ForeFlight released the first major update for 2017, version 8.3, which brings an exciting collection of new features to the app. Here we’ll take a look at each addition and how you can take advantage of them during preflight planning, in the air, and then when back on the ground to log the flight.
New satellite weather layer
ForeFlight got its start as a preflight weather utility, so it’s no surprise that they continue to expand the app’s weather offerings. The latest addition is a new satellite weather overlay for the Maps screen that weather geeks will surely love. You’ll find this new Color IR Satellite option in the map overlay drop-down menu. This is a second satellite layer that complements the existing satellite overlay, which is now called Enhanced Satellite.
This worldwide weather layer uses infrared images to show cloud temperatures, which typically decrease with altitude (the blue areas on the layer are the coldest). This can be useful when flying during the colder months to help identify areas that contain supercooled liquid water and possible icing conditions. This phenomenon is likely to be present in the yellow and green areas, which are just warm enough to sustain supercooled water droplets. Check out this article for more information on using the new Color IR satellite, written by ForeFlight weather scientist Scott Dennstaedt.
Invert chart colors
While setting up your iPad in preparation for a night flight, make sure to check out the new night settings in the maps and plates section of the app. When viewing the map settings, you’ll see a new option at the top called “Invert Chart Colors”. This will change any of the lighter colors on IFR en route chart or sectional to a dark color, and change black text to white, to help you maintain a dark cabin and reduce eye strain.
Fortunately, the app only flips the white and black colors, so green, blue and magenta text isn’t affected. There is more of a color shift on the background shading when inverting the sectional charts colors, which will take some time to get used to. And remember you can also use the dark theme of ForeFlight’s custom aeronautical charts for an improved night experience.
When viewing the plates section of the app you’ll see a similar option at the top left of the screen, called Invert Plate Colors. This will apply the same color shift to approach plates and airport diagrams for improved night viewing.
When viewing plates on maps with the colors inverted on both chart types, the approach plate will be slightly brightened so that it stands out against the IFR chart.
For more tips on flying with the iPad at night, check out this article: Tips for flying with the iPad at night.
New In-flight Features
Weather frequency alert
To help reduce heads-down time in the cockpit while preparing for arrival, ForeFlight will display the weather frequency (ATIS, ASOS or AWOS) for the destination airport when 20 miles out in a pop-up message on the screen. The alert includes spoken audio of the weather frequency and it will remain on the screen until you tap it.
Expanded SiriusXM weather layers
Pilots flying with the new SiriusXM SXAR1 aviation receiver have two new map overlay layers to display on the map in flight: Echo Tops and Cloud Tops.
The cloud tops layer includes a slider at the bottom right of the map screen that allows you to filter out clouds at lower altitudes. Tops above 25,000 ft MSL are color-coded using blue, orange and red to visually enhance the highest tops. Tops below 25,000 ft are shown as simple shades of gray.
The echo tops layer shows a graphical view of the highest altitude where ground-based radar detects precipitation returns above the 18dBz intensity threshold. 18dBZ is normally shown as dark blue on a normal radar return. This represents the core of the precipitation in a storm or weather system and can be used to help determine the intensity of the system. Keep in mind that this is measuring the top of the precipitation, so there will likely be cloud layers above the depicted altitude.
Climb gradient instrument
IFR departure procedures define required climb gradients in feet per nautical mile, and then it’s up to you to determine that your airplane can meet this performance minimum based on your airplane’s capabilities that day. During flight planning, we use this ft/NM requirement and planned groundspeed to determine the required climb rate in feet per minute, since that’s the number we can relate to while flying.
ForeFlight can help shed a little more light on how your climb is actually progressing with a new Climb Gradient Instrument on the maps page. This uses GPS, groundspeed, and vertical speed information to display your climb gradient in feet per nautical mile, allowing you to monitor your climb performance in real time.
Activate this new instrument by tapping on the Instrument Panel and selecting Climb Gradient from the list.
ForeFlight continues to enhance the flight logging process to make it as effortless as possible by monitoring each flight and autofilling data:
- Recent airplanes: when you go to add a specific aircraft to a log entry, ForeFlight will automatically show the most recently used aircraft N#s at the top of the list.
- Instrument approaches: the logbook autofills the destination airport and shows a list of approaches for quick entry.
- Add currency tracking for multiple aircraft types: the currency summary will now track day and night currency by aircraft type, which is useful for those who need to maintain a certain level of currency in a specific type of aircraft. Tap “add currency summary” from the main logbook screen, select the new option “aircraft type currency” and choose the aircraft types you’d like to track. You’ll now see a dedicated listing in the Currency Summary for the selected aircraft type.
The last new feature in ForeFlight 8.3 is a fun one that allows you to better share your flight logs and photos with family and friends. At the bottom of each logbook entry you’ll see a new button labeled “View Entry Summary”. This prepares a nicely-formatted screen with the flight path on an interactive map, flight details and attached photos from the flight. You can use the “send-to” button at the top right of the screen to share via social media or email a link for others to view the flight summary in a web browser.
ForeFlight version 8.3 is available for download in the iTunes App Store.