Weight & Balance made easy on the iPad

I have a new iPad app that has just been added to my favorites list: Aviation W&B, available via the App Store on your iPad for under $10!

Aviation W&B comes preconfigured with basic weight and balance information for a number of aircraft models. You can also create your own from scratch.  Then, for each make/model you can add the specifics for a particular aircraft you fly and store it under its tail number.

Here’s a screen shot of the input form for the C-150 in which I taught my son to fly:

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After filling in the basic information about fuel on-board, weights of the pilot and passenger and baggage, it has computed the takeoff weight and is indicating in all GREEN text that all those parameters are OK and within CG limits. If anything was out of range or over gross it would be indicated in RED.

But notice one other thing: Maneuvering speed for this weight has been calculated.  We all know (or should know!) that the maneuvering speed listed in the POH is based on maximum gross weight. You should also remember that as weight DECREASES, so does maneuvering speed. This serves as a reminder of what the maneuvering speed is for THIS flight (or at lease right after takeoff!)  Obviously it will decrease further as you burn off fuel.

Once this is computed you can take a peek at where it lands within the CG envelope by tapping on the Envelope link at the bottom. You will be asked to choose the style of graph you want, either based on inches or Moment/1000. Selecting inches gets you this screen:

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We’re below gross and almost centered within the CG envelope….a safe place to fly!

Okay, so that’s cool…but now let Aviation W&B take it a step further: Where will you be when you land?

Going back to your input screen, touch on the Landing button on the bottom of the screen and you will be prompted for two more pieces of information, including fuel burn per hour and the estimated flight duration in minutes:

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Here we’re estimating a 5.5 GPH burn rate and a two hour flight. Touching the Envelope button (and this time choosing the Moment/1000 option) will give us this graph:

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Notice the takeoff CG position is indicated along with a vector towards your landing CG. We’ve confirmed that we will remain within the CG limits for our entire flight.

When all is said and done, tap the Summary button and you have a nice, clean W&B form that looks like this:

You can save a snapshot of that form to your photos or e-mail it to yourself documenting your loading configuration for your flight.

Here’s why I love this app:

  • It’s on my iPad, so it is ALWAYS with me.
  • It’s easily customized for EVERY aircraft I fly.
  • It encourages playing “What if?” scenarios with different loading configurations.
  • It encourages me to look at LANDING CG, not just takeoff CG.
  • It makes me THINK about maneuvering speed for THIS aircraft on THIS flight!
  • I can easily save a copy of the W&B configuration as backup documentation.
  • It’s a bargain!

Okay, so now you know why I love this app.

I do have one small nit to pick with it: I HATE the disclaimer screen that pops up every time I start it stating (and I paraphrase) “You can’t rely on this in any way, shape or form because we don’t want to get sued!”

I’m a lawyer. I understand why it’s there. But it still drives me crazy.

It should go without saying that before relying on any app like this you should make all the computations the old fashioned way, then compare those results against the results obtained with the app under a variety of loading scenarios. You have to satisfy yourself that you’ve crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in setting it up for your aircraft.

But once you’ve done that, you are far less likely to have a loading mishap using an app such as this than you are scribbling numbers on a sheet of paper and doing arithmetic long-hand. More importantly, you are more likely to take the time to consider loading for every takeoff and every landing when it is this easy to do. It’s a no-brainer.

Check out this app.  You’ll be glad you did.

Garmin Pilot Arrives on Android

Garmin has released a version of their Garmin Pilot app for Android-based phones and tablets. This is a much-anticipated event for the large, and fast-growing legion of Android pilots.

The Android version is not quite as mature as the iOs version, lacking the following features:

  • No radial menu–a feature whereby you can tap a place on the map and get a pop-up button for direct-to, airport information or weather
  • No graphical route editing
  • No XM Weather option (the Baron Mobile Link works on iOS)
  • No chart binders for approach plates
  • No panel page of instruments

I suspect these features will be added fairly quickly as Garmin seems committed to their multi-platform support.

One compelling aspect is their subscription allows for cross-platform licensing. Their standard license provides for use on two-devices which can be a mix of iOS and Android devices.

Perhaps I won’t need to get an iPhone on my next upgrade, after all!

