February 8, 2009
In preparing for my last cross country flight I took advantage of some newer tools. I started my planning with the new online version of the AOPA Flight Planner powered by Jeppesen. I have used the software based version of the flight planner in the past and enjoyed checking out their web-based version. It was fairly intuitive and only took me a few minutes to build my desired route. I was able to add GPS waypoints and airports simply by clicking on the appropriate icons on the online chart. I also wished to add one custom waypoint for the Arlington Park racetrack which was easy enough to do with a right-click.
After you select your route if you have aircraft entered into the system it will generate a navlog with the appropriate speeds. As you get closer to flight time you can run weather reports for the route of flight and then the AOPA flightplanner updates your navlog with the appropriate speeds and headings accounting for the winds. If you plan on filing a flightplan you can do that too from the system. All routes your create can then be saved for future reference. If you are an AOPA member I highly recommend you check it out.
For this flight I brought along my traditional sectionals but left them in the backseat. Instead the Jeppesen VFR+GPS Great Lakes (GL-3) Chart sat in my lap for most the flight. I first learned about these maps while at AirVenture this summer. Most of my flying takes place in northern Illinois and throughout Wisconsin which would require a few sectionals. With this chart I could fly from Champaign, IL to Cherryland Airport in Door County, WI with a single chart.
These new charts have ditched the greenish color we all are familiar with from our sectionals and instead is white allowing colors used for airspace, airways and airports to pop more. I feel they have made these charts easier to read. One major improvement was the very clear markings of ceilings and floors of airspace. These charts took into account that so many pilots are using GPS in flight and are designed with that type of flight in mind.
Many pilot shops are starting to stock them but if you can't find them at your local shop you can purchase one directly from Jeppesen. I now keep one in my flightbag for all flights.
July 23, 2008
ForeFlight Mobile 2.0 Preflight Intelligence is the handy pilots assistant that can take you from the start of your planning straight through to filing a flight plan.
Simply open the application and use the Airport Facilities Directory (A/FD) to find your desired destination. The team at Foreflight have made the information in those green Airport Facilities Directories available electronically, and not just for your particular region. They have data for over 220 countries including 25,000 landing facilities. You can review airport data such as frequencies, runway lengths and even view runway, taxiway diagrams and even access to sectional charts. The tool helps you plan a visit to the local fixed based operator, review local lodging options and has information for transportation providers. You can even view the airports location on a Google map to plan getting to or from an airport or to see an aerial view of nearby terrain.
If you are planning a flight you are surely going to be interested in some additional information that is but a tap away. The alerts tab shows NOTAMs for the airport you are looking at. If you are ready to review weather conditions tap the WX button to receive the current weather observation at the airport, which provides the METAR and even a translation for the METAR. From the weather page you can look at various weather data including current winds aloft information and a looped radar image. There is also an option to view forecasted weather data but if a TAF is not published for the airport you are looking at it will not return any data. I would love to see in an update a few TAF reports for airports within a 25-mile proximity of the airport being looked at.
From a higher level you can view national and regional radar images, Airmets, Sigmets and prognostic charts from the weather section of Foreflight.
If you are ready to fly and want to file a flightplan ForeFlight can even help you with that. This is the one part of the functionality that I have not yet used. According to the ForeFlight website you can file new flight plans "in under ten seconds and view your complete flight plan filing history." Flight plan submissions are through a CSC Duats account.
Although, this iphone app will not fully replace all the online resources I use for flight planning it is a valuable tool that will be extremelly handy while on-the-go or at the airport.
If you are an iPhone enabled pilot I highly recommend you check out ForeFlight Mobile 2.0 Preflight Intelligence. It is available through the iPhone App store for a one-time charge of $69.99.