While the iPad has certainly made flying more convenient (no more managing paper charts), it can also make flying safer when used with modern aviation applications and a GPS. Apps like ForeFlight have really increased the value of the iPad by presenting the same data that we’ve been looking at for years, but in more useful and meaningful ways.
Here we’ll look at how to take advantage of these features and how they can increase your awareness of your surroundings during terminal operations at and near the airport. Used properly, you can avoid landing on the wrong runway or becoming involved in a runway incursion.
1. Airport Diagram NOTAMs: The FAA’s dissemination and presentation of NOTAMs is pretty archaic by today’s tech standards, but ForeFlight is working to make the data more visible and useful in certain parts of the app. For example when viewing an airport diagram in the Plates section, you’ll see a red NOTAM banner at the top when there are applicable notices for that airport. This can help you from overlooking them in the bloated text weather briefings and will help you stay more informed about closed runways, taxiways and surface conditions during the winter months.
2. Don’t neglect the A/FD: Despite all the advances in how ForeFlight presents airport and navigation data, there are still some key elements you’ll only find in the FAA’s Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD). These include things like runway slope, VASI/PAPI approach angle, night lighting activation methods and details on displaced thresholds and obstacles. ForeFlight keeps the applicable page readily available on the Airports page and is a must-read during preflight planning.
3. Expanded Airport Diagrams: In addition to the standard airport diagrams published by the FAA for large airports, ForeFlight also includes hundreds of custom airport diagrams available for viewing in the app. These are accessed from the same location as the FAA airport diagrams and are geo-referenced, providing helpful taxiway position data when taxiing around a new airport at night or in low-visibility conditions. Many of these include additional detail not found on the FAA charts.
4. Chart Annotations: Just because you’re viewing charts on an iPad doesn’t mean you can’t mark them up like you used to with paper. When viewing an airport diagram in Plates, tap the Pencil button at the top of the screen to enable the Annotations mode. This will allow you to draw directly on the chart with digital ink. You can create freehand markups with a traditional drawing tool, use a text typing tool to make notes, draw shapes, lines and more. This is useful for both preflight planning to identify the FBO or parking location, or when getting a taxi clearance to highlight the assigned route.5. Runway Wind Components: The wind is a primary consideration when it comes time to choose a runway for takeoff or landing at a non-towered field. ForeFlight helps simplify this analysis in the Runways section of the Airports page by breaking down the reported wind into headwind/tailwind/crosswind components. The headwind component is shown in green, tailwind in red and crosswind with a gray arrow.
6. Runway Proximity Advisor: This feature provides visual and audio alerts when both approaching and entering a runway on the ground. The system uses GPS and geographic runway safety areas to trigger the alerts and supports nearly every airport in the U.S. The app will display a large banner across the screen listing the runway that you are about to enter, regardless of which screen you’re currently viewing in ForeFlight. Make sure to turn your iPad speakers up too, as you’ll typically be able to hear the alert even with a noise-cancelling headset at low engine power settings. The visual and audio alerts can be turned on or off in the main Settings section of the app.
7. Synthetic Vision Runways: The addition of Synthetic Vision takes ForeFlight’s capabilities to a new level, delivering a 3D view of your surroundings with real-time pitch and bank info delivered from Stratus. This simulated view is so realistic that it even includes an accurate representation of runway location and orientation. The texture of the runway will show as paved, grass or water, and includes a high-contrast runway number to help verify you’re lined up with the correct runway when the weather is less than optimal.8. Extended Centerline Map Overlay: In the Map settings of ForeFlight you’ll find various map overlay options. One of the more useful settings here allows you to overlay extended centerlines with runway numbers for the airports currently in your flight plan. This makes for another good check when approaching the airport to verify you’re lined up with the correct runway.
9. Auto Show Taxi: One of the busiest times of a flight is right after landing when clearing a runway at a tower-controlled field, when you need to simultaneously complete after-landing checks and call ATC for taxi instructions. ForeFlight will help relieve some of the workload though, by automatically displaying the airport diagram in the Plates section of the app for the airport as you decelerate on the runway, eliminating the heads down time required to search for it on the iPad. If you have a Pro subscription, you also have the option to have the app automatically overlay the airport diagram on the maps page. The main benefit here is that the diagram will retain the track-up orientation, if that mode is selected. Both of these settings can be turned on or off separately in the main Settings section of the app.
10. Traffic Pattern Advisor: This is a great tool for VFR pilots to help set up for the correct left or right traffic pattern to the runway with the most favorable winds when approaching the airport. From the Route Editor window on the Maps page, select the Procedure advisor option on the right side of the window. Next choose Traffic Pattern, and you’ll see a listing of the runways, with a small “Best Wind” icon next to the runway which provides the best headwind component. Tap the runway number and ForeFlight will display a list of traffic pattern options to choose from — note here that “Default” will be listed next to the traffic pattern direction established for that airport. Last choose one of the entry methods, and ForeFlight will depict the legs on the map.