FlyQ App: Weather/Airport Info on the Go, Thanks to AOPA

AOPA has recently released FlyQ, a handy iOS-based app for getting up to date weather and airport information to their members. It’s available now from Apple’s App Store. Created in conjunction with Seattle Avionics Software, the app is optimized for the iPhone, but works just fine on the iPad, as well. It puts the AOPA Airports database in your pocket, along with easy access to current METAR, TAF and prog charts for both the U.S. and Canada. In addition, it allows you to create and file flight plans on the fly.

The app uses the device’s location services to identify where you are and serve up the airport and weather info closest to you. I am impressed with how quickly it accomplishes that task. It serves up the weather depiction charts, including AIRMETS/SIGMETS, Freezing Levels, Icing Potential, Local Radar, National Radar, Prog Charts, Regional Radar and Satellite imagery just as quickly.

One feature I really like, that I wish ForeFlight would incorporate, is the ability to move sequentially through the prog charts. When viewing the current weather depiction, you can move around within that chart, zooming and panning as needed. Then you can tap on the transparent arrow overlays to move to the 12 hour forecast, then tap again for the 24 hours, etc. In ForeFlight you have to exit the current chart and select the next chart, which breaks up the flow.

For flight planning, you can maintain Aircraft Profiles for every aircraft you regularly fly. Creating a new flight plan requires just a few touches on your screen, then it will contact DUATS to download your weather briefing.

With all the information gathered, tap on the File button and you’re good to go!

Now for the good news for my fellow Android users: An Android version of this app is due out in June!

FlyQ is just one more good reason to be an AOPA member.

What is an EFB?

[Note: This is actually our main EFB page, but since it can look like just a menu header to some, we’ve added the information here, as well!]

Electronic Flight Bags or EFBs are simply a digital replacement for the bag holding all your maps, charts, references and in-flight tools that you’ve been carrying around for years. Instead of a 50 pound bag of paper and equipment, you have a digital device that serves up all the information you need for safe flight.

EFBs have been under development for a number of years, but the technology exploded with the launch of Apple’s wildly successful iPad. For the first time you had a lightweight, user-friendly, touch-screen device that had, and this is critical, sufficient battery life to meet the needs of a working pilot.

A number of apps have been released to leverage the power of the iPad in the cockpit. We have a lot of experience with the ForeFlight product and have recently added the new Garmin Pilot. We have looked at other very capable programs, but have settled on these two as the industry leaders….which seems odd to state a day after the release of Garmin Pilot considering ForeFlight’s substantial user base. But we have to believe with Garmin’s industry clout, and the quality of the initial release, it will be a force to be reckoned with in the iPad EFB market.

Check out our overviews of both products, then take them for a test drive! Both offer a free 30-day evaluation period, more than adequate to get comfortable with their features and functionality. Once you do, your flight planning as well as your flying will be changed forever.

ForeFlight Mobile Overview
Garmin Pilot Overview

Garmin targets ForeFlight on iPad

Today at Sun ‘n Fun Garmin announced their latest aviation app for the  iPad, Garmin Pilot, which is clearly aimed right at the heart of ForeFlight. This product is an evolution of Digital Cyclone’s Pilot My-Cast product that dates back to 2002, and which is now part of Garmin.

I just installed the app and have spent a couple of hours getting acquainted with it. I have to say it is a very compelling product.

First, it has some features ForeFlight does not have, such as the panel view which gives you a pseudo instrument cluster (see below) similar to what you have seen in Garmin portable GPSes for some time. One feature I don’t see from the current ForeFlight is the recently introduced Documents feature, which I am currently using quite heavily in my flying and flight instructing. It’s great to have checklist, POHs and other reference tools at your fingertips.

I will have more to say about this new product after I get to fly with it a bit, so stay tuned for more information.

Note the “Widget” feature, which allows you to choose from a menu of information options to be displayed on this screen. At the bottom of the screen you see a slider that allows you to “slide” along your planned route. As you do, information for the nearest airports along your route of flight appear in the above “widget” boxes. It’s an interesting feature. Check out more on our Garmin Pilot page!

ForeFlight Update – 4.4.1 available

ForeFlight Mobile 4.4.1 is available for download in the App Store.

