If you’re not using an iPad in the cockpit, you could be missing out on one of the greatest and most cost-effective innovations for aviation in decades.
No question, the iPad has changed the way we fly. About a year ago, I stopped carrying paper charts completely, and I carry two iPads instead. I even cancelled my Jepps approach plate subscription—which I’ve had since 1980—because it’s all in the iPad now.
A few years back at the Gathering in Waupaca, I spoke to association members about Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) technology and specifically about using an iPad in the cockpit.
Three years later, there are many more uses and apps designed just for aviation and many of them are very good. Here is a brief description of just a few of the apps that are available to a pilot in 2015.
For flight planning and in-flight display, I have been flying with ForeFlight. ForeFlight has partnered with Appareo Systems, the company that manufactures the Stratus ADS-B receiver. The Stratus device receives ADS-B transmissions in-flight and displays weather and traffic on the chart of your choice on your iPad.
In a recent upgrade, the company has added an AHRS feature that looks just like a PFD. While not legal for use in IFR conditions, it is an amazing safety feature. It has also added Canadian charts and World Aeronautical Charts (WAC) to the available library. I regularly use both.
Other nice features include georeferencing your position on the approach plate (and especially the taxi diagram); notams that are decoded and route-specific; an internal weight and balance program; and the ability to place the approach plate directly onto the chart so you can see both at the same time.
TFRs, ceilings and visibilities, winds aloft, fuel prices along the route and cloud coverage are just some of the other available features you can view.
I use ForeFlight to file and brief all my flight plans. Another feature I use a lot is the record feature. ForeFlight lets you press a button and “record” your flight path. I use this when teaching instrument approaches. It plays back on Google Earth-like maps, and is a great teaching tool.
WingX Pro 7 by Hilton Software is an equally powerful app. It too displays ADS-B weather and traffic on the iPad. In my opinion, the coolest feature in this app is the ability to load arrival and departure procedures and approaches into the flight plan and have all of the waypoints displayed on your chart.
A few years back, Hilton Software added a synthetic vision feature to WingX Pro. I haven’t seen it, but a buddy of mine who flies with WingX Pro 7 has been raving about it, so I’m going to have to try that.
WingX Pro works with more than a dozen different receivers. The program also features a flight simulation mode which lets you play with the software’s features and see what it looks like.
Garmin Pilot is Garmin’s entry into the iPad EFB arena. Much like ForeFlight, it only plays on one ADS-B receiver; in this case, it’s the Garmin GDL 39.
I have a student that uses Garmin Pilot and when we fly her plane, I get to sample the app. My student uses SiriusXM weather (a subscription) and it plays on Garmin Pilot—something other apps don’t permit.
Garmin Pilot also features European flight charts, a feature that is currently not available on ForeFlight or WingX Pro. (JeppDirect offers electronic chart service for Europe in various configurations at various price levels. —Ed.)
FltPlan was the first company to offer free in-flight apps on both iPad and Android tablets. FltPlan Go for iPad works with five ADS-B receivers, and subscribers to XM weather can enable the display to receive weather data.
This great site does tons of things, including weight and balance; it has a logbook program, plus an E6B calculator and even an AFD feature.
While FltPlan.com does have a mobile app, creating your flight plan through your account on the FltPlan.com website provides additional features.
In-flight planning and chart apps like iFlightPlanner and FlyQ are available to iPad pilots too, but I just haven’t had the time to thoroughly investigate and fly with these apps yet. I plan on interviewing the developers at Oshkosh later this year and writing about my experiences with these products after I fly with them.
Weather and filing apps
weatherTAP, Zoom Weather
WeatherTAP is a subscription weather application, and in my opinion it provides the best weather. It’s not that the information is different; weather is, well… weather. But the format is great and it’s easy to use.
