“…I got a Rattle Snake on the Airplane…”

There’s first dates, and then there’s ‘First Dates…’

Kim from Idaho got more than she bargained for when she accepted an invitation to go on a breakfast flight with her prospective beau, Kevin in his original Avid model 4 heavy hauler.

After a Friday evening familiarization, Kim’s nerves were quelled and the couple left the following morning to tour a friend’s ranch. JJ’s ranch has a 1000 foot strip at a place called Hesitation Point.

“The Avid is a heavy hauler with bush gear, bigger tyres and wheels for off-country excursions,” says Kevin. “I do a lot of mountain flying in back country strips. JJ jumped into his Cub and we flew to Murphy, Idaho for a nice breakfast. It was a beaut day, a little cool, and so we then went to the ranch to look at the spring and the Indian caves with pottery and a bunch of cool stuff.”

Kim was wearing flip-flops on the quarter-mile walk to the house and Kevin was in shorts and tennis shoes. Ironically, Kevin had asked JJ if there were many rattle snakes around out there in the Idaho desert.

Next stop was Black Rock Canyon and so after a quick pre-flight, Kevin strapped Kim in. She thought the muffler heater was working a little too well and so the couple was in and out of the plane a few times, taking off a jacket and Kevin straddling the wheel leg mucking around with the heater, stepping on and off the tyre. After the dust settled from JJ’s departure, Kevin followed.

“We are no more than airborne when Kim starts yelling, but she has no mic to her lips so I can’t hear what she’s saying. She’s pretty hysterical and then I realize she’s screaming, ‘There’s a snake on the plane!’ and I’m like, ‘NO WAY!’


I put her mic to her lips and I look out and can see what she’s seeing. I say, ‘it can’t get inside, so we’re safe. Get some pictures of it!’

I call JJ on the radio, who doesn’t believe it when I say, ‘I got a rattle snake on the airplane.”

JJ wanted us to fly up Black Rock Canyon, but Kim wasn’t concerned about sightseeing.”

“Flying is a new experience for me. I didn’t realize how much an airplane can do, like flying into places that are like taking a back road. Airborne out of Hesitation Point I saw the snake on the wheel. I freaked. I was surprised at how the snake curled up inside the wheel and comforted that it was out there and not inside with us. Then it was quite exciting watching the snake hanging on. This experience won’t stop me from flying, but it will make me more aware and cautious in future—particularly when we’re leaving Hesitation Point,” says Kim.

The snake, a three-foot rattler, was curled snug into the wheel rim and crawled out after takeoff. Kevin flew up the canyon and then back over the bunkhouse on JJ’s ranch where Kevin says that at 700ft the snake ‘went skydiving’ and he now teases JJ that it landed on top of his bunkhouse.

The Avid was back at the Nampa airport within 35 minutes and later that week at the regular Top Fun Fliers meeting Kevin did a presentation about preflights and being careful around your wheels in the desert. He also recommended to pilots that they make a habit of keeping their doors closed because the snakes are seeking warmth and … (oooh—it doesn’t bear thinking about).

“He was just hanging on the gear leg and he seemed a little irritated. The way he was coiled I thought he was going to stay there so I was relieved when he finally bailed off. I’m sure gonna check the plane a little better in future.” says Kevin.

Kim wouldn’t deplane until the airplane was certain to be free of its third passenger.

The Top Fun Fliers will soon be having a fly-in to Hesitation Point—so named because the strip is only suitable for extremely short-field operations. It has since been unofficially renamed Rattlesnake Ranch.

To Kevin’s delight, Kim returned for a second date and they now regularly fly away together.


AvPlan EFB users who need to find your nearest airport quickly, use the rubber band function on the map and drag it to the nearest airport and hold for a couple of seconds. The nearest airport information will be displayed.


AvPlan EFB 5.3

AvPlan EFB 5.3 is now available from the Apple App Store as a free update for all users. AvPlan EFB 5.3 adds support for the WiFi interface for Dynon Skyview and AFS AF-5000 non-certified avionics. Additionally we have completely revised the flight plan/nav log printout, added a 3nm distance ring around your position and added the METAR colour code to the nearest items display.

AvPlan Omni has had a major new addition – the ability to wirelessly send flight plans to Dynon Skyview and AFS AF-5000 displays. The Dynon Skyview/AFS AF-5000 interface allows you to send a flight plan to your panel seamlessly via WiFi. Additionally, when connected, AvPlan EFB can use the GPS position from your Dynon Skyview instead of the in-built GPS. All that is required is the WiFi interface for your Dynon/AFS unit, which retails for approximately $35 USD. Tap Settings, External Devices to enable the Skyview/AFS interface. Once enabled, tap the Send button under the flight plan and ‘Send Flight Plan to Dynon’.

