ForeFlight introduces Synthetic Vision, new forecast tool

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Synthetic vision, the 3D display of terrain and obstacles, has been a popular feature for pilots of glass cockpit airplanes since it was first introduced a few years ago. The ability to almost literally see through clouds and haze is a real safety benefit for VFR and IFR pilots alike, from avoiding obstacles to finding the runway on a dark night. That technology has been migrating to iPad apps as well, and now ForeFlight has joined the movement with version 6.6.

ForeFlight synthetic vision
ForeFlight’s new Synthetic Vision feature shows realistic terrain, plus color-coded alerts.

ForeFlight certainly wasn’t the first app to release synthetic vision (WingX and Garmin have both had it for a while now), but the end result is quite impressive. Beyond the basics, which are similar between apps, ForeFlight has some nice details that make the app easy to use and flat out good looking.

Here are some of the key features:

  • 3D terrain maps. Based on the same detailed terrain database that ForeFlight uses for their terrain profile tool, the app shows a beautiful 3D picture of the world, including bodies of water and mountains. Using a combination of shading, grid lines and realistic runway surfaces, the outside world really comes alive – it’s a very intuitive view.
  • Color-coded terrain and obstacle alerts. In addition to the static terrain display, the app dynamically color codes both terrain and obstacles based on your altitude to warn of threats. Yellow means it’s within 1000 feet and red means it’s within 100 feet (or above you). This is useful for both VFR and IFR pilots, and it’s quite accurate.
  • Smooth decluttering. ForeFlight has a smart system for displaying and hiding obstacles and airport markers, so they automatically appear as you get close, then disappear as you fly over. This keeps the screen readable and there’s nothing for the pilot to do. In our test flight, it just seemed to work the right way.
  • Automatic night mode. Another handy feature is the app’s transition from a vibrant day mode to a more muted night mode. Over the course of about half an hour (and using the sunset/sunrise information for your local area), the app slowly dims the sky and brings up an accurate star field above the horizon. This saves night vision and again, there’s nothing for the pilot to do.
  • Stratus adds backup attitude. ForeFlight requires a GPS for the basic synthetic vision features, but for the ultimate backup pilots can add a Stratus 2 ADS-B receiver. This uses the built-in Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) to show real-time pitch and bank information. It turns your iPad into a portable glass cockpit, and makes the terrain view even more realistic.
  • All new instrument layout. Not to be lost in the big synthetic vision upgrade is ForeFlight’s new instrument layout. First, there’s a full HSI display, a feature we’ve been hoping to see for months. There’s also a new nav bar at the top, which is a much more elegant display of important route information than the traditional overlay. The overall feel is more like panel avionics.

Of note, all of these features work in either split screen mode or full screen mode and there are good reasons to use both. For example, during a VFR flight in the mountains, the full screen view would be a great way to maintain situational awareness at a glance. On an instrument approach, though, a split screen synthetic vision/approach plate overlay is hard to beat.

Synthetic vision isn’t free – it requires a $25 add-on subscription – but that seems like a bargain for such a polished feature. Many other apps charge a lot more, and initial reaction seems to be quite positive.

ForeFlight MOS forecast
ForeFlight’s new MOS forecasts offer an intriguing new source of data for pilots.

There’s more in ForeFlight version 6.6 than just synthetic vision, though. An intriguing addition is Model Output Statistics (or MOS) forecasts. These appear next to traditional TAF forecasts, and offer detailed weather forecasts for hundreds more airports than pilots are used to seeing. While a MOS forecast is not the same as a TAF, it’s better than nothing, and is particularly valuable for near-term forecasts since it’s updated hourly.

To see a MOS forecast, go to the Airports page and search for an airport. Then tap Weather and Forecasts. You can also tap on an airport on the Maps page, then select Forecast at the bottom of the pop-up window. Here you can review the nearby TAF or MOS. For smaller airports with no TAF nearby, having this information is a real game-changer.

This is a feature we haven’t seen in any other app, and it shows some of the interesting enhancements that may be coming with Scott Dennstaedt on board. He was recently hired at ForeFlight after a long career as a meteorologist (and CFI), including deep involvement in the MOS product. Stay tuned for more weather upgrades from ForeFlight.

