If you started flying before the iPad was introduced in 2010 or, even longer ago, before the early 2000s, when aviation-specific portable-flight-bag tablets first entered the market, you remember the days when you got a workout each time you went flying from carrying a hefty bag filled with paper charts, plotters, instrument approach plates and more. Fortunately, the introduction of smartphones and tablets, and subsequently electronic flight bag apps, such as ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, WingX Pro and FlyQ EFB, quickly eliminated the heavy lifting and the hours spent planning for cross-country flights, studying charts or making calculations to figure out the headwind component and flight time to ensure you had sufficient fuel for a flight. And who misses the days of removing outdated instrument charts from thick Jeppesen binders and replacing them with new pages?
While pilots are most likely still spending most of their flying-related iPad time on the previously mentioned flight apps, there are several other products that can help with different aspects of flying. Here are some examples of apps you can install on your smartphone or tablet that can help you become a better pilot and make flying and the process of making go/no-go decisions more enjoyable.
Evaluating the accuracy of flights is not just for those who are training for a private, instrument or commercial ticket. Most likely there is something to learn each time you take to the skies. It’s a great idea to take the time to assess how a flight went to gauge your proficiency and correct mistakes. CloudAhoy makes this process fun and effortless. Having said that, this app is a particularly useful tool for pilots in training and flight instructors as it helps the instructor debrief a flight in detail using actual data.
In the CloudAhoy app, you can watch yourself fly and see where you made any mistakes. Did you keep your speed where it should be during the climb, cruise, descent and approach? Did you maintain your altitude throughout the flight? Were the altitude and bank angle steady during that steep turn? Were you on the glidepath during the RNAV approach? CloudAhoy can answer all of these questions.
Flights can be recorded directly in the app, but if you’re recording the flight with another app or piece of equipment, there is no need to run CloudAhoy while flying. You can simply import the flight data from ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot or a long list of panel-mount equipment and other GPS products.
In the “Debrief and More” section, there are many options for reviewing the flight. You can see a 3D depiction of the flight, overlay the flight track on VFR and IFR charts (international charts are also included), and evaluate various flight parameters, such as altitude and speed. A 3D synthetic-vision cockpit view is also available, and a virtual PFD can be shown too.
You can replay the entire flight, or a certain time segment or phase of the flight, such as the taxi, takeoff, cruise, approach or landing. Each phase of flight is listed in chronological order, so there is no need to scroll through the timeline to find it. When working on a maneuver, such as a stall or hold, the instructor can add the maneuver into the flight log to make it easy to find on the debrief page.
If you’re working on an instrument rating or practicing approaches, you can also show the instrument approach to see how accurately you tracked it. Videos can be integrated into the flight along with audio to truly get the full picture of the flight.
If there is no time to debrief the flight with your CFI right after, you can share the flight with him or her and discuss it later. It can even be used as a preflight tool for the following flight to get a quick preview of what you need to improve on. Or you can share your flight with friends or post it on social media.
Do you find frustration in hearing pilots with poor communications skills on the frequency? Don’t be one of those guys. Using the LiveATC app you can listen in on the communications exchange between air traffic controllers and pilots, and learn to mimic the most professional verbiage during each stage of flight. You can select a specific airport from one of many lists broken down into countries and states.
The communications feeds come from frequencies linked by volunteers, so there is no guarantee that the airport you’re looking for has a connection. Functionality is indicated by a simple green “up” or red “down” indication. For the most part, the listed feeds are up.
In addition to the live communications feed, LiveATC shows the current metar for the airport and includes a link to the airport diagram and a radar image of the surrounding area. You can also listen in on some ARTCC stations around the United States, as well as oceanic HF frequencies.
So, if you’re a proper aviation geek, now you can hang out and listen in on what goes on at airports around the world. LiveATC has a one-time cost of $3.99, with no subscription fees.
A couple of decades ago, the only way to get aviation weather was to call 800-WX-BRIEF. But today, the number of resources to help determine the conditions for your route of flight are nearly limitless. One terrific app that breaks the weather down into components that are easy to decipher is WeatherSpork.
WeatherSpork offers a highly detailed meteogram that shows weather information in a graphical format, with forecast periods ranging from 12 hours to three days. There is also a seven-day general forecast without the detailed graphs.
