Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flight Guide iEFB


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



The latest version of the software has an automatic-update feature for the airport data and fuel prices. It’ll pull down the smallest bits of data daily if your iPad is connected to the Internet. That makes the fuel pricing much more useful. And the next update will include an in-application control for the brightness of the iPad’s screen, something that’ll make using the iEFB at night much more reasonable.

The application does something that the little brown book never could, which is to connect every airport to the VFR and IFR charts. You can find an airport, switch to a sectional that includes it and see the surrounding airports. A single touch on any of the other airports will bring up the information and diagram for your possible alternate airport. You can bookmark airports, and the software keeps track of those recently viewed.

In an effort to make their current subscribers comfortable, the iPad application looks a lot like the web pages on the Airguide site. Unfortunately, that means the Apple iPad interface guidelines aren’t always followed. Disclosure triangles point to the left rather than to the right, and are to the right of the text headline rather than the left. The page for an airport is presented as a large graphic that you can pan and zoom, rather than as a set of interface elements that follow the prescribed actions. But these are small complaints about the gloss of a user interface that allows you to carry a continent of data with you in the cockpit.

Along with cleaning up the user interface, Airguide will eventually provide a flight planner in the Flight Guide iEFB. These are exciting times at the lower end of the EFB market.

By the time this review is in print, Airguide will have announced their GPS unit for $299. It’s a small puck-shaped enclosure with two AA batteries. This box collects GPS signals and broadcasts the information via WiFi to the iPad. The GPS is WAAS-enabled, which means that you can have georeferenced, seamless charts in the cockpit as your moving map. The WiFi box has a second input, which means that Flight Guide iEFB could have data from a NEXRAD unit or an ADS-B solution or even your panel-mounted GPS instead. That should be shipping by the time you read this.

Apple’s iPad ranges in price from $500 to $829. The low-end version only connects to the Internet via WiFi, but that may be enough for most pilots. The Flight Guide iEFB application itself is free, and annual subscriptions to Flight Guide iEFB’s data range from $9.95 a month (VFR, lower 48 states) to $19.95 (IFR, Alaska, Hawaii and Caribbean). Visit www.flightguide.com and Apple’s app store.



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