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Pilot-Friendly GPS Manuals Should Be Written by Pilots

While GPS systems are commonplace, pilots are intimately familiar with the systems. If you're a pilot, it's likely that you wish the things weren't so darn difficult to figure out and that their manuals were more pilot-friendly. If you feel like this, you're not alone. It's never ceased to amaze me how some high-tech equipment, often life-saving high-tech equipment, comes with manuals of such widely varying quality and clarity. Sometimes the writing is incomprehensible, sometimes the formatting is unreadable, and sometimes the content just doesn't make the grade. The information may be all there, but the tech writers who wrote it never seem to have seen the cockpit of a plane themselves.

What's needed, really, are manuals that are written for pilots by a pilot. Pilots are used to learning and executing procedures in a very structured way, and the GPS manuals we use should consider that and provide that. I am not saying the manuals that come with the Bendix/King, Garmin, Lowrance and other popular aviation GPS units are inadequate. In fact, many are very good. It's just that very few appear specifically written for pilots by someone who knows what it actually feels like to fly a plane.

Why do I consider this so important? Well, obviously knowing how to operate your GPS and make it do what you need for it to do is quite important, and there's simply no room for frustration caused by inadequate manuals. From personal experience you probably also know that human beings, the creatures of habit that we are, often pick up the bare minimum on how to use or operate something, and then never make another effort to learn more. That may work for some, but it inevitably means you're neither taking full advantage of your equipment, nor are you likely operating it as efficiently and productively as is possible. A lot of the electronic gear we use in our lives can do a lot more than we use it for, and the reason for this underutilization is almost always due to poor or inadequate training and manuals.

So what should you be looking for in truly pilot-friendly manuals? First, it should have step-by-step, task-oriented instructions covering all common (and not-so-common) GPS operations. And those instructions should be written in good, plain, direct and easy-to-follow English. Second, in an era where almost everything is delivered electronically or on a CD/DVD, GPS manuals for pilots are still best provided in good old-fashioned printed form, with large type and bound so you can lay the manual down flat. This way you won't be out of luck if your computer won't boot, its battery is dead, or you are flying and don't even have your computer with you. This way, you won't ever find yourself in a position where you urgently need directions or help but, unfortunately, the directions or help are on a dead computer.

It really shouldn't be asking too much to expect pilot-friendly clearly written, properly structured, and helpfully illustrated manuals with all the wonderful aviation GPS technology that's available today. Manuals that are actually written for pilots by pilots. Aftermarket to the rescue, I say. A bit of poking around online actually does reveal such manuals for most of the common aviation GPS units. Finding the one you need is time well spent.

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