E6B Flight Computer

E6B Flight Computer for Calculations
All pilots must know how to use the E6B flight computer, which calculates many important flight functions.

The EcB flight computer used by pilots is a type of circular slide rule. It is one of the remaining few analog devices used by pilots for calculating. Aviation is one of the few industries that still uses slide rule technology.

When is the E6B used?

For the most part, the E6B is primarily used in flight training. This is because electronic planning tools, such as software, websites, and apps, have replaced these flight computers. Pilots use these flight computers on the ground before take-off. For example, they can plan wind correction, fuel consumption, and estimated time en route. Once airborne, pilots can calculate ground speed, update their ETA, and estimate fuel burn. Flight schools use these to teach fundamental computations. They also help catch many errors due to their graphic nature. Computer programs and even an app for a smartphone exist as an emulator of the flight computer functions. It is known for its reliability.

What is the best type of E6B?

Manual and Electronic Flight Computers
Pilots use both manual and electronic flight computers.

Like most things, this is a matter of opinion. These are typically constructed with aluminum, cardboard, plastic, or a combination of these materials. On one side is a calculator for wind triangle calculations. This uses a sliding panel and rotating scale. There is a circular version of a slide rule on the other side. There are extra marks and windows to help with calculations specifically used in aircraft. Some pilots prefer the manual E6Bs instead of an electronic calculator, like those sold by Sporty. This is because the manual versions are easy to work with one hand, are lighter, and require no batteries. Although digital E6Bs are easy to learn, many flight schools still require the mechanical version, which can be used during the FAA knowledge exam.

Online Resources

There are many support sites to help you use the E6B, such as:

How was the E6B named?

Some people surmise the flight computer was named for the Boeing E-6 Mercury (E-6B), but such is not the case. The Boeing system is part of the Boeing 707 as an airborne command post and communication relay. However, in the late 1930s, U.S. Naval Lt. Philip Dalton and Cornell University graduate developed the E6B. Its name is derived from its original part number assigned by the U.S. Army Air Corps. This functional and popular device had humble beginnings but has provided vital knowledge to tens of thousands of pilots.