Your connection with the sky

iPad & iPhone apps

Benet Wilson requested that readers of  her AOPA Blog post send her their favorite training & flight apps. After writing a response, and I hope I'm not stepping on any toes here, I thought this would make a good post in the Let's Go Flying Blog as well.

Since I am an avid geek when it comes to flying apps and during my training tested out a number of iPad and iPhone apps, here are the ones that I think are the best and most useful apps on the market for students and pilots alike.

For moving maps and navigation there are a few good choices, and there were specific things I liked about each of the apps below, but in the end, WingX Pro7 is the one that ended up on my home screen.

WingX Pro7 (1st choice)
This is just a great app. They chose to forego a lot of flashy impressive graphics and concentrated on straightforward usefulness. The main screen has 12 big plainly marked buttons that get you directly to where you want to go from the excellent moving map feature to the Airports/Facility Directory & AOPA Airports, Navigation Charts, Route Planning, Wx Text, TFR's and more, getting to what you need fast is bold and simple which is a great help in the cockpit. The documents button takes you straight into the included AIM reference library with quick access to anything you might and includes some very helpful additional information like FSS phone numbers for the entire country and the Pilot/Controller Glossary. It's very easy to find and save all of your favorite airports and use them for flight planning, and clicking on any one of them brings up all of the information you'll find yourself needing en-route including runway diagrams, frequencies, facilities, Remarks, FBOs and more. When en-route, the ability to toggle between the full screen and split screen moving map is excellent. In split screen mode you can see each of your way points and destinations with a summary of the most useful in flight information, like frequencies and phone numbers. Tapping any way point on the moving map brings up additional information including current weather, METARs, TAFs, wind, temps, AIRMETs, PIREPs and NOTAMs. You can overlay a number of important options on top of the moving map  including terrain, obstacles, airspace, airways and a half dozen other items. One of my favorite features is the ability to position any area under the centered "crosshair" and instantly see ground elevation.

ForeFlight (2nd choice)
I really liked this app and used it quite a bit when I first started using my iPad in the cockpit. It has an elegant and intuitive interface and flight planning can be done quite easily, although there were a couple of features that kept me from buying it in the end, namely, the inability to quickly clear a flight plan and start another and the lack of elevation marking. Honestly, this was a close second to WingX Pro7 and I had a difficult time deciding between the 2. With the exception of what I mentioned above, this is a really slick and easy to use app in the cockpit and makes flight planning fun.

Garmin Pilot (3rd choice)
I know several people who use this Garmin app and really like it, and indeed there were things I liked about it once I figured it out, but I found the interface unintuitive. I don't like fumbling around trying to figure something out in the cockpit and while this app has a lot of promise, it just isn't quite there yet from an interface standpoint, so I personally wouldn't recommend it for students.

Other favorite apps include

Sporty's E6B
While I still rely on my trusty "old school" E6B calculator, Sporty's E6B is a super slick and easy to use calculator. Honestly, you can calculate anything about your flight so quickly that this will become one of your favorite pilot apps on your iPad or iPhone.

AOPA FlyQ Pocket
This free app is so good, so easy and so useful it should be a part of every pilots "tool bag". While you can plan and save flights as well this app's best feature for me is the ability to get information about any airport almost instantly. FlyQ instantly pulls up information about airports and facilities near you and tapping on any one of them provides a host of additional information including METARS, Weather, Runway information, Satellite views, nearby NAV Aids and much more. Super slick, super easy, free, this one is a no brainer.

WnB Pro
Weight & Balance Pro. It does one thing, and one thing well. Set up and save the information for any aircraft and you can do weight and balance calculations fast. Sure WnB Pro takes all the fun out of doing all that impressive math in your note pad, but if you need a calculation and you need it fast, or you need to try out a variety of scenarios, this is the way to go.

Spin-a-Wind
I'm sure this one got it's name from it's first and most useful tool, calculating runway crosswinds in a flash, but it has a few other features which make it worth installing like the ability to quickly calculate temperatures, density altitude and airspeed. Using it's main feature is just plain fun, pick a runway, wind direction and speed and instantly see runway wind speed and direction.

