IFR flight planning, electronic charts and moving map all in one package
In the fall of 2004, I closed a review of Jeppesen’s JeppView/FliteDeck 3 with a complaint about the lack of serious flight-planning functions in Jeppesen’s flagship electronic charting products. A Jeppesen representative responded: “At some point, we hope to offer a single solution.” He must have been serious because that single solution now exists. It’s NavSuite—a bundle that finally combines flight planning, electronic charting and moving-map functionality into a single package...sort of. I have mixed emotions after using this product for the last six months.
While NavSuite is sold as a single bundle, operationally it consists of three separate products with overlapping functions. For private pilots, the first of these is FliteStar, an excellent flight-planning product with which I’ve had good results (Jeppesen offers JetPlan instead of Flite-Star for corporate pilots). It has an excellent route finder with automatic fuel-stop planning and optimization for winds. The route it comes up with (which can be modified by specifying “must fly” points) is displayed on a chart based on Jeppesen’s database of airways, airports, navaids and terrain. You can select “themes” to represent this data in formats that look exactly like a VFR sectional, IFR en route (low or high), European VFR chart or a computer-based flight management system (FMS). The chart can also be customized to include or exclude items at your discretion. Once you’re satisfied with the route, you can save it as a RoutePack that can be reloaded later, or opened in the other two NavSuite programs.
For instrument approach procedures, open the RoutePack in JeppView or FliteDeck. JeppView is for use on the ground, though at times I’ve used it in the air. It provides an electronic representation of Jeppesen’s approach plates. You can manually select the plates you’re interested in or build a list of favorites that updates whenever the chart in question changes. This makes it easy to print a customized set of plates you regularly use. If you wish, you can print approach plates from Jepp-View in a two-page format that looks exactly like traditional paper plates. Jepp-View also provides an option to print a custom en route chart as a strip-chart.
NavSuite’s third component comes into play during flight: FliteMap is a moving-map program that works with input from GPS receivers (I use it with an older Garmin GPS 92). It can open RoutePacks created by FliteStar or JeppView, or you can create a route manually—though that’s a lot of work. FliteMap’s on-screen moving map combines FliteStar’s customizable features with JeppView’s on-screen approach procedures. Besides the moving map, Flite-Deck offers an Enroute Navigation display with a terrain profile, simulated horizontal situation indicator, next waypoint, nearest airport and trip time.
Just as with traditional paper charts, you get a NavSuite revision every two weeks—but the revision data is on one or two CD-ROMs and takes just a few minutes to apply. There’s also an option for online revisions via the Internet.
One major gripe I have with NavSuite is the documentation. Instead of the practical spiral-bound manuals provided with earlier products, most of the NavSuite documentation is electronic. That’s fine on the ground, but can be a real problem in the air. Jeppesen does provide a QuickStart Guide, but I’d like to see at least a quick reference manual for use in the cockpit. To be fair, the electronic documentation is complete and is supplemented by multimedia online training that’s helpful in figuring out how this complicated set of products works.
What’s missing? In two words: satellite weather. The big news in moving-map software is XM Weather support, and its absence from FliteDeck is noticeable. At one time, Jeppesen had a deal with another aviation weather provider, but that’s long gone. What makes this especially frustrating is that FliteStar does a fine job of integrating with DUATS or Jeppesen’s own proprietary weather service on the ground. FliteDeck needs to be updated to do the same thing in the air.
Jeppesen doesn’t advertise pricing for NavSuite, other than to claim that users can save 4% to 30% by subscribing to it rather than to FliteStar and JeppView/Flite-Deck separately. I can confirm that—I have a NavSuite subscription and it’s costing me about the same as paper charts for my coverage area. There’s more information, including an online demo, at www.jeppesen.com/navsuite, or you can call Jeppesen at (800) 621-5377.
Contributing editor John D. Ruley is an instrument-rated private pilot, freelance writer and volunteer pilot for www.ligainternational.org. He’s delighted to hear from readers—send e-mail to [email protected].