Apps instead of Maps: The Top iPad Innovations for Pilots
by Alan Carr
Every pilot knows that more weight means added time, and that charts, maps, and manuals add a significant number of minutes to your flight. Thankfully, the iPad Mini weighs less than a pound and can contain pounds of information in just a few apps. Here are some of my favorite iPad resources for pilots. These apps make flying so convenient that you’ll forget to miss the tactile experience of dealing with paper maps!
In the pilot app world, there are three top apps vying for the affection of aviators: ForeFlight, WingX, and Garmin. Though Garmin is a name we’ve come to trust for GPS, I don’t think that they necessarily provide the best aviation app. In terms of pre-flight planning, Garmin still provides the most comprehensive weather maps, but ForeFlight makes it easier to check the weather, brief new airports, and plan routes. Additionally, ForeFlight is easily the most user-friendly. The navigation tabs on the main screen may be smaller than on the other leading apps, but they make it simple to move from one page to the next without a “back” button middle-man. ForeFlight also boasts a “Documents” view, where you can store pdfs or images from any source for reference throughout your flight. This app provides a free trial, and a subscription will only run you $74.99 a year for the basic plan, or $149.99 for ForeFlight Pro, which includes airport diagrams and approach plates in additional all of the basic features.
This app is designed for the iPhone, but it is the best weight and balance calculation app for any device and it only costs $4.99. Many common planes come loaded in the app, but WnB Pro stands out above all other weight and balance apps because it allows pilots to add their custom aircraft with little hassle. To use the app, you move a number of sliders that correspond with the weight of passengers, luggage, etc. The values turn red to warn you whether you’re outside of your GC envelope. WnB Pro has a social component that allows users to share their weight and balance information with others.
For those of us you like to have an accurate record of our flight paths to evaluate on the ground, CloudAhoy is a must-have app. CloudAhoy records and saves your flight and allows you to play it back at home via Google Earth. This app uses either internal or external GPS to track your flight, so make sure you have that correctly configured. Beyond that, this app is simple: register at home, and then press “start” just before you start your engine. Forget about the app until you land. In addition to all of the neat features, CloudAhoy comes at the right price: free.
FltPlan is another free app, and the best basic EFB app available. I wouldn’t want to fly without the features available on more sophisticated, expensive apps, but you could get by with many of the features on FltPlan: downloadable flight charts, routes, FAA-certified weather, and navigation logs. The app also allows you to file flight plans and view information about over 6,000 airports in 17 countries. This can be used in conjunction with the basic version of ForeFlight Mobile to the same results as the Pro edition. It won’t be as fancy, but it will save you $75!
MyRadar is the radar app I choose when the feature on my navigation app takes too long to load. This free app is speedy— it will give you a clear radar image within seconds of opening the app. MyRadar makes it easy to evaluate storm patterns, and it has some great aviation-specific features that other weather apps don’t offer, such as an AIRMETs overlay. I’ve taken to using this app to check the weather in the morning as well.
LogTen Pro Pilot Log Book
If you’ve moved on from paper maps, chances are that you’ve moved on from paper log books. LogTen Pro is an app designed especially for this, with a wealth of preloaded airports and plane types. It allows you to add almost every detail you could possibly think of, and will create databases of responses over time so you don’t always have to type it out. Though pricey at around $80, it will help to keep you organized better than any other app, and I like that I can export the data to GoogleEarth at home.
FAA Flying Handbook HD
You don’t want to be caught flying without the basic flight Bible in tow. This inexpensive app puts the FAA Flying Handbook right at your fingers. At $2.99, it’s worth it for anyone to download, but this simple app is especially great for students.
If you haven’t already purchased an iPad, trust me: it will make your flights easier. Depending on your cockpit situation, there are great options available for securing either your iPad or iPad Mini for a worry-free flight.
Alan Carr is an avid aviation aficionado learning about the aspects of the flying world from the business to the technical, while also frequently writing on what he finds. He currently works with globalair.com to provide resources on aircraft related information.
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