Last but certainly not least, here are 2 apps that I found amazingly useful during my flight training.

MotionX-GPS
I can't say enough about this app. Launch it at the start of your flight and forget about it until you land. MotionX will track you entire flight using the built in GPS function of your iPhone or iPad. I still use it during virtually every flight and love looking at the "track" when I'm back on the ground. Not only is it just flat out fun to see where you flew, I found that during my training I could very easily determine how I had done performing maneuvers like S Turns over a road or turns on a point. Click the Share button when you land and MotionX instantly emails the GPS files to you or anyone else you specify. Not only can you open and view them, if you want, you can even fly them again using Google Earth!

PrepWare Private Pilot
This is a study and test app for the knowledge test. If you're a student, just download it. With hundreds of possible questions you can study and test yourself over and over again while preparing for your knowledge test. This app is so much like the actual computer knowledge test that if you can consistently receive a passing score here, you'll be sure to pass the real thing when the time comes.

Here's my final app suggestion and one that's not a flight app at all.

iBooks for the iPad.
Locate any PDF online and email it to yourself. Click on the attached file in your email on the iPad and save it to iBooks. I found it difficult to carry around all of the necessary reading materials on a daily basis during my flight training and having the ability to download just about anything and read it on my iPad meant being able to study just about anywhere. Between the AOPA and the FAA alone, there is so much information out there in PDF format available to pilots you can pack your iPad chock full of a library of information that is always at your fingertips. From the FAA Pilot's Handbook to an arsenal of flight training materials to the POH for the training plane, this was by far one of the best things I took advantage of during my training and I highly recommend it.

Ok, well, there you have it, my list of favorite pilot apps for the iPad and iPhone. I hope you find it useful!

9 Responses to “iPad & iPhone apps”

  1. The usual suspects; you missed a couple of my favorites. AeroWeather - displays several of your favorite airports' current METARS side-by-side. PilotFAR-Aim by CoDeveloper - Complete FAR/AIM, updated monthly; ability to bookmark and highlight selected text. A must-have for CFI's; $6.99/yr. CloudAhoy - Maps datapoints of your flight; during de-briefing you can critique flight path, maneuvers, landings within GoogleEarth plug-in.

  2. I second Gary's mention of CloudAhoy and would add iFlightPlanner to the list. It's a pretty cool online flight planner (like the AOPA Flight Planner) but with a free iPad app that syncs with your online account.

  3. I would definitely 3rd CloudAhoy, the data analysis in the debrief is pretty neat. Also, I would choose MyE6B instead of the Sporty's app - it's cheaper and does more calculations that are practical.

  4. Here's one I just discovered last week, Xavion. It's a synthetic vision display, backup GPS-based instruments and most cool of all it will display HITS boxes to fly through in the case of an engine failure! It constantly is calculating a glide path to the nearest airport as you fly. Engine fails, hit the panic button and it will direct you. How cool is that!
    Read about it here: http://www.x-avionics.com/xavion/

    It's $99 one-time cost.

    It's from the guy that wrote X-Plane.

  5. All great comments and suggestions and much appreciated. I'm always looking for great pilot apps, and of course there are some I use that didn't get mentioned. I was originally only going to mention them...but, if you've read my blog, you know I can get carried away. What I like overall about WingX7 is that it incorporates many of these features into a single app and the one thing I don't want to be doing in the air is fumbling around trying to remember which one it was that worked the best. Every pilot is going to have a different way of managing resources in the cockpit as well so it's important to find a set that works the way you work with the highest efficiency and the least distraction. Please do continue to post any apps that you find as I'd love to check them out.

  6. If you learn how to fly on your phone...I would be scared to fly with that pilot. I can see how it can help a pilot in training, it just shouldn't be the number one way a person learns lol.

  7. Rich Dickson Says:
    January 31st, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    I enjoyed these comments, but I am trying to decide whether to go with the iPad or, preferably, for various "grudges" vs Apple and iOS, would like to get the Nexus 10.
    Are there programs equal to the above for that system?
    Thank you,
    Rich D

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on games. Regards

  9. Seems like some great apps, but too bad I got an android phone.

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