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.
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
And best of all, this one is free.
Who is responsible for the program?
(firstname.lastname@example.org) 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
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
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
(email@example.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
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?
Why don't you have my local airport/navaid?
A couple of reasons:
- DAFIF only covers airports and navaids that are "important" to the US
military. Airports with small runways aren't in there. Neither are some
low power navaids that aren't of use to them.
- For some reason, the FAA classifies some Canadian navaids as
"private", (whatever that means for a navaid) so if you elected not to
download private waypoints, you'll miss those. I'm thinking of changing
that to ignore the private flag for navaids.
- You used one of the "quadrants", not realizing that the points you
want are on the other side of the geographic boundary. For instance,
using "North East" and picking UK will only get you the part of the UK
that's east of the Prime Meridian.
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:
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.
- Air Route Traffic Control Center Boundary.
- 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
- Computer Navigation Fix? Not sure about these, but I don't believe they
appear on any IFR route or approach.
- Coordination Fix? Possibly where they do hand offs between
- Global Positioning System Waypoint. Might be waypoints on GPS
- Military Reporting Point.
- Military Waypoint.
- Reporting Point. Not sure if this includes VFR reporting points.
- Area Navigation Waypoint. Not sure what these are since we have
GPS-WP as well.
- VFR Waypoint. Possibly VFR reporting points.
- 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?
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
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
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
When I click on the "Yes, I agree" link, I get a file that doesn't
I've seen two reasons for that, both on Windows:
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
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.