iPad quick tip: visually check TFRs during preflight

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You have to be extra cautious in the months ahead as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) pop up more and more frequently to protect the airspace around the President and Vice President during campaign visits. The best way to get the most up to date information still requires a call to a Flight Service Station (FSS) briefer. Even with the detailed information from the briefer, it’s often tough to visualize the exact locations and how they relate to your planned flight, especially when you have to estimate the position based on a VOR radial and distance.

This is where supplementing this information with one of the popular aviation iPad apps can help. You can quickly enter a flight plan and see if your route approaches the boundaries of the TFR, and use the touch-planning features to easily modify your route to stay clear of the restrictions. Here’s how:

ForeFlight Mobile

Display weather radar and TFRs simultaneously in ForeFlight Mobile.

When viewing the Maps section in the ForFlight Mobile app, select the overlay option at the top left of the screen. Here you can select various weather overlays, including an option for TFRs. With TFRs selected, you’ll see both yellow and red shaded rings on the map, indicating the location of the TFRs. Yellow rings indicate future TFRs that go into effect more than 24 hours from the current time, and the red rings indicate TFRs that are either currently active or will be active in the next 24 hours. You can tap anywhere in the ring to see the TFR details in plain english, including TFR type, altitudes, and effective times given in your current time zone. One unique feature here is that you can simultaneously display the TFR and weather radar overlays, which is very helpful for route planning.

You can also view TFRs directly from the Airports page in ForeFlight. After pulling up an airport, tap the NOTAMs button in the middle of the screen. Here you’ll see NOTAMs sorted into 3 categories: Airport, TFR & ARTCC. One thing we’ve noticed here is that TFRs will appear in both the Airport and TFR grouping, so get in the habit of checking all 3 categories during preflight to get complete information. Full TFR information will also be displayed in the FDC NOTAM section when retrieving a full weather briefing in the app (from the File & Brief tab).

Garmin Pilot

TFRs displayed on the Garmin Pilot app.

The Garmin Pilot app offers options similar to ForeFlight, where you can display the TFR boundaries directly on the map to see how they’ll affect your routing. To turn them on, select the map overlay button at the bottom left of the screen, and select TFR. Once displayed, you can tap them to get TFR type, altitude and effective times. Unlike ForeFlight though, you cannot simultaneously display weather radar and TFR boundaries.

To look for TFRs affecting individual airports, select the Airport Info page from the Home button at the top left of the screen. After entering an airport, select NOTAMs from the list at the left of the screen. You’ll have to scroll to the bottom to see the most recent NOTAMs, and TFRs will be listed with the Airspace tag preceding the effective times. To get the full text description of the TFR you’ll need to retrieve a weather briefing in the Trip Planning section of the app, and like ForeFlight, the full text will be found in the FDC NOTAM section at the very bottom of the report.

WingX Pro

TFRs can be displayed on the WingX moving map and read in detail in the dedicated TFR section of the app.

WingX Pro also displays TFRs on the main moving map page with a red ring depiction, but there’s a gotcha here if you’re not careful. In our experience the app will NOT automatically display current TFRs unless you manually go to the Databases section of the app and select ‘Download Databases’ at the top left of the screen. This downloads a new weather database, which also includes the latest TFRs. Like the other 2 apps mentioned above, you can tap the TFR ring to get full details on the restriction to see how it will affect your planned flight. Since WingX Pro does not include an option to display weather radar on the moving map on the ground, you cannot display weather hazards simultaneously with the TFR depictions.

WingX also offers a dedicated section in the app that displays all TFRs organized by state. Since you can’t search for a particular airport here, you’ll need to know the VOR from which the TFR boundaries are based to make this information useful. You’ll find it helpful to select the Active and Pending TFR button at the bottom of the page to view only current TFRs and those that will go active within the next 24 hours. Again make sure to hit the refresh button at the bottom of the page since the app does not automatically load new data.

Conclusion

These apps will also display current TFRs in the air when connected to an ADS-B weather receiver, like the Stratus, Garmin GDL-39 or SkyRadar. The interesting thing with this data stream is that you will also see the blanket TFRs over large sports stadiums, though the description won’t indicate if they are active. For some reason you won’t see these same blanket TFRs when retrieving TFR data using internet on the ground with any of the apps described above.

For more information on other helpful TFR information sources, like how to get Twitter and email alerts, check out this article: 7 Ways to Stay Informed About TFRs.