Wednesday, May 15, 2019

International functionality Part 3: Functionality

In my previous two posts, I discussed how internationalization affects languages and regional conventions; in this third and final post, I will discuss actual functional changes that vary based on different jurisdictions.

While most software functionality does not vary worldwide (think Microsoft Office or the Chrome browser, which do the exact same things wherever they are), other software must be responsive to local markets and the rules, regulations or conventions therein, which means actual changes in functionality depending on where you are.  While aviation is largely harmonized across the world, it is nevertheless governed by each country and that results in a wide variety of rules.

At one level, simple logging of data is not really dependent on local rules.  After all, what you did on a flight is what you did regardless of where you are. The complexities tend to arise when performing things computations or reports on that data.

A challenge here compared to the language or regional conventions discussed in the prior two posts is that those can typically be determined automatically.  But functional rules generally need to be declared explicitly, because it is not uncommon for someone in one jurisdiction to follow the rules from another jurisdiction.  As a result, all of the functionality I'll describe here are things that are configured explicitly (generally in Profile->Preferences on the website)

Probably the most important (or visible) functionality that can vary is currency rules. By default, MyFlightbook implements US (FAA) rules.  MyFlightbook does also support Canada currency and EASA LAPL (European Light Plane) currency rules.

The FAA "groups" currency by category/class/type, so if you do your takeoffs and landings in a Piper Archer, you're current in a Cessna 172 as well, and vice versa.  But some countries require currency to be specific in a model: you need to have performed your takeoffs and landings in that model in order to be current in that model.  MyFlightbook supports either model.  You can also choose to view your totals grouped by category/class/total, or by model.

Different countries have different certification rules for pilots.  In addition to FAA rules, MyFlightbook supports some EASA, Canadian, and Australian ratings.  Adding new ratings is generally pretty straightforward, so if you can point me to a reference document, send it my way and I'll see what I can do.

Another visible place where different regional conventions are on display is in printing formats.  Some regions, like the US, specify what you should record, but make no particular recommendation on the form or layout in which it is displayed.  Others (Europe) can be very prescriptive (see prior posts about printing here and here).  MyFlightbook currently supports layouts that approximate the EASA standard, as well as layouts that conform to typical layouts in South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand.  If you have an additional layout, send it to me; it's generally pretty easy to add.

There are a few other bits of functionality that, while not strictly international or regulatory, do tend to correlate with region:
  • Input or display of times in decimal vs. hour:minute (HH:MM) format.  You can turn this setting off/on in Profile->Preferences on the website, or in settings on the mobile apps.
  • How night flight and night landings are computed.  You can set this on the web site next to the "autofill" button, or in settings on the mobile apps.  Night can be computed based on sunrise/sunset, or an offset from the start/end of civil twilight.  Night landings can either be anything at night, or 1 hour offset from sunrise/sunset.
  • On the mobile apps, you can also adjust how total flight time is computed from flight/block/engine times.

I'm a US-based pilot and fly on FAA conventions, so that's what I know best, but my goal is for MyFlightbook to be useful to pilots worldwide.  I hope this series of posts help explain MyFlightbook's international support, and I hope you'll contact me if there's any functionality you'd like to see (or bugs I need to fix!)

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