Release notes:

  • Fixed route selection so international airports don’t pop up as suggestions when they have the same code as U.S. fixes (e.g. RZS)
  • Fixed route view on iPhone
  • Fixed intermittent issues with importing documents from emails
  • Fixed bug where user waypoints weren’t getting picked up in routes
  • Fixed bug in Maps where wrong pop-up would show when a PIREP was over an airport
  • Removed files to make app binary size smaller than 20GB so you can download over 3G

[Editor’s Note: Glitches happen in any software development cycle. Kudos to ForeFlight for fixing them so quickly.]

Link to their blog post: http://blog.foreflight.com/2012/03/07/foreflight-mobile-4-4-1/


Organizing ForeFlight Documents

The new Documents feature within the latest ForeFlight (version 4.4) takes advantage of the Binders concept used within the Plates feature. It allows you to group related documents into separate categories or lists.

By default, it opens to the My Documents Binder:

When you select the Catalog button in the upper left, you have the option of adding documents to that Binder:

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With the Catalog open, you currently have four major categories from which to choose: Imported documents (documents you’ve brought in from some other source…more on this later), FAA documents, ForeFlight documents and NAV CANADA documents (which requires a subscription to the Canadian charts.)

Note in the example above the Green Checkmark means the document has been downloaded and already exists in the current Binder. The Blue Plus means the document exists somewhere within ForeFlight Documents but is not in this Binder, so you can add it to this Binder. It will still remain in any other Binders in which you’ve placed it. Finally, the Blue Down Arrow indicates a document that can be downloaded to the current Binder in your Documents (just like your chart downloads.)

 You can change the Binder you’re viewing by simply touching on the top center window in Documents:

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From the menu select the Binder you wish to view. If you want another Binder for a particular category of documents, tap the Plus (+) sign to add a Binder.

Again, this feature operates the same as the Binders under the Plates tab. It’s a great way to organize subsets of your documents.


ForeFlight v4.4 is here!

ForeFlight v4.4 just shipped and the big new enhancement is the Documents feature which allows you to integrate key documents into ForeFlight. Now you can have your avionics operating handbooks one touch away while you’re using ForeFlight. This is an enhancement with huge benefits for ForeFlight users.

Before I get into the details of this feature, let me give you a little background on my travails with iPad documents. As a Flight Instructor, I need to stay current on a wide range of avionics. Having ready access to the manuals for the specific equipment that one my student’s may have installed in their aircraft is a handy way for me to refresh my familiarity with their setup before we fly.

When I first got my iPad I began organizing PDFs of all the operating manuals for as many of the popular avionics systems as I could obtain from the various manufacturers. I used the iPad’s iBooks feature to store and organize these as the link to iBooks was integrated right in the web browser. I also included all the FAA publications I could find, as well, as instructor resources. It was fantastic. I had all the information an instructor could ever need at my fingertips within my iPad.

Then the iOS 5 upgrade came along. Despite doing a complete backup and sync before the upgrade, per Apple’s instructions, when all was said in done every one of my PDFs were gone.  They were nowhere to be found.

So I called Apple.

Turns out, Apple doesn’t think that things you download onto your iPad in the course of using are worthy of backing up. Their software engineers believe if something is really important, you will download it to a desktop computer, drag it into iTunes, THEN sync it down to your iPad.

An example of stupidity in its highest form.

Since that event I’ve been on a quest for a good app to organize my PDFs since I can no longer trust iBooks to protect them. Imagine my surprise when ForeFlight 4.4 arrived this week and discovered the new Documents tab!

I immediately began reconstructing my library of resource documents. ForeFlight makes this very easy by including the FAA publications right in it’s Catalog menu:

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Just check off the items you want to have included in your Documents tab in ForeFlight.  I organized these into a Binder called FAA Pubs. I also created Binders for Garmin manuals and Avidyne.  I’ll be fleshing this out with other manufacturers as needed:

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To add a document to the Binder, first create the Binder via the little “+” icon, then go into that Binder. Now switch to your browser and surf the web to the particular manual you wish to include. Open it as a PDF from the website, then tap in the upper right corner and choose the “Open in…” option. ForeFlight should be one of your options:

[Note: Your “Open in…” options will vary from what’s shown above based on what Apps you have installed on your iPad.] Select ForeFlight and the PDF will be added to your ForeFlight Binder and opened.

With this new feature I can select the desired Binder and have all the manuals I want available at my finger tips without leaving ForeFlight.

I’ll be highlighting some additional features of this enhancement in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.