Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ForeFlight Changing Aviation One Device At A Time

A chat with ForeFlight CEO Tyson Weihs

We collaborate with others in order to drive change and take a stand against overreaching regulators.
P&P: Do you worry that collaboration might help your competitors?
Weihs: We all have our individual strengths. As the market has matured, our differences have become apparent. I believe we will differentiate ourselves by going beyond where our competitors will stop. We'll go into areas where they won't go. Our job is to anticipate where they'll draw the line, and then go beyond that. We have integrated with systems that were very cautious at first, but we want to keep doing that. There is still so much we can do to improve flight planning technology— NOTAMs, briefing, charting—I feel like we're just getting started.

P&P: What are some of the latest developments at ForeFlight?
Weihs: We introduced an amazing capability for IFR pilots that allows them to display approach plates on a map, allowing the pilot to see how weather, obstacles and terrain affect their approach. We enhanced our flight plan filing systems to enable worldwide ICAO flight plan filing, and we communicate directly with Lockheed Martin Flight Service so that FSS specialists can provide faster service when pilots call for briefings or open VFR flight plans. We also released ForeFlight Military Flight Bag, an enhancement for military, state and federal agencies that provides access to Department of Defense data, including approach plates, en route charts, DAFIF navigation data and documents.

P&P: Can you tell us about what you're working on for the future?
Weihs: No! (Laughs). We're really passionate about making it easier for folks to synthesize information, so we will look for ways to make flight planning even easier and not as intimidating. FAA weather briefings are terrible—pilots are missing information, and that may be leading to accidents. When you look at recent accidents, you see that there is something about flight planning that the pilot missed. We'd like to promote standards that make it easier for us and other electronic flight bag makers to advance areas like flight plans, briefings, NOTAMS and special-use airspace. We'd like to evolve the pilot's briefing so they're not getting 20 pages of "stuff" that doesn't directly impact their flight. Pilots are missing things because the system is not smart enough to highlight information that may be lifesaving.

The briefing needs to be like a conversation. The data is there but it needs to be strung together correctly and presented so that it offers the best actionable intelligence possible. We'd like to focus our collaboration on that area.

P&P: What do you think about the future of general aviation?
Weihs: You know, I've never flown an instrument approach with paper as the primary! If you survey students at Embry-Riddle or Kansas State or UND, you'll find that paper is foreign to them. Electronic flight planning is just a small part of the technology that will continue to drive the industry. While it's true that there are people who are attached to the complexities of aviation, integration of the iPad in the cockpit will continue to bring change. I think the next generation of pilots will be all electronic.


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