Garmin Pilot adds track up, new maps

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Just in time for Sun ‘n Fun, Garmin has released version 5.0 of their Garmin Pilot app for iPad and iPhone. The latest version of the popular app is a fairly significant update that adds a number of new features, and it continues the arms race among the major app developers. The features that are now available for under $100/year is really extraordinary.

Garmin's new dynamic maps offer a data-driven alternative to sectional and en route charts.
Garmin’s new dynamic maps offer a data-driven alternative to sectional and en route charts.

We went flying with the new version of Garmin Pilot recently and found a lot to like. Let’s look at some of the key upgrades:

Dynamic maps. Sometimes called “data driven maps,” this feature adds new map layers that look like portable GPS map pages. So instead of just digital versions of paper charts (although those are still available), Garmin Pilot can now display aviation maps that scale quickly and declutter automatically. Only Jeppesen has a similar feature among major aviation apps, and we think Garmin does it even better here. While we still found ourselves using sectional and IFR en route charts a lot, these new maps were especially useful for reviewing complex airspace or overlaying a lot of weather on a route.

Track Up.  These new dynamic maps enable track up navigation, a feature that more and more pilots are asking for. When connected to a GPS source (either built-in iPad GPS or wireless GPS accessory), pilots can switch between track up and North up views in flight. The track up display works well with the dynamic maps, because all the text is written right side up. It’s a real MFD-style moving map presentation.

Easier SafeTaxi access. Garmin’s SafeTaxi airport diagrams have long been a pilot favorite, offering detailed charts for many airports beyond just the ones in the approach plate book. Now these charts are easier to get to–just like on Garmin portable GPSs, you can simply zoom in on an airport from the Map page. As you get in tighter, you’ll see hold short lines, runway incursion hot spots and a lot more. If you’re connected to a GPS, you can watch your airplane taxi.

Configurable maps. While most apps have menus for adjusting map settings, Garmin’s implementation here is pretty intuitive. From the map layers menu, you can quickly select a map or chart base layer, then add weather overlays and adjust settings with slider bars. There’s also a night mode here that makes the basemap black, which helps to preserve night vision.

Airport/Facility Directory. The trusty green A/FD book still has a lot of information that can’t be found anywhere else, including airport lighting details and communications data. Now the full A/FD pages can be viewed in Garmin Pilot, accessible from the Airport Info page. This even includes the general and supplemental A/FD information from the front and back of the book.

Garmin Pilot taxi chart annotate
Now you can annotate charts, which is great for tracing your taxi route.

Cloud syncing. A version of this has been available for a while in Garmin Pilot, but with version 5.0 it has been expanded to be more useful. In addition to backing up your pilot information, you can now store your trips, aircraft, bookmarked flight plans and user waypoints in the cloud. This is great if you jump around between mobile devices (say, a phone and tablet)–you’ll always have your personal information.

Chart annotations. Sometimes it’s helpful to mark up an approach plate or airport diagram, and this feature allows you to do just that by extending the scratch pad feature to the Charts page. It’s great for taxi clearances or highlighting approach minima. This feature is available for iPad only.

Overall, it is Garmin is working hard to make their app look and work more like their panel avionics, from the map styles to the menus. That’s only natural, and it should be reassuring for users of GTN 650/750 and even G1000 equipment. This app has made great strides in the last year, and is a worthy competitor to ForeFlight, WingX and Jeppesen.

The new map and track-up features work really well with the Garmin GDL 39 portable ADS-B receiver in flight, especially when oriented track up. This makes it easier to see the relative location of traffic and radar imagery on the maps while en route.

One final note: Garmin says an iPad 2/iPhone 4 or newer is required for the app. This mirrors what many other aviation app developers have announced lately–the older hardware simply can’t keep up anymore with higher end features.

The update is available free in the App Store.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t see a setting to enable track up anywhere on the settings page or maps view. Do they really make you wait till your in flight to use track up?

    • Yes, it doesn’t know your track unless you’re moving. In flight you’ll want to center the map on the airplane (bottom left of screen), then tap the compass button at the top right.

  2. Oh, ok. Just curious because in ForeFlight, the app lets you choose track up or north up and save the setting for future flights. Thanks for the response!

  3. i upgraded my garmin just now on iphone 4 16GB and now i am unable to make any search. any comments?

  4. Downloaded update 5.0 to my pilot app. Now can not access the program at all. iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. Anyone else have this problem?

  5. Having the same issue with Garmin Pilot 5.0 – Now cannot access the Program on an iPad2. Updated the App in the last two days, opened it up a few moments ago, and….No Access. It crashes every time. Maddening! Anyone have a fix? Are you listening, Garmin?

  6. Same with you Ron, I have iPad3 and Mini, when I updated into version 5.0, after the update I cannot access the apps both iPad3 and Mini

    • We’ve passed your comments on to Garmin and they are working on a fix. Thanks for the report.

  7. John: Thanks for putting this forward to Garmin. Their response has been great. Even received a prompt e-Mail outreach early this morning from Jan McKenzie, VP of Business Development at Garmin/Digital Cyclone, looking to help resolve this issue for me/us.

    Seems this is an isolated issue, with only a limited number of Garmin Pilot users. I spoke a short while ago – before receiving Jan’s eMail – with Russ at Digital Cyclone Support, (866-669-2278) and he professionally walked me through the Fix. Required some re-entry of coding and User Data on Digital Cyclone’s end, the deletion and re-loading of the Garmin Pilot program on my iPad2, and then a re-start. That worked perfectly – and was accomplished promptly once I had made contact with Russ.

    Bummer was I lost all of my personal data on aircraft, flight plans and the like – So now have to go back through and reload all of that data from scratch. However, due to Russ’s expertise and service, the glitch has been fixed. I felt it imperative to go back into the forum and post the path-to-the-fix for those few who, like myself, encounter this problem.

    Great product, and I love the features in version 5.0. Keep ’em – and us – flying!

  8. I am new to I Pad flying, do I need an external GPS antenna to show my tracking down an ILS? I have heard that above 7,00 feet an external GPS is needed. I am using a I Pad III . Should I wait for ADSB to be improved more and purchase that?

    Thanking you in advance,

    Michael C Palmer

    • There’s no way to fly an ILS with an iPad, but you can get a moving map display with a GPS. That can be done with either a 3G/4G model of iPad (which has a GPS) or with an external GPS like the Garmin GLO or Dual 150.

      ADS-B receivers like the Stratus also have a GPS inside.

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