(January 2012) Back in September my column Going Direct entitled “The Chart Is Dead,” I referred to work that Jeppesen is doing to unhinge the chart from our old ideas of what paper is and what it represents. In the brave new world of data-driven depictions, the “chart” is not an object but instead a collection of data presented in its most useful form in order to fulfill the pilot’s need at that moment.
Mobile FliteDeck, an iPad app from Jeppesen available from Apple, gives pilots the best of both old and new paradigms, with its traditional paper terminal charts in digital form along with PDF-formatted flight manuals.
You also get en route navigation with own-ship position, so you can monitor your progress as you fly. The moving map feature is brilliantly rendered. You can declutter it if you wish simply by tapping an icon on the right-hand side of the screen. Pinch and zoom in, and the details are there to scrutinize, or zoom out for the larger view. And you can customize with a couple of clicks on the fly.
While none of this is revolutionary, the way that Jeppesen does it is. Instead of simply zooming in or out on the same picture, Mobile FD recalculates the whole affair, giving the pilot exactly what’s needed at that juncture. It takes a while to get used to this idea, that what you’re zooming in on is going to look different, not just larger, than the previous view. Once you do get your head wrapped around this idea, it makes great sense.
The app itself is elegant and solidly designed. To enter a flight plan, simply type into the big, drop-down flight planning box your departure and arrival airports, and an alternate if you so desire. Mobile FD automatically loads those terminal charts for you, so there’s no hunting when you get to arrival mode. On my flight to Orlando and back home to Texas last week, I saw how powerful the planning function is as I typed in my flight plan, as cleared, including Victor airways and watched it come to life. More features are on their way, including a number of graphical flight-planning features, like rubber-banding, in which you drag your course line to a new waypoint to update the plan.
Even with the new capabilities, Mobile FliteDeck is not the most feature-packed app available, and it’s expensive relative to its competitors because you need a Jeppesen subscription to use it, though for many pilots a regional database will suffice. You also don’t get extensive support information, like FBO data or fuel prices. Then again, you do get Mobile FD’s beautifully crafted user interface — there is, for instance, an always handy screen dimmer, so there’s no going through menus to find it. Most importantly you get Jeppesen’s terminal charts on a great platform. Unlike its competitors’ products, Jepp charts not only cover the world, but they’re the best in the world to boot.