Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ForeFlight Mobile Version 4.0

Turning your iPad into an EFB

In flight, I find the VFR sectional and IFR en route charts easy to use. The standard one-finger pan and two-finger zoom gestures used in other iPad apps work fine in ForeFlight, and are far more natural than other aviation map displays. As with the georeferenced airport diagrams and approach plates, an airplane symbol is superimposed on your chart, and a band at the bottom of the chart will show configurable performance data (groundspeed, altitude, GPS track and GPS accuracy by default). Of course, this requires a GPS—which is built into 3G iPads. If you have a non-3G model, you'll need an external GPS, which ForeFlight also recommends for additional reliability when using georeferenced charts. The result isn't a true moving map—the charts are always static with the airplane moving over them, and there's no option for a track-up mode (you can press the crosshair button to make the map auto-scroll with the aircraft staying centered).

ForeFlight's weather features really aren't intended for in-flight use, but I've been able to get updated weather, including composite-reflectivity NEXRAD with echo tops, using my iPad 2's AT&T 3G cellular modem at low altitudes. Stored weather information from your preflight briefing is always available, which can be useful.

ForeFlight also provides airport data from AOPA, including (in most cases) a diagram showing FBO location, local radio frequencies and telephone contact numbers, runways and navaids, NOTAMs, local transportation, restaurants, hotels and operating hours. The Airports page also provides links to the appropriate FAA Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD) page, and to any instrument approach procedures for the airport.

I have two minor gripes: You can view weather or an aviation chart, but not both at the same time, and despite the best efforts of the developers, I still need to carry a clearance pad and pen. ForeFlight offers a ScratchPad function that operates in two modes: Type mode requires you to type with the on-screen keyboard, which I find acceptable on the ground but not in the cockpit; while Draw mode uses your finger. The result looks too much like a kindergarten Etch A Sketch for my taste, and it's limited to one page with no way to scroll up or down for more room.

That aside, on my last four flights all the other paper has stayed in my flight bag as ForeFlight provided everything else that I needed: flight-planning forms, navigation charts, airport diagrams, AOPA and A/FD airport info, approach plates, SIDs, STARs and weather briefing with imagery—all up to date, provided I took a few minutes to download revisions before flying.

Twelve years ago, I wrote the first review of an electronic flight bag (a Microsoft Windows-based device called the eFlightPad) in Plane & Pilot. I was thrilled with the capability, and hated to give it back after my review—but I couldn't afford over $6,000 dollars to buy one. With ForeFlight, my $729 iPad 2 has at least as much capability in a much more reasonably sized and easier-to-use package, with no less than an honest 10 hours of battery life.

Like all iPad apps, you'll find ForeFlight Mobile 4.0 Pro at Apple's iPad App Store. It's free for 30 days, and includes live data, but to enable full functionality (including downloads for off-line viewing), you'll need a data subscription. The full Pro data set, including georeferenced airport diagrams and approach plates covering the entire U.S. and southern Canada, costs $149 per year, which is twice the cost of a standard data subscription. For more information, browse


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