Tools for the Beleaguered Pilot

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This page last updated on 07/08/2017.

Copyright 2001-2017 by Russ Meyer


I frequently struggle with various little issues that arise in planning and executing a flight.  I don't know if these struggles are just a symptom of my mental limitations or what.  The problems involved are usually pretty simple, but for some reason, I often make stupid mistakes.  These problems typically involve:

  • Weight and Balance
  • Time computations
  • Remembering V-speeds
  • Selecting a proper altitude based on winds aloft

Over the years, I've come up with a variety of little tools to help me with these issues.  I share them here on the chance some other hapless pilot might find them useful.

These tools all have associated files you can download.  The files are not available directly from my web site because they collectively take up too much space.  Instead, just click a link to get the file.  When you click the link, a pre-formatted E-mail will appear.  Don't alter the E-mail contents...just click "SEND."  After a few minutes, you'll receive an automated E-mail reply with the file attached.

WARNING:  No warranty is expressed or implied as to the fitness of the following items for any particular purpose.  They are not recommended for any application at all.  These items should not be used in any way to support any decision making process..  They are worth exactly what your paid for them...$0.00.

Weight and Balance

I've created a number of Excel workbooks for various aircraft to assist in assessing weight and balance situations.  You can move loads around, change weights, and instantly see the results on a Center of Gravity Moment Envelope.

Time Computations

I just seem incapable of working time computations in my head.  When I try, I get it wrong half the time.  After years of unfortunate errors, I finally gave up and made a few tools to help me.  They're just simple circular slide rules that add and subtract hours or minutes.  One is specialized for converting GMT to local time and the other is used to compute ETA.  Click on a link to get a Word document containing assembly instructions, a cut-out template for the slide rules, and operating instructions:

I also came up with a table to convert back and forth between various time zones and GMT.  I have it tacked up to my bullentin board at work for quick reference.  It's just a simple table in Microsoft Excel.  Just download and print it.  It's color coded, so a color printer is preferred:

Winds Aloft Analysis

I've done some cross countries over sparsely populated routes.  There weren't too many airports and I had to carry partial fuel to save weight.  As a result, the winds aloft became very important as to whether I could make it to the next airport or not.  I created a winds aloft Excel workbook to help me assess the wind situation.  It downloads winds aloft from the ADDS web site.  You may then select a winds aloft station nearest your route, enter your airspeed, enter your true heading, and the workbook will calculate your resulting ground speed at various altitudes.  It will also recommend an altitude to optimize ground speed over your route.  Click on the link to get the Winds Aloft Excel workbook:

Airspeed Cards

I have flown a variety of aircraft and find it valuable to use an airspeed card to refer to important airspeeds.  I've made airspeed cards for each aircraft I fly.  I carry the appropriate card on every flight, keeping it handy in the cockpit.  I've found them very useful as a reminder of the correct airspeed for each phase of flight.

All of the airspeed cards are available as Word documents.  Just print the document, cut out the card templates, and paste them to the front & back of a piece of poster board.  It makes a nice two-sided airspeed card you can carry in your flight bag.  I usually laminate two or three pieces of poster board for extra stiffness.  Click on a link to get the appropriate airspeed card: