Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flight Guide iEFB


An iPad app that will radically change your cross-country flights



In addition to airport diagrams, the iPad app from Flight Guide features VFR and IFR charts, approach plates, departure procedures and weather reports.
Since our review of the Flight Guide iEFB in “Top 20 iPad Apps” [September 2010], we have taken a much closer look at this iPad app. We have even flown from ocean to ocean (1B2 to SMO) with it! If you have an iPad, you’re going to want Flight Guide iEFB and a subscription of some sort. If you’re already a subscriber of the paper version, you might want to head out to buy an iPad, because even the $500 low-end model will radically change your cross-country piloting experience.

Web wisdom says, “Content is king.” Airguide Publications figured this out and has managed to move their 50-year-old business from huge, thumping printing presses to silent oceans of bits, which carry the same information to thousands of devices instantly. Here’s the key: It’s content that no one else has.

There are approximately 5,000 public-use airports in the U.S. The government printing office has taxi diagrams for about 3,000 of them, but what happens when you’re landing at 1B2? That’s Katama Field, out on Martha’s Vineyard, with the longest grass strip on the East Coast. If you don’t have a Flight Guide of some sort, you’re going to land without an airport diagram and you won’t know which way to head for the diner or the parking, which is just steps from the sand. (When I landed there this past summer and went into the small office to pay my parking fee, the gentleman gave me a diagram of the airport. I thought for most pilots that would be an interesting reward for having identified the runways and found the taxiways in the high grass.)

Airguide Publications has a dedicated drafting department that creates all of the clear, standardized diagrams. Their staff meticulously checks the information with the management of each field. These are one-on-one interactions, confirming the businesses operating on the airport and that the taxiways are still mowed in the same place on a grass field. And these aren’t the same old government diagrams even for the airports included in the government charts, since Airguide takes the trouble to label all of the taxiways and show on the
field where businesses are. For my eyes, their graphics are clearer, lines are more precise, and labeling is carefully out of the way. Somehow, their diagrams match the reality I find when I land more closely than those of the government printing offices.

Some pilots are going to stay with paper, and Airguide will keep publishing updates for the brown books, but those comfortable with technology are going to get a lot more than just the same collection of airports in each region. The iPad application is an ambitious bid for a new market, an entire electronic flight bag. The Flight Guide iEFB features VFR charts, IFR low and high charts, terminal area charts, METAR and TAF reports translated into plain language, instrument approach plates, departure procedures, and the usual extensive information on each airport.

Weather is shown on the first line of the airport’s page, so if you’re using the iPad on the ground and have a connection to the Internet, you’ll see if your destination has gone IFR. It’ll also pull the latest fuel prices onto the page, and you can look at nearby airports in a single list to see their fuel prices. There’s a useful “contents list” button, which will show you all of the associated information for that airport: the sectional it appears on, approach plates, IFR charts and so on.



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