The flight plan/nav log printout has had a major update in AvPlan EFB 5.3. There are a bunch of improvements such as;

  • Corrected issues with printing flight plans across multiple page
  • Report now prints fuel data for all stages
  • Reformatted report, including flight plan delays
  • Added footer and header details
    – Aircraft Registration
    – Flight Plan Description
    – ETD Data
    – Print the date
    – Page N of N pagination
    – Routing for entire flight plan
    – Better pagination
  • Thumbnails for weather and load sheet
  • Toggle All button added print preview (affects all but first container)
  • Reformatted SARTIME information

We have added a 3NM distance ring around your aircraft. We see the primary users of this feature to be UAV operators. You can now see at a glance if you are within 3NM of an airport.

AvPlan EFB 5.3 also adds a bunch of little tweaks, improvements and fixes;

  • The IR satellite view is now 100% opaque, so there is better contrast with the underlying map
  • Your callsign is now sent with AvPlan Live, and can be tracked online
  • ‘Comms’ is now hidden under Terminal for areas we don’t have data
  • Quick plan entry now works for multi-stage flight plans
  • Auto-routing fixes for places where there are not many IFR routes
  • Fixes for old data purging
  • Send all data to device works under Settings, Data Downloads
  • Improvements to cross device data syncing.
  • Aircraft tracks correctly on rotated geo-referenced charts
  • Fixes for aircraft flight track when crossing the date line from west to east
  • Fix for selecting a favorite plate when the same chart exists for multiple airports


A closer look at Airspace

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the Nearest Items popup.  That was a single tap on the map, and shows all things to do with the ground.  Now, it’s time to look at all things in the air – otherwise known as the Select Airspace popup.

The Select Airspace popup appears any time you double-tap the map:

Double tap the map.













You can do this anywhere, and on any map.  Displayed in the resultant list will include all of the known airspace (other than Class G) above that very point.

Tapping any of the entries will momentarily highlight them on the map.  For example, here’s a class C step around Brisbane:














At the bottom of the list in the above picture, you’ll note there are three different kinds of airspace.  The ‘FIA’ entry will display the area frequency for that area.  The class ‘E’ frequency can also be confirmed here too.  Any time you wish to confirm the correct frequencies, you can quickly double-tap near your current position. It also works in New Zealand for the MBZ frequencies:













A little known ability of the Select Airspace popup in Australia is it’s a manual way to request an Area Forecast.  Note that the Forecast Area entry also has a ‘>’ symbol on its right.  This shows you not only the area boundaries, but the Weather pane will be opened and moments later (if you’re connected to data) the selected area forecast will appear.

Area Forecast













Finally, and probably most importantly, you can select PRD areas to find out further details about them and their status.














When flying in the United States, being aware of Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) is very important:













Finally, to dismiss the Select Airspace popup, simply tap anywhere outside it.  It works both during the planning phase, and in flight.

Remember: single-tap for the nearest ground-based items (airports, navaids, etc), double-tap to find out about the airspace above.


AvPlan EFB and iOS 9

Today, Apple have released iOS9 for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. We’ve done a bunch of testing and believe AvPlan EFB is fully functional on this new release. You will see some additional performance improvements and all the weather animations are now incredibly smooth.

We sill recommend caution and advise all those who update to iOS 9 only do so one one of their devices, and leave any backup devices for a number of weeks. If you are about to depart on a long trip, maybe delay updating your device until your return.

Adding an Alternate

Having an appropriate alternate in your flight plan is an important part of being prepared.  Thankfully, AvPlan EFB makes it easy to add and have the fuel calculations in place, should your plan A not work out as expected.

After completing the main part of your flight plan (i.e.  your departure airport, destination airport and intermediate waypoints as needed), tap the plus above the flight plan.














In the ‘Add Track Point’ popup, ensure the switch is set to Alternate. You can then type in the name or airport code.  From the results, tap the blue plus next to the desired airport.  If you have the flight plan set to IFR, you’ll be given the option to select connecting routes (just like when planning to your primary).




























Your alternate will now be submitted as part of the flight plan.  Each stage in a multi-stage flight plan can have an alternate.  Alternates are also not limited to IFR planning – they can be added to VFR plans, too (handy for night VFR!).

