I admit it. I’m a ForeFlight addict. If there was a 12 Step Program for this addiction I’d probably skip the meetings and go fly with ForeFlight instead. Honestly, it’s the only reason I own my iPad. Do not misunderstand me: the iPad is a terrific device, but historically have not been a huge fan Apple’s proprietary products. Hence, I was holding out for an Android 4 or Windows 8 device before jumping into tablet computing.
Then I saw ForeFlight. A friend gave me an iPad to play with for two weeks, so I immediately started checking out aviation apps. I was hooked the minute I laid eyes on ForeFlight. Before I returned his iPad I had to run out and buy one for myself so I could keep running ForeFlight.
So, what justifies all the hype? Simple: it’s everything you need for flight planning in one slick, portable, easy-to-use device. After planning your flight, you stick it in your flight bag, head to the plane, set it up in your cockpit and it becomes your in-flight assistant and powerful navigation tool.
ForeFlight lets you carry with you ALL the VFR and IFR charts (including Instrument Approach and Departure Procedures) you need to complete any U.S. or Canadian flight, at a cost that is a fraction of a simple, stand-alone aviation GPS of just a few years ago. In fact, you can buy an iPad and the annual chart subscription for a fraction of the annual cost of the paper charts subscription. (You now have complete justification for buying the latest version of the iPad when they come out every year! Just explain to your spouse that it’s still HALF what the paper chart subscriptions would have cost!)
For anyone who has spent endless hours updating Jepp chart binders, the automated download/update process built into ForeFlight is nothing short of miraculous, and yet another economic justification for purchasing it.
Let’s talk about flight planning. You start by simply typing your desired routing into the search box at the top of your Maps screen. You can add your anticipated airspeed and/or altitude, or include the tail number of a previously defined aircraft:
As soon as you hit enter, you have your initial flight plan complete with ETE based on current winds aloft forecast and fuel burn based on your airplane profile:
You also have your route laid out graphically for you, with (optionally) en route weather depictions for weather reporting stations along your route of flight:
Green dots indicate VFR weather, red dots IFR and blue dots MVFR conditions at the reporting station. I can’t think of a more intuitive way to give you a quick mental picture of weather along your route of flight.
Need details on your destination? Simply touch on the destination identifier in your flight plan for the option to look at airport details:
Notice you have details on the current weather at your destination. Forecasts and Winds Aloft are a click away, as are details on the airport, facilities, frequencies, instrument procedures and more.
With the preliminary plan done, getting a detailed weather briefing is but a couple of clicks away. Click on the “Send To…” button, then “File & Brief” to start your DUATS briefing:
Click on the Brief button and wait a few seconds…
Shortly you’ll see this menu:
Anything in black has data retrieved from DUATS for you to review. This is your detailed weather briefing.
For a visual review of the weather picture, click on the “Imagery” tab:
You’ll find a menu of all the different types of weather depiction charts available for your review. Click on one of the options on the left to display a thumbnail of the available charts in that category:
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version:
When done reviewing a particular chart, click the “Close” button on the top. This is one of the nits I like to pick with ForeFlight…from this screen you should be able to swipe forward and backward through the charts within that category. I’ve made the suggestion, but am still waiting for that feature.
Once satisfied you have all the weather information you need, the next step is filing your flight plan with Flight Service. Click the “File” button:
You will receive a confirmation that your plan is filed. You’re ready to go.
This is a very brief review of a very simple flight planning process and only scratches the surface of what ForeFlight has to offer. I will be exploring the details of this amazing product in upcoming blog posts and articles. Stay tuned for more to come.