The ForeFlight 6.6 update is available now in the App Store. Subscribers can upgrade to a Synthetic Vision subscription on ForeFlight’s website.

Here’s a video of the new synthetic vision feature in action:

49 COMMENTS

  1. The way you pay for the SV upgrade is very poorly implemented. You have to renew your full subscription and you can’t use any iTunes credit you might have. Bad form Foreflight…

  2. Yup!! Your right. It states get the Synthetic Vision for “only” $25.00. How does that equate to having to renew your entire years subscription in order to obtain the new update. I have no problem paying the $25 now and then in five plus months pay the full price at renewal time. So I will just wait for my renewal. This is kind of a ploy to get immediate huge cash flow. From the best of the best aviation programs this knocks you down a few pegs.

  3. Yes, it does pro rate but I’m not ready to renew, I just want to add SV. Regardless, it would let me use my iTunes account for the renewal or the upgrade so the credit I had waiting to use can’t be. That’s not how iPad apps are supposed to work. New buyers of foreflight can get SV with their iTunes account but existing buyers get forced to only use the foreflight website. Not convienient or smart.

  4. It’s not a question of not knowing how. They are limiting the options for existing users who want to upgrade to SV.

  5. I think its fairly implemented. When renewing your subscription, the actual unused month (or days?) are credited. Personally, I priorize the technical implementation and quality of the product over the payment process.

    Concerning itunes: Any non us user is very happy foreflight offers an own shop with much much better exchange rates as the apple does.

  6. I have to agree. I wrote Foreflight and told them these is a pretty sneaky way to get everyone to renew.
    Foreflight has always prided itself on being a company by pilots and for pilots but this Seems like some savvy business move than anything else. Especially when it’s being billed as just a $25 upgrade.
    Better not to greedy Foreflight…. People will turn on you for the next big thing!

  7. I don’t understand the issue with renewing. If they didn’t renew the subscription then they would have to issue 2 invoices a year. Plus once you’ve had Foreflight there isn’t much chance you will ever cancel the service. It’s much simpler to have one billing. In addition to that, to have SV for $25 is a bargain. What have you put in your airplane recently that offers as much benefit at SV, at any price.

  8. Here’s what you do. Go to foreflight’s website and access your account. Then select SV. The next page shows you the credit. Don’t go through iTunes. Could be more streamlined for sure. But what these guys are doing from an app standpoint is aeronautically amazing and game changing. For 25 bucks I get backup SV. Garmin wants 12000 for SV upgrade…

    • Justin. You are not getting backup synthetic vision, you have to pay another $800 to buy that d—-d Sirrus receiver to get the AHRS, then you have it.
      ADS-B receiver is a hoax. It’s like having a com radio without a microphone. All ADS-B receivers are unreliable without the “OUT” transmitter. When you really want traffic it won’t be there.

  9. Just Purchased SV and renewed my Pro subscription.
    It was easy and I was given credit against my remaining months for the new Pro subscription.
    Cudoos for keeping the billing system uncomplicated!

  10. I added the Synthetic Vision upgrade and was so impressed, I went out and bought a dedicated iPhone 6 Plus just to keep the synthetic vision available full time. Ooops! turns out synthetic vision is available only on the iPad and not on the iPhone. Hopefully it will be added to the iPhone soon, but in the meantime, it’s back to the returns department at the Apple Store for me . . .

  11. So how does SV display if one has not invested yet in an AHRS? Does it just show the terrain in a wings level orientation at all times? Rely on track info from my GPS to display heading changes?

  12. Agree. Very poor implementation of a renewal process. I wanted to try SV first, but they make me buy a whole new year of FF to get this? No deal for me. They could prorate SV to align the RN date, but they saw such demand for SV and decided they could extend everyone a year as an added benefit. And add in no iTunes credit capability for existing users? Sad to see their attitude.

    Haven’t had SV for my entire pilot career so waiting until my FF renewal and buying then WITH my iTunes credit works fine for me.

    If I don’t switch and buy GP and install flightstream to get rid of having to update my route twice.

