Dec 1, 2010

ForeFlight on my iPad

Since buying an iPad this summer I've been exploring the various aviation-related applications - and there are many.

The best weather and planning application I've found is ForeFlight.

In a very efficient and elegant use of the iPad format, ForeFlight gives better resources than most FBO or airline flight planning stations I've used. Here are some of the great features:

The Airports page provides a quick reference to basic runway and frequency information. More detailed data is available with a click: METAR and TAFS (raw and decoded), all the frequencies from ATIS through arrival/departure, tower and ground, services on the airport and nearby (fuel, accomodation etc.).

(Note: the resolution and clarity of these screens on the iPad are much much better than seen in these clippings:)
A list of favorite airports can be installed along the side bar (and easily edited to match each route). Color-coded buttons as well as condensed weather information, give a quick review of weather at these stations. One click on any station brings up the detailed airport page. On the airport page, a "NEARBY" button instantly pops up a list of surrounding airports with distance-bearing information, and METARS (if available). It's a fast way to look for alternates.

So, after a quick scan of the key METARS, TAFS, you'll probably want to delve a little deeper into the weather. A series of icons along the bottom of the iPad screen brings up some real-time route presentations, with various weather data superimposed, from radar, to temperatures, to winds, and more. Another icon leads into weather charts of every sort - enough to keep even the most met-crazed pilot happily browsing for hours (below):

One of the sweetest features is the availability of airport and approach charts. The clarity and resolution of the iPad screen is fantastic and it is large enough to show a complete chart at full size. Better yet, with a quick tap, charts can be zoomed! Now there's a feature made for senior captains with tired eyes!!

This would be very useful in many circumstances. For example, on the Taxiway chart a quick zoom into areas where many taxiways intersect could reduce the risks of taking a wrong turn.

And better yet, in the darkness of a night-time cockpit, you won't be fumbling with small spotlights trying to illuminate the details. The screen brightness is easily adjusted to the perfect level.

Some caveats and limitations I've found?

The ForeFlight application requires ongoing subscription fees to maintain the cycle of new charts coming down the pipe. For someone who is already paying for charts from some other service, this may be a very acceptable alternative. I haven't researched the legalities nor the comparitive costs of this.

So far the eCharts are mainly limited to the United States, but more seem to be coming online as other agencies and countries improve their digital access to charts and information.

Foreflight also is available as an iPhone app. I should also mention that I'm not receiving any remuneration for this review - I just wanted to pass along my views on an excellent product.

Addendum: I've been looking for a good secure method to mount the iPad in my tiny "flight deck" ... and discovered this idea for using it as part of a knee pad. Great! Check the video for views of the various ways both the iPad and the paper clip board can be used.


Brent said...

How is ForeFlight with TFR's?

Aluwings said...

TFRs are listed as a menu sub item with the NOTAMS. I checked DCA and the information seems to be there.

Given the serious consequences associated with a TFR violation I'd personally want to talk to an FSS briefer for the first few flights until I gain confidence in the system. The ForeFlight producers could probably give you a better idea of how reliable this information is. I quickly scanned their FAQs but didn't see that addressed.

Angus said...

TFR's are also portrayed graphically, in the imagery section.

Thanks for the review, I've been using ForeFlight since the iPad came out and agree it is great. My only complaint was the lack of brightness control from within the app, which has been made somewhat redundant with the new OS.

The built-in GPS seems to work well enough for a VFR aircraft, another bonus.

Anonymous said...

I use it on my iphone - it's a wonderful way to self-brief ( pre-brief? ) in the FBO. It's nice to have all the airport diagrams, procedure plates and even maps as a backup to my primary source, paper.

I have a couple quibbles with the formats; it seems it's really best on an ipad. But I'm too cheap to buy one yet. Maybe I will when they figure out how to get geo-referenced GPS location on the plates along with XM-radio radar images.


Aluwings said...

@ Angus - thanks, I'd forgotten that.

@ Sarah - I can imagine how the smaller screen size would make quite a difference. The iPad seems like the perfect match, given that the charts appear pretty much full size.

Having a GPS overlay on the approach chart? Wow, that would make IFR just way to easy - ha!

I'm currently fantasizing about rebuilding my entire instrument panel of my Zodie with iPads...There are some iPhone apps available that produce very useable flight/nav instruments.

Christopher Laney said...

Love my ForeFlight application. I hadn't seen the kneeboard yet. I'll have to check out. After one flight, I simply set my iPad over to the right seat and got out, not closing the cover. When I returned to take off and tried to use it, the iPad said it was too hot to use. First time I'd ever seen that. Essentially, the sun had been shining directly on the screen. It was fine after I put it in the shade.

Good review.