CoPilot Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ, for both the CoPilot flight planning program and the CoPilot Waypoint Generator web site, is maintained by Paul Tomblin. If you have any questions or suggestions for the FAQ, email me.

General Questions

How do I keep informed about updates in the program or the waypoint generator?

There is a "announcement" mailing list which the author of the CoPilot program and the author of the waypoint generator use to tell interested people about updates. You can subscribe to the list by going to this link and entering your email address and a password. This password is emailed to you every month in case you forget, so don't use a password that you use for other things, as it's not very secure. The mailing list has the option to request specific topics. There are two topics in use here - "CoPilot" for announcements about the program itself, and "Generators" for announcements about the waypoint generator web site and data sources.

Questions About the Program

What is CoPilot?

CoPilot is probably the best Palm OS flight planning program in existence. I've tried several of the commercial Palm OS flight planning programs and none of them was as good as CoPilot. This program will do flight planning, weight and balance, and many E6B calculations as well or better as any other Palm Pilot flight planning program. And best of all, this one is free.

Who is responsible for the program?

Laurie Davis (lauriedavis9@yahoo.com) wrote the CoPilot program, and generously made it available for free.

What's this about shareware fee now?

Laurie has finally realized that people love his program enough that they might be willing to help cover all the expenses he's incurred developing it. But he wants the program to be free and the donations to be voluntary, so you can either download the complete program, or "buy" the exact same program through PalmGear and Handango.

Where can I get the latest version?

At the time of this update, the current version is 5.3 It's important that you keep up with the latest version because the waypoint generator always generates for the latest version. The latest version is always available at Handango or PalmGear HQ.

Is Laurie a man or a woman?

Laurie is a man.

Why does my database take so long to load?

Palm OS has a lot of overhead storing each record. I haven't done precise timing, but it appears that the time is actually a factor of the square of the number of records. Loading a database of all the airports and navaids in Canada and the US took over 3 hours with a Handspring Visor and a serial cradle, and over 2 hours with a USB cradle. Syncing also sucked the batteries down, so I recommend a fresh set of batteries if your Palm OS PDA doesn't recharge in the cradle.

Why doesn't my enormous database load?

CoPilot uses some Palm OS graphical elements that have a maximum limit of 32,768 (215) records. If you load a database bigger than that, it won't work right. The waypoint generator now refuses to make a database bigger than that.

Why isn't it accepting my flight plan leg?

If you enter a waypoint id that doesn't exist in your database, CoPilot won't accept the leg. This is especially important when you enter the first leg, because it automatically enters the Homebase for the aircraft you're using as the start of the leg, and if that Homebase isn't an existing waypoint, you'll get the error message when you try and enter the leg. Version 3.1 and later check that the waypoint you enter for Homebase is valid before it enters it into the route.

Why is it putting a letter at the beginning of the waypoint entry field?

CoPilot checks for consistent use of any initial letter in your waypoints, and attempts to help you by pre-entering the initial letter. This is a big advantage if you're like most pilots who don't fly across the border a lot.

Can I load the database into my removable memory (Compact Flash, Memory Stick, MMC, etc)?

Yes, if you tell the generator to generate for "Memory Card" the database will automatically be loaded into your external memory if you have CoPilot version 4.6 or later. This file will have an extension of .way. Don't change this or it might not load correctly. Also in CoPilot 4.6+, there is an option to move an existing database into your memory card.

I generated a database for "Memory Card", and CoPilot can't see it.

(Note: This only works if you're using CoPilot 4.6 or newer.) Because of the way the hotsync conduits are set up, it appears that you have to install CoPilot and run it at least once, and hotsync at least once, before you can attempt to load the database.

Can I print my flight plan?

CoPilot version 3.1 and later can print to IR equipped printers if you have PalmPrint or TealPrint. It can also export it into a memo field or into the clipboard if you want to paste it into another application.

Can I load more than one database into CoPilot?

Version 3.2 and later support two databases, one loaded from outside ("System") and one for points you've entered manually ("User"). There is no way to load the second "User" database. The Waypoint Generator optionally allows you to generate a database that gets added to the existing System database instead of replacing it, if you choose the "add-on" database option.

Why did my old points go away when I loaded a generated database?

Because your old points were stored in the "System" database instead of the "User" database. Sorry, you should have been more careful and put your personal points in the "User" database.

If I load a new database, what will happen to my routes?

If both the old and the new database come from the Waypoint Generator, and they both contain the waypoints that are on the route, the route should continue to work. But you may have to reenter the waypoints. Older generated databases may have trouble with routes that contain fixes with names of 5 characters or more, but database generated after about the time CoPilot 4.1 came out will work.