The app color-codes the weather conditions for quick initial go/no-go information: green is VFR, blue is MVFR, red is IFR and pink is LIFR. Colored circles show cloud coverage in a pie format — a green ring indicates clear skies, while a solid green dot indicates VFR conditions under overcast skies.
The precipitation window is also color coded: blue for rain, orange for thunderstorms, red for severe thunderstorms, pink for snow and maroon for freezing precipitation.
In addition to the meteogram, you can enter a route of flight and WeatherSpork will show the weather en route, either in a grid or a profile view showing cloud levels, freezing levels, potential precipitation and more. A map view shows color-coded weather conditions at the airports en route. WeatherSpork also includes a long list of weather imagery, such as radar, airmets, sigmets, satellite images, prognostic charts and much more.
Another helpful section in the app is the “Workshop” section, which offers weather-related educational videos from AvWxWorkshops.
WeatherSpork requires a subscription to AvWxWorkshops, which costs $79 per year. Be aware, however, that WeatherSpork is not an approved FAA source of aviation weather. For that, you have to use a flight service station or a weather source that uses DUATS.
If you’re looking for help making non-weather-related go/no-go decisions, FRAT could become your new best friend. While the makers of the FRAT app are adamant that the tool should not be used as a go/no-go decision-maker, this app provides a quick way to evaluate a wide range of parameters that have an impact on risk management.
After a very short questionnaire to input your name and total flight time and most common type, you can test your luck with a hypothetical flight. Parameters such as recent flight experience, time of day for the flight, recent instruction, ratings and proficiency, airport environment, weather conditions and more are input through quick, simple taps on the screen. Some parameters lower the risk, such as if you’ve had instruction in the past 90 days. Others increase it; for example, if you had less than eight hours of sleep the night before.
At the end of the questionnaire, the tool reveals a number from zero to 70 to grade the flight, with 70 being the highest level of risk. In addition to the number, the evaluation is color coded: green for “operational risk low” (zero to 10 points) or “increase risk awareness” (11 to 20 points), yellow for “consider mitigating risk” (21 to 30 points), red for “reduce risk exposure” (31 to 39 points) or “evaluate continued operation” (40 to 46 points), and blinking red for “risk factor very high” (47 to 55 points) or “risk factor extreme” (56 to 70 points).
FRAT also includes resources such as TFRs and notams, and some weather data, though the app makes no attempt at making the information easier to decipher but rather links to other resources.
FRAT has a one-time cost of 99 cents, a worthwhile investment in helping reduce your flight risks.
The creator of FlyQ Insight calls it “aviation’s first augmented-reality app.” The app takes the guesswork out of finding airports by using the viewfinder on the camera of a smartphone or tablet to show the pilot where the airport is in relation to reference points outside.
After a quick and easy calibration process, the app will show airports that are in front of the viewfinder on the camera portion of the tablet and display them on the outside image. Main airports are shown, but you can select whether to display the following types: private airports, heliports, seaplane bases and airports with runways shorter than 2,500 feet (this is a default setting — the minimum runway length can be changed). You can also choose the range at which the airports are displayed.
Airports are displayed with signlike icons that display the airport identifier and the distance from your current location. As you turn the tablet left and right, the airports in the peripheral areas show up on the screen. The screen always shows the airports in front of the viewfinder. Simply click the “airport signs” to get detailed information about each airport, such as runway length, radar images, metars and more.
Airport information, weather data, saved flight plans and more can also be accessed through a menu on the bottom of any of the FlyQ Insight pages.
FlyQ Insight is offered free by Seattle Avionics.
Radar imagery provides critical information during cruddy-weather days. Like all weather, radar imagery can be found on many different apps. But often you have to dig around to find the most applicable image. MyRadar provides a clear and current radar image of the area immediately around your current location. You can, of course, pan around on the touchscreen to take a closer look at other areas, but it makes sense for the image to default to your location.
In addition to radar imagery, the app provides current, high and low temperatures; winds; likelihood of precipitation; and cloud coverage, as well as hourly and five-day forecasts. The basic version of MyRadar is free, but you’ll have to live with ads on the top or bottom of the screen. The ads disappear with the purchase of the premium subscription at $9.99 per year. An aviation chart subscription is also available for $24.99 per year, allowing you to superimpose weather imagery over VFR sectionals and low- and high-IFR charts.