iPad preflight tip: verify your charts are downloaded

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ForeFlight’s download manager allows you to select the states, countries and types of charts you want to download.

Having up-to-date charts on your iPad is easy in today’s aviation apps, but there’s a trap if you’re not careful. Because there is no internet connection in the airplane, you must download the chart databases before you go flying. This is not always as obvious as you might think.

We’ll use ForeFlight for our example. While on the ground (and connected to the internet), you can view every possible chart simply by tapping the Maps tab and panning around the US. The app will automatically download the required charts on the fly, but the app is only downloading these charts temporarily. Just because you see a chart does NOT mean it will be available offline.

To properly download your charts for offline viewing in ForeFlight:

  1. With ForeFlight open, go to the Downloads section
  2. Tap coverage area button at the top (e.g., United States)
  3. Select which types of charts you want (sectionals, approach plates, etc.)
  4. Select which states you want (states with a check will be downloaded)
  5. Tap the Downloads arrow at the top left of this screen to go back to the Downloads page (you’ll see all the charts that are set to be downloaded)
  6. Tap the green Download button at the bottom

That’s it–from here, ForeFlight will automatically download and update all the selected charts on its own. This can take up to an hour depending on how many charts are downloading and how fast your internet connection is (WiFi is definitely recommended).

ForeFlight includes a helpful feature to warn you when you’re viewing a chart that has not been downloaded. On the Maps page, you’ll see a blue warning box, indicating the chart will not be accessible without an internet connection. If you see this message you need to go back to the downloads section and verify the appropriate state and chart type is selected for download.

ForeFlight message

Another way to download charts in preparation for a trip is to use ForeFlight’s Pack feature. After entering your flight plan in the route editor, Pack will analyze your trip and automatically select the necessary charts to download. To access this feature tap the small suitcase icon in the lower right section of the route editor box. A small window will appear showing what charts still need to be downloaded — simply press the Pack button in the lower right here and ForeFlight will take care of the rest. This is also a great way to verify that all your charts are dowloaded before takeoff. Read more on how to use Pack here.

If you want to perform one last check that your charts are downloaded, turn on Airplane Mode (which disables your internet connection) and check to see if the charts are still there.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I had a similar problem with approach plates. I was able to display the plate on the screen, BUT IT DID NOT SHOW MY AIRCRAFT POSITION!
    At first I couldn’t figure out why. But it turns out that I was flying with IFR data that was one or two days out of date.
    For example, suppose you do your IFR route planning (and file) on the last date of an IFR update cycle and close out of Foreflight and put your iPad on the charger overnight. Next morning you use your PC do a final WX brief for what is going to be a local IFR training flight, leaving the iPAD on the charger until you leave for the airport.
    In the cockpit, you open up your iPAD and launch Foreflight (sans WIFI or Cellular connection). Everything looks good, the little airplane shows up on your VFR chart. However, should you elect to use an approach plate, apparently Foreflight will not give you a depiction of your airplane position, if the chart or plate is out of date, even if only one day out of date.

    Lesson: Always make sure your plates are up to date on the day you intend to fly. This may mean that you need to do an update if you are at the 58day transition point.

    PS. It would be better if Foreflight would depict your aircraft position on a out of date plate with a warning popup or flag to let you know of the situation.

  2. […] 1. Forgetting to download chart databases. By far the most frequent question we receive from a pilot new to the iPad: “I was looking at charts in the FBO, but when I took off they disappeared. What happened?” The problem is that the charts were being downloaded on the fly as used the app on the ground – streamed, if you like. But since they weren’t permanently saved to your iPad, and since there is no internet connection in the cockpit, the charts can’t be displayed in flight. Here’s how to avoid that problem. […]

  3. […] 1. Forgetting to download chart databases. By far the most frequent question we receive from a pilot new to the iPad: “I was looking at charts in the FBO, but when I took off they disappeared. What happened?” The problem is that the charts were being downloaded on the fly as used the app on the ground – streamed, if you like. But since they weren’t permanently saved to your iPad, and since there is no internet connection in the cockpit, the charts can’t be displayed in flight. Here’s how to avoid that problem. […]

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