine fuel consumption; convert between units of measurement; compensate for the effects of ambient temperature and pressure; and much more. Flip the device over and the wind side allows you to determine your crosswind component, wind correction angle, groundspeed, and a host of other need-to-know performance parameters. Its matte finish allows you to mark on it with a pencil and easily wipe away when you're done.
This flight computer is also approved for use on FAA knowledge tests.
Looking for a light-weight version? Then you should check out ASA's paper version of its popular E6B Flight Computer.
Made from solid, heavyweight fiberboard, an economical version of the aluminum model described above including all its problem-solving features.
Contrary to what the above-mentioned list may suggest, ASA is not the only brand that makes flight computers.
This Jeppesen student flight computer offers all the same functions, it conforms to the instructions and examples in Jeppesen manuals, workbooks and audiovisual programs.
The CX-3 Flight Computer makes flight planning simple by taking confusion out of the equation. Fast, versatile and easy to use, the CX-3 delivers accurate results quickly and efficiently.
Besides the functions mentioned below, it features a protective cover, Night and Day views, control of the brightness of the screen, illuminated buttons, a Favorite feature and Aircraft profiles.
It can be used on all FAA and Canadian pilot, mechanic, and dispatcher knowledge exams.
Multiple aviation functions can be performed on the CX-3 flight computer including those related to time, speed, distance, heading, wind, fuel, altitude, cloud base, standard atmosphere, glide, climb & descent, weight & balance, as well as a holding pattern function to help determine entry method and holding details. A calculator, clock, timer and stopwatch are also built in along with mutliple settings for lighting, backlighting, themes, scrolling speed, time zones and more.
A second electronic flight computer that's a great options is the Sporty’s Electronic E6Bs.
Over 240,000 pilots have trusted this flight computer over the years for fast flight planning and accurate FAA test calculations. Its pilot-friendly design makes quick work of any navigational, weight and balance, or fuel problem, and it also performs conventional arithmetic calculations.
The Sporty's Electronic E6B Flight computer is approved for use on all FAA Tests.
Last updated on November 19, 2019 by Senne Vandenputte
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