I'm getting an error on my Handspring Visor Prism - something about "unlock out of sync? addresses reset too soon"

This is a known error in the Handspring version of Palm OS. See the Handspring support site for a fix.

Can I beam information from CoPilot to anther PDA?

Beaming individiual data items (Pilots, Waypoints, Planes) was added in CoPilot version 3.3.

There are third party programs (such as Filez) that allow you to beam whole databases. You can beam the pilot database, the waypoint database, the user waypoint database, or the aircraft database. The other databases (flight, +route, weight and balance , and flight plan) are a bit trickier since they must be treated as a single unit. These file utility programs can only beam an entire database. This will replace the ENTIRE database, erasing any data that is already there.

Are there plans to port the program to PocketPC

Not currently. Laurie programs on Macintosh, and Paul programs on Linux. Since PocketPC won't sync with either Macintosh or Linux, neither of us is likely to be buying PocketPC PDAs any time soon.

Questions About the Waypoint Generator

What is the Waypoint Generator?

If you've got CoPilot already, you will have noticed that its major flaw is that it doesn't have a waypoint database. Until now. I've written a program that reads waypoint databases from other sources and converts them into a CoPilot Waypoint database. You can pick and choose the countries and/or states and provinces you want, and what types of waypoints and other information you want to include at this location. Generate the database and load it onto your computer, and then use your hotsync utility to load it onto your PDA.

Who is responsible for the Waypoint Generator?

I, Paul Tomblin (ptomblin+generator@xcski.com) wrote the data collector and the waypoint generator. I started off running the server on my home computer (running Linux) behind a cable modem, but due to concerns about the uptime of my cable connection and the bandwidth, I moved it to a commercial hosting site.

Why are you trying to set a cookie on my browser?

If you have your browser configured to warn you about cookies being set, you might see the generator attempt to set a cookie. The generator does this to remember the selections you make, so those selections will be there as default values the next time you come back with the same browser, which can be a real time saver if you regenerate the same database after my data is updated. If your browser is configured to reject cookies, you won't be able to take advantage of this feature.

Where do you get your data?

I subscribe to the FAA data CDs from their ATA-100 division. It comes every 56 days and costs me $36. Why they don't make it available on an FTP site is a great mystery to me. The FAA data of course only covers the United States and a small number of the waypoints in bordering countries. I also download the US military's Digital Aeronautical Flight Information File (DAFIF) from the National Geospatial Agency (NGA) (formerly the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)), which covers the rest of the world. I then do a heck of a lot of post processing to make the data more consistent. FAA data, especially, is incredibly inconsistent and needs lots of processing. Much fill in data, especially for Canada and Europe, comes from generous users who type in data from other sources for me.

What is this I hear about DAFIF data going away?

Read this.

Why don't you have my local airport/navaid?

A couple of reasons:

What do the various waypoint types mean?

The FAA doesn't actually define them in any document I can find. However, what I can figure out is:
ARTCC-BDRY
Air Route Traffic Control Center Boundary.
AWY-INTXN
Airway Intersection. Don't be fooled, this isn't the right type for your average run-of-the-mill intersection, most of those are labelled REP-PT or WAYPOINT. There are only 9 waypoints labelled as AWY-INTXN in the US.
CNF
Computer Navigation Fix? Not sure about these, but I don't believe they appear on any IFR route or approach.
COORDN-FIX
Coordination Fix? Possibly where they do hand offs between controllers.
GPS-WP
Global Positioning System Waypoint. Might be waypoints on GPS approaches.
MIL-REP-PT
Military Reporting Point.
MIL-WAYPOINT
Military Waypoint.
REP-PT
Reporting Point. Not sure if this includes VFR reporting points.
RNAV-WP
Area Navigation Waypoint. Not sure what these are since we have GPS-WP as well.
VFR-WP
VFR Waypoint. Possibly VFR reporting points.
WAYPOINT
All the ones of these I've looked at have been intersections of two VOR radials. You may wonder how this differs from AWY-INTXN. Remember what I said about the inconsistency of the FAA?
DAFIF data only uses four different codes, which I translate into FAA designations. The designation "I", which they call "UNNAMED, CHARTED OR COMPUTER NAV FIX", I translate to "CNF", "IF", which they call "OFF-ROUTE UNNAMED, CHARTED OR COMPUTER NAV FIX", I translate to "GPS-WP", "R", which they call "NAMED FIX", I translate to "REP-PT", and "RF", which they call "OFF ROUTE NAMED FIX", I translate to "RNAV-WP". The mapping isn't perfect, but it's the best I can come up with.

Is there a way around this mess with the waypoint types?

