You’ve torn open the packaging and pulled out your shiny new Apple iPad (or maybe it is an Android tablet). Powering the unit on for the first time, the image on the screen is just as stunningly rendered as you imagined. You stare into the glow of the capacitive LCD touchscreen and eagerly navigate to the App Store, where you type in the word aviation. At your fingertips, quite literally, results for more than 1,500 apps materialize. Now what? You haven’t a clue of where to begin.
Except that you do: The whole reason you bought an iPad or Android tablet, after all, was for the digital charts, which will free you at last from the burden of lugging all those paper sectional charts, IFR low en route charts and thick approach plate binders into the cockpit. And, of course, everybody knows that the best digital chart applications (in no particular order) are ForeFlight Mobile, Garmin Pilot, Jeppesen Mobile FlightDeck, Flight Guide iEFB and WingX Pro7. Purchase an annual subscription to any of these electronic chart services and you really can’t go wrong — plus, you’ll get a whole lot more than just charts because additional features are being added and improved all the time.
But that’s a different article altogether. Let’s get back to the App Store. Say you’ve successfully downloaded one of the EFB applications listed above and now you’re ready to add some additional cockpit resources to your digital toolbox. Maybe you’ve heard other pilots talk about some of their favorite apps or you’ve read about some intriguing choices online. Should you just download them all and try to figure out on your own which ones you’ll like the best? Or should you refer to the online user ratings and trust that a four- or five-star-rated app will be worth the asking price because, well, others liked it?
In the end, of course, not every pilot will need — or even want — every app that’s available. But for a great many of us, there are certain aviation applications that just beg for presentation on a touchscreen tablet computer. To help you get started, we’ve selected eight great aviation apps that are absolutely worth checking out. You’ve probably heard of at least a few of these, and maybe you’re even a regular user of more than one. We downloaded and tested each of them on an iPad, so if you’re an Android tablet user your experience may differ — also, sorry, some of these apps aren’t yet offered for Android devices.
At any rate, here’s what you should know about each app and why we picked it. If you think there are better apps that didn’t make our list, by all means drop us a note and tell us about them. We’ll update flyingmag.com with your favorites.
CloudAhoy is a seriously cool aviation app that lets you track each and every flight you make and then retrieve the captured data later from the CloudAhoy server for review on your home computer. The app uses Google Earth to let you play back your flight in a Web browser, either from a top-down view or a great 3-D mode superimposed on Google’s high-resolution satellite imagery.
CloudAhoy uses an iPhone or iPad internal GPS receiver (or an external GPS such as the popular Bad Elf unit) to record your flights. To get started, download the app from the Apple App Store, create your free account at cloudahoy.com, and, finally, register your device. To use CloudAhoy in your airplane, simply press the app’s start button just before engine start and forget about it until after your flight is over.
The data is stored locally on the device until you’re back on the ground and your iPhone or iPad is receiving a data signal. You can then log into your password-protected account and view your flight on any Windows or Mac computer. The service includes options for individual users as well as flight schools, making it a great learning aid. Best of all, the app and CloudAhoy data storage services are free.