A few years back, when innovative tablets like the iPad and Google’s open-source Android devices were first overturning long-held ideas about the direction of personal computing, we told you about eight must-try aviation apps. You loved them all, and even suggested a few more that we might check out. Since then a lot has changed in the tablet world. Apple, of course, has introduced the cockpit-friendly iPad mini, the iPad Air and even a computer for your wrist that’s simply called the “Watch” (because, let’s face it, iWatch would be a little creepy). Smartphones of all shapes, sizes and capabilities have come along too, some of them seemingly almost as big as full-feature tablets.
Meanwhile, the apps themselves keep evolving — that is, they continually improve with each new software release, sometimes in ways that are downright revolutionary. We don’t even call ForeFlight Mobile, Garmin Pilot or WingX Pro 7 “electronic chart” apps anymore because they can do so much more than merely show us inflight charts and maps on the screen (although they still do that, exceedingly well in fact, as paper has become so last century).
The debate about whether new student pilots should still learn with paper charts or go digital from lesson one rages on, but nearly everybody can agree there’s a place in the cockpit for a fully charged tablet running the right mix of aviation software tools.
Here are eight more noteworthy apps we’ve been flying with lately that you’ll definitely want to check out before you go flying again.
Developer: Thomas Wana
iPhone, iPad, Android
AeroPad is a great companion tool to your primary charting app, giving you a simple PDF and image viewer that’s designed specifically for pilot use. The app lets you store checklists, flight manuals and other useful information and includes a whiteboard for writing down clearances and frequencies, as well as night mode, which swaps black and white colors with red and black for easy viewing in a darkened cockpit.
If you use ForeFlight Mobile Pro or another charting app that lets you create PDF versions of charts, the app can be a great backup resource as well (although an actual paper chart is your best backup). AeroPad also makes file sharing easy with a multitude of ways to upload data, and can even serve as a backup logbook with the ability to store departure and arrival times.
Perhaps best of all, the app was designed with flying safety in mind. It features an easy-to-navigate menu structure with big buttons that are easy to tap even in turbulence.
Developer: Laminar Research
Price: Free plus $199.99 a year
Here’s an app that’s as cool as you’d expect, coming as it does from X-Plane flight simulator creator Austin Meyer.Billed as a virtual copilot residing inside your iPhone or iPad, Xavion is constantly aware of your location, ready to step in and provide assistance should you encounter an inflight emergency such as engine failure.
Xavion includes moving maps, but it’s not really meant to serve as a replacement for your charting app subscription. Instead, where Xavion stands apart is in its ability to instantly plot a safe course to the nearest suitable airport if the engine quits.
It does this by learning the glide capabilities of your airplane. As you fly along, Xavion constantly runs engine-out scenarios in the background. When it finds a runway it thinks you can safely reach in case of an engine failure, it creates a virtual highway in the sky you should fly through to achieve the proper glide angle and speed all the way to touchdown. The app also interfaces with all-in-one GPS/ADS-B/AHRS portable devices for maximum capability.
The app will check to ensure you have safe takeoff margins based on the departure runway you’ve selected, perform weight and balance checks, estimate fuel burn and time en route, and much more. You might never need it, but if you do you’ll be glad you have it.
Developer: Roeland van der Spek
Price: $4.99 to $7.99
You check all pertinent notams before every flight, right? Right? Now there’s no excuse not to bring yourself completely up to speed on relevant Notices to Airmen thanks to Notams HD, an iPhone/iPad app that gives you instant, always-on notifications for your departure airport, destination and even route of flight.
The app places alert icons on the moving map along your route displaying notams you might be interested in, which can be accessed with a quick tap. Best of all, the latest version of the app supports translation of notams from sometimes-cryptic abbreviations into plain English.
To view notams, simply input your departure point, destination and alternate (if you have one) on the screen and then tap on each to view notam details. After the latest notams are downloaded from the system’s server, they appear on your tablet’s screen as alert icons.
The app also displays notam information for Centers and Flight Information Regions along your route of flight. Sometimes it can almost seem like too much information, but when it comes to pertinent notams, more is always better. One limitation of the app is the data has to be downloaded before a flight.
Two versions of the app are offered, one for iPhones that sells for $4.99 and an iPad-compatible version for $7.99.
Developer: Aviation Data Systems
Once you download MyRadar Pro to your iPhone or iPad, chances are it will instantly become your go-to weather tool for preflight planning. That’s because the app offers such lightning-fast access to storm information (if you’ll pardon the pun), with automatic updates of scrolling graphic Nexrad imagery that appear almost from the moment you tap the app icon.
What we especially love about MyRadar Pro is the aviation overlays it includes. These are customizable map layers that let you add airmets, sigmets, icing and turbulence reports, plus temperatures, winds, cloud cover and more.
