Apps like ForeFlight have made it much easier to plan flights, in large part because of their good design and intuitive visual display of complex information. Instead of reading an AIRMET that’s described by its position relative to a bunch of VORs, pilots can simply see it drawn on a sectional chart. This is great, but two parts of the preflight process have remained stubbornly text-based and manual: the Flight Service briefing and NOTAMs. Deciphering these important reports is a mixture of art and science, with plenty of patience required.
That may finally be changing, with the release of ForeFlight version 6.5. Two key features in this release aim to make this data more pilot-friendly and automatic.
Flight Conditions Monitoring
When you get a weather briefing, either self-guided or through Flight Service, you’re presented with a snapshot of the data available at that particular time. But as we all know weather can change rapidly, which can lead to a critical gap in communication between the time you received the briefing and actually takeoff.
ForeFlight now addresses this gap with a feature called Flight Notifications, which will alert you when a significant change in route or weather conditions is expected after you receive a briefing. This in part uses Lockheed Martin’s Adverse Conditions Alerting Service (ACAS), but also uses data from ForeFlight’s own data monitoring systems to help you stay informed.
In order to receive the flight notifications you must file using the Lockheed Martin filing service in the File & Brief section of the app. This is easy though since ForeFlight will default to using the Lockheed Martin service here, unless you previously signed in with a DUATS account. If you want to stop using DUATS, simply head over to the More > Accounts section of the app and sign-out of your DUATS account there.
Finally when entering the data for your flight plan in the File & Brief section, make sure to turn on the setting at the bottom of the screen for Flight Notifications. You will then receive updates on all your ForeFlight devices related to TFRs, airport/runway closed/unsafe NOTAMs, urgent PIREPs, SIGMETs, Convective SIGMETs, AIRMETs, Center Weather Advisories (CWAs), and Severe Weather Watches/Warnings.
The second big feature in this update is called NOTAM Advisor and can help you avoid overlooking a NOTAM during flight planning. Now when you display an instrument approach or airport diagram, ForeFlight cross checks the procedure for location specific NOTAMs and displays a red banner at the top. Tap this banner to view the detailed NOTAMs that pertain to that procedure, like runway or taxiway closures for an airport diagram, or altitude/procedural changes for an instrument approach.
Keep in mind this won’t display all the NOTAMs for your flight, and you’ll still want to visit the Airports page to view airspace and other en route notices. But it’s a step in the right direction to keep pilots better informed by rethinking the way we retrieve preflight information.
There are also some big upgrades for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users. ForeFlight now takes advantage of the higher resolution screen to show more information at a glance. You’ll notice it right away–the app seems to “fit” the iPhone 6 a lot better.
Next, the popular Auto-show taxi feature is now enhanced to work on the maps view. In its current form ForeFlight will automatically display the airport diagram after landing to help reduce pilot workload. Now a new setting is available for ForeFlight Pro users that will automatically display the airport diagram as an overlay on the moving map, which will allow you to continue to view the information in Track Up mode if desired.
Finally, there are some enhanced security features for Stratus 2. There is a new row in the Stratus Status menu that shows whether or not the Stratus ForeFlight is connected to is “genuine.” This confirms that it is not a fake device acting like a Stratus in order to send bad data and happens automatically.
ForeFlight version 6.5 is a free update for all users, and is available on the App Store.