One of my favorite features is the animated enhanced infrared water vapor satellite page—you can see exactly how the atmosphere is moving, and view half the country on one page. I haven’t found those features available anywhere else. (Other resources do offer infrared water vapor depictions, but not in exactly the same fashion. —Ed.)
The Aviation Weather section of the app features a predictive satellite and radar page that computer forecasts precipitation, and I’ve found it to be extremely accurate.
TAP Publishing also offers a free app for iPad/iPhone called Zoom Weather which displays radar, current and forecast conditions with an hourly and daily presentation. Like weatherTAP, Zoom Weather is simple and easy to use.
Also on my iPad are DTC DUAT and CSC DUATS—the same providers we pilots have been using for years. I have them as backup.
Both programs offer aviation weather and the ability to file a flight plan. The ForeFlight app I discussed earlier in this article can use your CSC DUATS account to file flight plans, so if you don’t have a DUATS account already, I suggest you go sign up. It’s free.
If you are thinking about keeping your logbook on your iPad, there are a wide range of logbook options available, and some are free.
Logten Pro interfaces directly with ForeFlight: you can press a button and export your flight from ForeFlight directly into your logbook. Logten Pro costs $50 a year to use, but it’s the most detailed and flexible flight log app I have found. The app uses cloud storage; the logs aren’t resident on your device.
Other pilot tools
Weight and balance
Warbred Studios makes a great little app called FlightScale. You input in the information about your airplane directly from your AFM or POH and this app creates a weight and balance report that is color coded and graphed; you can email, save and print this data. In my experience, FlightScale is simple, fast and awesome.
… yes, there is an app for that. Several, in fact. ASA and Sporty’s are two of the more popular ones. With searchable data features that let you find what you want quickly, I think every pilot should have an FAR/AIM reference on their iPad. (For those pilots who use Android devices, ASA’s app is available at GooglePlay, too. —Ed.)
Some of the EFB/flight planning apps have built-in E6B calculators, but you may prefer a separate app. If so, there are several stand-alone E6B apps out there, including those that work on Android platforms.
Sporty’s offers pilots a lot of training material specifically for use with an iPad. You might expect that they now offer written test prep courses for private pilot, sport pilot, instrument and commercial via iPad, but Sporty’s also has courses on how to use everything from in-flight weather radar to the Garmin GTN 750.
For the aspiring CFI, lesson plans are available, too. Teaching tools, like airspace review and communications training apps, as well as subject-specific training programs like weather flying and a biannual flight review are also available through Sporty’s website.
Radionav Sim, E6B simulators
Since I teach a lot, I also have a radio navigation simulator app called Radionav Sim that lets me demonstrate radio magnetic indicator (RMI), course deviation indicator (CDI) and horizontal situation indicator (HSI) presentations.
I also use an E6B simulator (yes, the old style “whiz-wheel” kind) that we still need to teach private pilot candidates. There are several out there, so choosing one is a matter of personal preference.
Sporty’s E6B is the iPad-based E6B calculator that I use for teaching. The app is menu driven with a built-in
These days, publications dedicated just to sharing information about aviation software, apps and accessories for iPad pilots are a reality.
One good one is Sporty’s ipadpilotnews.com website, which has various tips, FAQs, product news, articles and videos available. Future news and information can be emailed to you by signing up for the monthly newsletter.
There are so many iPad apps out there for pilots and more are coming all the time. Stay tuned!
As always, if you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me. I always respond to association members’ questions.
Michael Leighton is an 8,800-hour, three-time Master Flight Instructor, as well as an A&P mechanic. He operates an aircraft maintenance facility and flight training company in Spartanburg, S.C. You can find him on the web at flymkleighton.net. Send questions or comments to .
Note: This article provided a brief look at several apps currently available to pilots. PFA members can expect to see more in-depth articles about various apps in upcoming issues of Piper Flyer. —Ed.
buy.garmin.com, search “Garmin Pilot”
Sporty’s training apps
Weather and filing
Weight and balance
iPad app news and information
iPad Pilot News