Re: Using toys as tools...
"For crying out loud, Trevor, cut out the bullshit. Earlier, you thought pilots were flying planes through their iPads."
No I didn't. You're full of shit, Vic.
"What you are suggesting is nonsensical. Aircraft are not designed to have laptops plugged into them. Even if you can find a diagnostic port, you're not going to get to it without stripping out quite a bit of the interior, and even then you're not going to know how to control anything through it."
Not something like an ODBII port, no. But depending on the plane there absolutely are external sensors and diagnostics that will get plugged into laptops.
A plane's core bits that are required to fly the thing will always be built into the plane itself. Usually with redundancies. I never argued otherwise, and in fact have argued a few times here that this is how things are properly done.
That said, new things are added over time to make the lives of pilots easier, or to add non-critical features. These can - and do - get piped through things like the aforementioned laptop. Let me give you some practical examples.
1) On a smallish aircraft that did runs up to the diamond mines the plane was refitted to carry some fairly nasty chemicals. Sensors were added to detect these chemicals and the computer that detected issues buried alongside the other computers. This computer had no primary display (other than a warning light) and no input directly. Detailed information was accessed and filtered entirely through a laptop. This was the same laptop that held mapping information, handled weather reports (which, incidentally, was actually handled by another computer buried in the plane, and merely displayed and filtered by the laptop) and also was used to receive text alerts from the local mining camps when the plane was in range. (I have no idea what the alerts were for, or how the plane received them.)
2) I remember a laptop being used as the interface to a new (IIRC it was a prototype and still in testing) security system for a plane. There were all sorts of sensors in the cargo hold that were beyond what was originally fitted. The thing also (for reasons I do not understand) was tied into bathroom usage. Again: the computer vacuuming up the data wasn't the laptop itself. It was merely how you got at the data in question.
" Do you really imagine we'd put anything into that to allow remote control from a laptop?"
No. I don't. I never did. In fact, I expect you'd use an analogue computer or a really hardened real time embedded digital computer. I can think of no modern commercial OS or system I'd trust to run avionics.
So get bent, mate. At no point did I say anyone flew a plane using a laptop. I said they were used as the primary interface to systems that were typically added after the fact. By this very definition that can't be critical to flying the plane because the bits required to fly the plane are the things that there will be controls for.
Adding more computers to a plane doesn't make those computers essential to flying the plane. You don't need a computer to fly most planes. (Well, not a digital computer, in any case. The need for analogue ones in some circumstances has been well proven.) Those planes that do need computers (analogue or digital) absolutely have every control you need to access and interface with those systems available without third party interface required.
That doesn't mean those third party systems which are used only to access "extra data" don't eventually become mission critical, in spite of themselves. Might I also suggest that as someone who flies light aircraft as a hobbyist you're more likely to do things the old fashioned way and take pride in maintaining the pen-and-paper skills?
A commercial pilot - especially ones who are on the "work is a pain in the ass" side of the spectrum might come to rely on the theoretically non-critical third party tools too much making them more mission critical than originally designed. Which is something that anyone doing IT design needs to account for.