Software applications for pilots have come a long way in the past several years. Thanks to ingenious programmers and ever faster and more powerful hardware devices, today's inflight pilot apps can do any number of chores, and do them well. A handful of products, like FlightPrep's ChartCase electronic flight bag software, seem to do a little of everything.
I recently checked out ChartCase on a high-end tablet computer, the Fujitsu P1620, which features a solid-state harddrive, and was impressed though a bit intimidated by the power and customizability of the software.
As the name suggests, ChartCase is a replacement for your paper charts that you can run on a number of powerful tablet computers. Using a combination of beautifully scanned government, geo-referenced VFR and instrument en route and approach charts (so you can see your airplane's moving position superimposed right on the chart), its own 2-D moving map software, and even synthetic vision, ChartCase gives pilots unparalleled options to see exactly where in the air we are. When you're learning the system, the options, in fact, are daunting. There are a wealth of views and configurations you can put the screen into, and you can customize any one of those views in a number of ways.
The geo-referencing deserves special note. FlightPrep geo-references nearly all of its charts -- there are just a few that can't be coded this way -- so you see your present position and track on just about all of your moving maps on the product.
Moreover, ChartCase adds extra features. There is, of course, GPS, powered in my case by a wireless Bluetooth WAAS receiver out of sight up on the glareshield. And a wireless XM receiver gives you both XM satellite weather and XM Radio. A terrain awareness utility, coupled with synthetic vision and the powerful charting I already mentioned, brings a full panel worth of capability to the tablet screen. There's even highway in the sky. It's an impressive suite of applications. Remember, though, that the flight guidance is purely advisory in nature. To legally fly IFR you need panel-mount equipment, and don't even think about maneuvering based on the synthetic vision.
The charts, on the other hand, are a legal replacement for paper. For my money, this application teamed with the XM Weather is well worth the cost. But pilots would be smart to listen to FlightPrep's advice and learn the system before they go flying. As I said, it's a powerful system, and what you get out of it will be directly in proportion to what effort you put into learning the system.
ChartCase is available with a number of hardware and software options, so pilots can get it just the way they want it. I'd suggest visiting with FlightPrep on the phone, online or at an airshow and checking out the various configurations available. Costs vary depending on the options chosen. The system I checked out, with XM, Bluetooth receivers and the full-up software suite on a no-holds-barred tablet computer, cost around $4,900. That included the tablet and all the accessories, a year's worth of map data updates, approach charts and more. The XM subscription is separate and extra. For around $3,500, you can get a nice entry-level system computer with the software and both GPS and XM receivers.
For more information, and to configure systems and get costs, visit flightprep.com.