Tap on a shaded area and an alert pops up letting you know, for example, that icing is forecast in that area between 9,000 and 18,000 feet or that moderate turbulence is expected above 4,000 feet. It’s so convenient and easy to use, it will probably replace several other of your favorite weather tools.
You’ll even find yourself tapping the MyRadar Pro app icon on the screen when you have no plans to go flying but you hear a rumble of thunder in the distance or see ominous clouds moving in. There’s simply not another app we know of that’s better for a quick look at current and forecast weather conditions.
Developer: Sporty’s Pilot Shop
Plenty of flight instructors will argue that new student pilots should put the iPad down and learn to fly the old-fashioned way, with coffee-stained paper charts, a dog-eared FAR/AIM manual and a mechanical E6B whiz wheel.
Since you’ll toss that stuff in a drawer and forget about it the moment you earn your Private ticket, we’re not convinced of the wisdom in learning to fly using only relics of the past, but old habits die hard.
Even if your instructor recommends you leave your tablet at home for instructional flights, you can still use it to help accelerate your learning. One of the best ways to do that is by using Sporty’s Study Buddy iPhone and iPad learning aid. With it you’ll have access to tools to help you ace your Private Pilot written exam, including random sample questions, a “flashcard” mode that throws the questions at you without the multiple choice selections, and a test mode that generates a 60-question sample test.
As you progress in your flight training and you’re ready to move on to your Instrument rating, Sporty’s offers a version of Study Buddy for that too.
LogTen Pro X
Developer: Coradine Aviation
Price: $29.99 plus $49.99 a year
iPad, iPhone, Mac
Anybody can create a basic electronic logbook app and throw it up on the App Store. LogTen Pro, however, has emerged as the top choice among serious pilots for its easy-to-navigate interface, comprehensive reporting tools and handy features like automatic flight-time logging by simply pressing a start/stop button on every flight.
The latest version of the app, LogTen Pro X, is the best one yet with a totally redesigned interface and extra tools, like the Dynamic Time Loupe that lets you select any time period and see a comprehensive breakdown by aircraft category, class and type.
LogTen Pro X is also compatible with Apple’s iCloud Drive, allowing you to access your electronic logbook from a variety of iOS devices. You or your instructor can even sign your digital logbook with your finger or a stylus.
The one change pilots have been grousing about is a new pricing model that includes an annual subscription for iPad users. The download cost for the iPhone/iPad app is $29.99, plus an extra $49.99 per year after you’ve logged 40 hours. Or you can pay $99.99 for the Mac version with no annual fee.
It might seem steep to some, but if you want or need all the capabilities LogTen Pro X provides, it’s hands down the best electronic logbook out there.
Developer: Where2 Interactive
iPhone, iPad, Android
Looking for someplace to fly this weekend? The SocialFlight app has you covered, with more than 20,000 aviation events like fun fly-ins, pancake breakfasts and poker runs all just waiting to be discovered.
SocialFlight started out as a website intended to bring pilots together by providing an interactive map of all the aviation events and happenings going on throughout the year, from the major airshows and fly-ins to public pilot gatherings at small airports.
Now with the free SocialFlight companion app, you can search for pilot get-togethers anywhere you have a cellphone or Wi-Fi signal. You can even use the app to locate other pilots with similar interests, similar airplanes or just the desire to swap flying stories.
SocialFlight’s creators have worked extremely hard to ensure all the events pilots want to know about are covered, including upcoming FAA safety seminars, aviation conventions, airshows and more.
The app also directs you to more than 200,000 points of interest near airports, plus pilot educational seminars and special events in your area. The creators have even begun adding scores of educational videos, webinars, reference materials and more, all accessible through the app, in their noble quest to promote general aviation.
Developer: Applicate Ltd.
iPhone, iPad, Android
What makes this app so good is its commitment to simplicity. Tap the icon to launch Airports and you are transported into a portal to the world — or at least a portal to the 10,000-plus airfields in its database.
Turning an airport directory into an app is a no-brainer, but Airports offers so much more that you won’t think of it as just a reference source but instead as a vital tool you’ll use in your everyday flying.
The heart of the app is the worldwide airport database. It doesn’t include every airport, but most are there, with easy-to-find runway and approach information, frequencies and phone numbers, metar and TAF reports, notams and much more.
Type in an airport identifier or name and up pops a top-down satellite view of the airport with all the useful information you’d expect. With one tap you can launch your device’s native map application to help you explore the world around the airport. You can also create lists of your favorite airports to make searching a cinch.
I wouldn’t trust my life on the information the app supplies, but Airports is a great place to start when planning a flight and a useful companion to your other navigation and electronic chart apps.
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