While in flight, having made the decision that your primary is no longer appropriate, you can activate navigation to your alternate by either tapping the Next Leg button (top-centre of En Route pane) or pressing and holding the first alternate line in the flight log then selecting Activate Leg from the Leg Settings menu.


Avplan EFB and Angel Flights

John Emerson discusses his Angel Flight experiences and his lifelong love of flying and Robyn.

For a private pilot, John Emerson from Rothbury, NSW has done a pretty good job of racking up 1700 hours since he got his licence 20 years ago. And his wife Robyn has done a great job flying 1500 of those hours as his committed copilot.

“I love flying,” says Robyn. “I used to hop in the back when John was having his lessons. We always fly together and I take an interest with fuel monitoring and inflight catering.”

Of all those hours, the pair agree that the most memorable and fulfilling flying has been on their 87 Angel Flights. John had read about American Angel Flight and decided to investigate the Australian option.

“We always fly together,” says Robyn, “and I think, for the Angel Flight passengers, it’s reassuring for me to be there.”

“The kids love Angel Flights,” says John who jokingly refers to Robyn as his flight nurse. “And because I have to extend my seat back to accommodate my long legs, I position the kids behind me. They’re always happy and excited and looking over my shoulder for the landing. The mothers say the kids usually haven’t slept the whole night prior, due to the excitement. We get a lot of satisfaction out of doing the flights. Country people do it tough when a child is ill; they’re so brave and stoic. It’s a pleasure for us to do it.”

But flying for John began long before his powered training in 1995.

“I was interested in aviation and the cheapest and easiest way of getting into it was to learn gliding, which I did in 1980. I found it fascinating and within 5 days a handful of us had gone solo. You glide at 45 knots and the stall is at 42 kts, so you’re always flying around very close to the stall. Every time you go up with an instructor, you do continual stalls and so become expert at, rather than frightened of it. I did about 16 gliding hours around Camden over those few years.”

Like many (or is it most) private pilots, it was once their daughter had left home that John turned his attention to powered flying.

“Going solo in a powered aircraft was just as interesting to me 15 years later. You have to grow up fast flying, because you have to get it right. When I was considering my post-school options, that was the first year that Qantas took no cadets, so I studied civil engineering.”

A couple of years on, during a trip to Adelaide, John saw the Trinidad and Tobago and used them for his IFR training. Then he bought a Trinidad! And this is what he and Robyn have flown all over Australia and that they use for the Angel flights.

“The kids are very good,” says John. One time we were near Lithgow with a little aboriginal boy and his mum. ATC asked if we could identify an oncoming aircraft. We couldn’t see it but the little boy had sharp eyes and piped up, ‘There it is!’ They all take an interest and listen in the headphones. Another little girl from Lightning Ridge was the sickest kid we’ve had but she was such a funny little girl who was obviously used to speaking on the radio and she prompted me by saying, ‘Now John. When talking on the radio, you have to say Roger. Over and Out’.”

John and Robyn have just returned from the Kimberleys. They’ve flown around Australia a couple of times, and always they carry an ipad each.

“I’ve found Avplan a great product. Initially, I was impressed by its IFR capabilities and have used it ever since. I got the ipad when it first came out and I met Bevan at airshows. I love that if there’s a glitch, I email the office and its fixed immediately. The customer service is exemplary,” says John.

The Trinidad is now a paperless cockpit, though it took Robyn a while to warm to the idea.

“We slowly got rid of the paper maps and charts, but I used to sneak in the ERSA. I’m now completely cured though,” she says.


Quickly Accessing BOD/EOD details for your destination.

There are many reasons why pilots should be aware of daylight hours – particularly Day VFR pilots.

If you’re ever wondering what time is official End of Daylight, you can quickly access this by tapping the corresponding line in your flight plan.  This is a little shortcut to accessing Terminal information about a place that’s in your flight plan.

AvPlan EFB will open the Terminal Pane.  Make sure you are looking at the ‘Weather/NOTAMS’ page within the Terminal pane – if you’ve been looking at airport diagrams/plates previously, they might be still displayed.  Simply swipe from left-to-right (possibly a couple of times) to get back to the Weather/NOTAMS page.  Or you could use the ‘three finger tap’ shortcut – see this earlier tip.



The above data is available to you regardless if you are in the air or on the ground; connected to data or not.  In the air, you can compare your expected arrival time with EOD and make an early decision to divert and land early if you’re not going to make your intended destination within safe light limits.