  13. Wow, I do not understand all the drama about the subscription process. Who cares when you renew the subscription? It’s pro-rated and I don’t exactly switch apps every 6 months.

    What’s the big deal guys – this app is the best value in the history of general aviation!

  14. agreed the upgrade to synthetic vision pricing format is flawed, confusing and taunting… like many others I too would be more than happy to pay $25 to get going with no pro-rations for a new annual renewal until it’s time for that… I understand this maybe possible if I contact Fore Flight and send a few e-mails to figure out how to do it. But really who wants to mess with that?

  15. Too many sour grapes on ForeFlight’s fees. I like the fact that you can buy what you want from base to fully configured. Further, I hope they have a business model that gives them favorable returns and one that will keep them in business for a long time. Writing proven functional/reliable software and supporting it is expensive. And, I believe the Company knows very well that it is in a competitive market place. If you want to experience what the big guys fly, get SV and have fun; the $25 a year fee is really a nit as is the renewal subscription. I think ForeFlight is simply trying to keep things simple. My opinion.

  16. The problem is some of us pay into our itunes accounts with the intent of using our credit for things like in app purchases and renewals. So I have money tied into my itunes account that I would like to use for foreflight that I now cannot. That’s not the intent of the way an IOS app was supposed to work.

  17. Jesse,

    Note FF with SV is now the most expensive ipad app of the big three. GP and WINGX are cheaper, and when you consider Garmin Connext with GP integration, FF has some headwind going forward. Based on this, why jerk people around on a renewal? The market will decide I guess. GP with Connext is a strong play, as it saves having to update your flight plan twice, which is required when using FF and a Garmin panel mounted GPS vs Connext and GP.

    FF should have an EASY button for all renewals and additional fees to keep customers. Locking out the use of iTunes credits and forcing another 12 months is not the easy button.

  18. Upgraded to SV and love the new look and information. Keep up the great work; I look forward to more innovations.

    Best $25 value in aviation.

    Jim

  19. No one should complain about the subscription renewal. If they had pro-rated the upgrade but charged #100 per year for the SV would complainers be happy?

  20. Folks no one is complaining about the VALUE of SV. We all know the value!

    What we are saying is why not give users the option to renew however they please? Why create a situation where there is this much debate? Why leave some of us with a bad taste in our mouth from a company we ALL DO LOVE? Make it easy for us and you will keep us ALL around! We pilots are a very loyal bunch!

  21. Poo Poo on the ForeFlight forced renewal that is required with synthetic vision. Leaves a bad taste in this pilots mouth. I cancelled the whole shopping cart and will be looking into Garmin Pilot and Wingx. From loyal to disgruntled in just 5minutes; way to go guys. Drunk on your market power much? I’m on strike.

  22. Outstanding app with incredibly reasonable fees for capabilities.

    Just curious, when was the last time any of you paid for a full subscription of Jepp charts and plates? Gain some perspective, folks.

  23. It’s interesting how every negative comment on Foreflight’s unfriendly and deceptive billing policy for the supposedly ‘$25 service’ that also must include a full pro rated subscription renewal is quickly followed up within a few hours (and in some cases a few minutes) by a glowing review attacking a quite legitimate concern. Shill much, ForeFlight? Or are we to believe that your supporters are ready to pounce all on their own. You guys are rotten to the core. Someone should bring this thread to the attention of the attorneys general who are taking a growing interest in policing online reviews and comments. ForeFlight would have deep pockets to support their attention. ForeFlight we suggest you guys stick to adding helpful features and stay away from stupid billing tricks.

    • Adam, we are all for a healthy debate here, but let’s be careful about name-calling. We pride ourselves at iPad Pilot News for having honest comments from real people. All I see here are some loyal users, not a conspiracy.

  24. You are right; I just didn’t like adding what I thought was $25 to the cart and finding out it was a lot more than that to add the feature. It’s a great app but a questionable approach.