Yes. I've recently added the ability to restrict what waypoint types by what chart they are on. For instance, since I don't fly high and I don't put my approaches into CoPilot, I restrict it to only those waypoints that appear on sectional charts and IFR low altitude en-route charts when I'm generating my personal database.

Why don't you have other country's data instead of relying on DAFIF?

I've been looking for it. If you know where I can find it, I'd love to hear from you. Canadian data, for instance, used to be available from the Canadian government, but they stopped distributing it when they privatized the air traffic control system.

What about user contributed data?

Because of the problems with data in countries other than the US, I allow people to send me either raw data (in comma or tab separated fields) or their own waypoint database. I convert this data to Palm Database (pdb) format and put them on the web site as-is, with even less assurance of the data integrity than the waypoint generator. I also put it into the database for the waypoint generator when the data appears good enough to justify it. See the next question.

I want to use user contributed data and data from the generator. Can I?

Yes. Much user contributed data is in the database, and when you enter the options you can choose what data sources in what order to trust. So if you choose to put FAA first, DAFIF second, and some other person's data third, then for a each waypoint id, if it's in the FAA database you'll get that version, otherwise it will fall back to DAFIF, and if it's not in DAFIF, you'll get the version in the other person's data.

I want to update the data in my database that came from the Waypoint Generator, but I don't want to lose some waypoints I added myself. Can I?

The best way to do that is to put your personal waypoints in the "User Database" and leave the Waypoint Generator points in the "System Database".

When I click on the "Yes, I agree" link, I get a file that doesn't load right.

I've seen two reasons for that, both on Windows:
  1. IE sometimes disregards the file type the web server declares the file to be, and treats it like something else. It does this because Microsoft thinks they know better than the web designer what sort of file the web designer is serving up. (Which is the sort of arrogance which is typical of Microsoft. Why don't you try a web browser that *wasn't* written by arrogant fools, like FireFox?) If it thinks the file is text, it can corrupt it by converting any carriage returns to carriage return plus line feed, which can play hell with files that are really binary. The solution to that is use the mouse menu option to "Save link as" (I don't know exactly what it's called), which will get it saved to your computer without any translation.
  2. Windows might have a different application linked to ".pdb" or ".way" files, or you might have saved the file with a different file extension. In either case, you can start up Palm Desktop or Hotsync Manager and tell it to load the file. It actually won't load into your PDA until the next time you hotsync.
As a related issue, on my Powerbook, .way files show up with the Excel icon, but I just drag them to "Send to Handheld" on my Dock, so I don't know if it would try to launch a spreadsheet program if I double clicked them.

Why do you solicit donations?

FAA data costs money. So does my commercial hosting site. So does network bandwidth, hard disks, backup tapes. I don't charge for my waypoint generator, but I hope that those who can afford it will throw a few bucks my way for those expenses.

Why so many options for soliciting donations?

Originally I just used PayPal, because I've been using them for years to pay for stuff on eBay. However, a couple of people asked me to provide an alternative, either because they didn't feel comfortable with PayPal, or because they wanted to use Discover or American Express, and PayPal only took Visa or Mastercard (I believe they take more cards now). The Amazon site is very simple to use if you're already an Amazon customer, but again some people don't like Amazon for various reasons. I'm still looking for another option.

Do you share your donations with Laurie?

Originally, I offered and he declined. He's recently started accepting donations himself, so I'm going to start sharing my donations with him.

Why don't you have a program I can run on my PC?

Since I have to have megabytes and megabytes of data in order to let you extract a few hundred K, it makes more sense for me to keep the data and keep it up to date, rather than try and distribute these massive quantities of data to hundreds of people. Plus there's a little matter of the fact that everybody who asks that question is running Windows, and I program on Linux. If you insist on having a program for your PC, I understand that Flight Data Systems does do a PC program, but they charge for the service. I believe they only have US data, but I don't know that for sure.

Can you give me some program code to read and/or write the databases on my PC?

Remember what I said about Linux? I've got some old code that I haven't updated in a few years in Java, and the up-to-date stuff in Perl. Usually when I mention Perl people run away screaming, but if you want it I can give it to you. It depends on the Palm::PDB modules that you can get from CPAN or from the Coldsync web site. But it appears that there is a Excel spreadsheet for generating databases on Laurie Davis' web site.

Why do you sometimes use "xcski.com" and sometimes use "navaid.com" when referring to your web sites?

xcski.com and navaid.com used to exist on the same machine, and I wasn't very careful about using each for specific applications. But now navaid.com is on a hosting company that allows me to keep my databases and run scripts, and is much more reliable than my home connection, so that's where the generator stuff is kept. xcski.com is my home computer, and that's where my personal web pages live, as well as anything too big to keep on the hosting site.
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