Pilot My-Cast

Garmin's entry in the iPad app market goes way beyond weather.

Garmin Pilot My-Cast

Garmin Pilot My-Cast

Garmin Pilot My-Cast

(August 2011) When Garmin purchased Pilot My-Cast and its developer, Digital Cyclone, a few years ago, it did so because the handwriting was on the wall: Apps were a part of the future of aviation information.

As originally conceived, Pilot My-Cast was an app for mobile devices, mostly phones, that would allow a pilot to get preflight weather and file a flight plan. Even a few years back, that was pretty cool stuff, but in today's mobile computing environment — that is, with the advent of the iPhone and the iPad — it's all about the features.

Garmin responded by putting Pilot My-Cast on the iPhone and iPad early on and by adding features at a rapid-fire clip. The app has moved far beyond the “brief-and-file” version of just a couple of years ago. Today’s Pilot My-Cast features moving map with VFR or IFR en route charts for the base map, flight planning, terminal charts, airport information, fuel prices and Garmin’s excellent SafeTaxi utility. The entire package, including georeferenced charts and SafeTaxi, goes for $180 a year. The base product is $99 per year or $9.99 per month.

Flight planning is a powerful feature, and one that is constantly evolving. The latest version allows pilots to drag and drop waypoints on the map screen to make changes. On a flight, my routing was changed by ATC halfway to Dallas, so I made my changes on screen. Click on the flight-planning icon at the bottom and then simply put your finger on the course line and drag it to the new waypoint. If there are a few in the general vicinity of where you dragged it, the app asks which one you meant. Click on it, and the new course snaps into place. It’s very cool. Text flight planning, on the other hand, is still a work in progress. The interface is often unintuitive, and some basic capabilities, like basic text editing of a flight plan, are lacking or hard to access. There’s much room for improvement here.

Charting is first-rate, and the georeferencing works well. (Just be sure to turn off the power saver utility in setup, or you’ll lose GPS position until it reacquires.) At unfamiliar airports, this is a godsend, because you can see not only where you are on the airport but also which taxiways ATC has assigned you.

Weather products, Nexrad, graphical metars, winds aloft and much more can be superimposed on the map to give you a clear picture of where the bad weather is and how to avoid it. For now, unless you have Wi-Fi in the airplane, that weather is going to be as old as the last time you downloaded data. But soon Pilot My-Cast will be able to display satellite and ADS-B weather through third-party receivers. Free upgrades to the latest standard version are a part of the app package.

While still a work in progress in a few respects, Pilot My-Cast as a whole is well worth the price of admission and then some. With terminal charts, weather, flight-plan filing capabilities, SafeTaxi, airport information and fuel prices, the app will pay for itself in as little as one flight while making the trip more convenient and adding key safety features.