  25. I think they have some really talented developers at FF which is why it baffles me they couldn’t figure out a easier way to implement the billing choices for the feature. They have the ability. One point I saw made on their Facebook page by a customer is that there are folks who budget their upgrades (including multi user accounts) and plan for certain major expenses to hit at certain times. Being forced to change the timing of your upgrade cycle to add a feature knocks budget plan/spending on its ear as well. It may not be an issue for all but it sure is an issue for some of their customer base. SV should have been a pro-rated add on. If my subscription is half over, then charge $12.50 for SV as an example and leave the renewal dates alone and let us use iTunes to pay if we wish. In that scenario of being 6 months into a pro membership, if I want to add SV today, I have to pay $100 and not $25 and can’t use iTunes to pay plus I’m forced to reset my subscription date. FF is better than this.

  26. Interesting thread….

    I never really gave the billing stuff much thought here – knew I wanted the SV feature and so I purchased it. At checkout it rang-up $79 (for me).

    Did I get screwed?

    Hells bells – everything GA is about getting screwed. Every time I buy gas, order parts, do AC maintenance, annuals, pay hangar rent and the list just goes on. Why should FF be any different?

    Airplanes and boats have a lot in common – 2 happiest days of your life; the day you buy & the day you sell.

    The vast majority have already gotten out of GA – I’m not there (yet) – and so in the meantime, I’ll just grin & bear it like I do everything else related to flying.

    Cheers!,
    -jlf

  27. Well hopefully there are enough stoics to make it worthwhile for everyone 🙂 Although I wonder if they would do better catering to both the stoics and the gripers.

  28. i agree with david and the rest that has a problem with the billing of the synthetic vision , I planned on spending $25.00 as advertised and all of a sudden i’m spreading $71.00
    I don’t really agree with the way fore flights billing in this instance!

  29. How dare they make me spend $71! This update should be free, at least for me! I’m a pilot, after all. I deserve it.

  30. Tom, I don’t think people who are upset about the extra charge feel they deserve a free update to synthetic vision. They are just legitimately concerned about the lack of fair disclosure that the subscription needs to be extended and it’s not a $25 update. You are basically surprised in your shopping cart. Can you imagine any other vendor adding something at checkout that you can’t opt out of. It’s likely that the lack of disclosure in the marketing violates consumer protection laws that require that billing details be disclosed clearly and conspicuously and not in the fine print. In any case, the lively discussion on this board is likely to come up in searches for the update and thus ensure more people are properly informed.

  31. Adam is 100% correct. Fore Flight knew what they were doing. If nothing else they should have disclosed the fees upfront in marketing SV. It is NOT just a $25 dollar fee. Honestly, the amount is irrelevant, its the LACK of open honest disclosure. I also agree with John, we spend so much time getting “jerked around” in GA this is just another example of that and I think we are just fed up. Go try to pay for ADS-B out (which would keep us all safe) in your plane right now and keep a smile on your face…..I dare you…lol

  32. Tom, no, you’re right. Let’s let any company pull a bait and switch on us and make people buy a renewal any time they want to offer a new feature. Any time you get your oil changed, you have to lease a new car or airplane. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, right?

  33. Bait and switch?! I don’t understand that. You need the subscription anyway – not like the SV works without the main app.

    You must rally hate the cable company if this is a bait and switch…

  34. It’s a bait and switch in that you don’t need to extend your subscription if you already have one, but they force you to. It’s sort of like getting new floor mats for your car and then they expect you to extend your lease another 6 months. It’s not a tragedy – but at the same time not very classy, and not fairly disclosed.

  35. I’m not clear on what people dont get here….it’s not the money, it’s not the product, it’s misleading marketing!

  36. Why not just give people SV at no cost if they have less than 3 months till FF expiration. Then at their normal expiration date they can choose the product they want to buy. This would be simpler and be minimal cost to FF.

  37. After upgrading my subscription for SynVis I find out I have to buy that damned Sirrus receiver to get the AHRS. This hoax about ADS-B receivers should be stopped. That thing should not be equated with ADS-B. It’s like your Com radio without a microphone. Without OUT it’s nothing but a hoax. Weather, yes; ADS-B, no.
    I’ve been had.
    Dale Gunter
    hidale@nehls.name

  38. Im sold… Small price to pay for so much. I’m spoiled flying around well equipped jets all week. So when I climb into our A36, I want easy.

    With the Stratus and foreflight all I need now is my wife to agree on where we go.

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