Sporty’s Plates Delivers

In terms of price, practicality, portability and simplicity, the new chart viewer hits on all cylinders.

Sporty's Plates
Sporty's Plates

(April 2011) WHILE APPLICATIONS FOR handheld devices have been an intriguing development for some time, the introduction of the iPad has absolutely changed the competitive marketplace in aviation. Dozens of apps, including capable suites from ForeFlight and X-Wing, have made the 10-inch portable from Apple into a must-have pilot pal.

Sporty’s Pilot Shop, which helped pioneer the move to online chart access almost a decade ago, has a history too of teaming with experts when it develops a new product. In this case, it chose ForeFlight. The idea was to create a simple but elegant chart viewer that did what pilots asked and did it well.

When you open Plates you begin by seeing, you guessed it, plates. Thumbnails of approach charts are there for the selecting. When you choose one, a full-screen chart pops up, and you’re good to go. Zoom in and see all the details — although, on the iPad, they’re easy to see without zooming. Lock the chart orientation with a software button on the upper-right-hand part of the screen, and you can rotate the iPad at will without the display flipping on you. You can download the entire United States or simply choose the state or region you’ll be flying in. Downloads using Wi-Fi are satisfyingly swift.

What’s not to like? Very little, though some pilots (not me) might wish for a geo-referenced version and others (like me) might be looking for en route charts as well. Then again, the app is a perfect complement to any other full-suite iPad app, such as those from ForeFlight, Wing-X Pro or FlightGuide, that have en route charts. For me, when I want an approach chart, I want it now and I want to be able to get it and use it easily. Sporty’s Plates answers those needs perfectly.

The cost of Sporty’s Plates is $59.95. For that price you get a full year of updates, both software and charts, and as Sporty’s rolls out improvements to the app, you get them for free as well. You can get a free 30-day trial at the Apple App Store, but for many pilots, this will be a no-brainer.