The number of aviation apps seems to expand daily, with thousands of options for flight training, weather briefings, games and so much more. With that in mind, compiling a list of the top apps may seem foolish, but we’re going to try – after all, a brand new iPad pilot needs to start somewhere. The list below isn’t necessarily our 20 favorite apps, but rather the ones we see in use most often, and are worth considering for any pilot’s tablet:
1. ForeFlight Mobile. This is the app that has, probably more than any other, revolutionized the way pilots view the iPad. The all-in-one pre-flight and in-flight product includes moving maps, approach charts, terrain awareness, weather graphics, weight and balance, flight plan filing and a whole lot more. It has replaced paper charts and even portable GPSs for a lot of pilots, especially as products like the Stratus ADS-B Receiver and the SXAR1 SiriusXM Receiver have come onto the market.
2. Garmin Pilot. Garmin practically invented portable navigation products for pilots, and they’ve extended this expertise to tablet and phone apps. This impressive app includes many of the same features as ForeFlight, and adds Garmin GTN-style menus, split screen, GDL 39/GDL 51 integration, international charts and more. It’s also available on Android.
3. MyRadar. This free app is simple, but it’s fast and easy to use. MyRadar shows looping NEXRAD radar for the entire US that is easy to zoom in on – perfect for pre-flight weather briefings. Recent updates have added some nice aviation features, like TFRs, AIR/SIGMET overlay and route overlays based on N-numbers.
4. Sporty’s E6B. The good old fashioned whiz wheel can rest in peace – the iPhone or iPad makes it much easier to do performance or weight and balance calculations. This $9.99 app does all that plus conversions, timer features and basic arithmetic. It was Sporty’s first app and still one of the most downloaded among pilots. Just don’t try to take it to your FAA written exam. The iOS app works on iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch, and E6B is also available on Android.
5. CloudTopper. Will you top that cloud ahead of you? It’s not an easy question to answer for many pilots, but this app can help a lot. It uses your phone’s camera and gyroscope to make a sight level: point it out the front of your airplane and look for the big black line. At just 99 cents, it’s a must-have.
6. FltPlan Go. The free FltPlan.com website continues to be one of the most widely used flight planning services around today, especially for corporate aviation. This free companion app allows you to retrieve and store your navlogs and weather briefings and includes FAA charts, moving map navigation, checklists, weather imagery and more. It has slowly evolved into a complete Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) app.
7. WingX. This app was around for various mobile platforms well before the iPhone and iPad were introduced and includes complete digital charts and powerful moving maps, including track up, terrain, split screen and flight data recording. When connected to an external AHRS, WingX can also show an attitude-based synthetic vision display.
8. Aerovie. This app began as a niche weather app, focused on soliciting PIREPs, but has since grown up a lot. It now features complete charts, moving map navigation, in-flight weather, flight plan filing, and much more. The focus on weather hasn’t disappeared, and the app has a number of advanced maps and forecast tools. Aerovie also has a powerful Apple Watch app. It’s free to download and use for many of the essential features; a full subscription costs $69.99/year.
9. Takeoff. Sometimes called “Facebook for pilots,” this app doesn’t have annoying political posts or baby pictures – just practical video tips, articles and quizzes. Two new posts per day, plus breaking news from around the aviation world, makes this a great way to improve your flying skills and get a daily dose of aviation. It’s free to download and use; a $59.99/year subscription unlocks additional content and removes ads.
10. CloudAhoy. This app is a lot of fun, but it’s also useful for currency and flight instructors. Simply open the app and begin tracking (or use a Stratus or G1000 flight data recorder). CloudAhoy keeps a detailed log of your flight, including speed, altitude and location. You can play back the flight over a Google Earth map or an aviation chart, complete with simulated instrument panels and terrain. There’s even a CFI mode that makes it easy to review key maneuvers. A big update this year added a number of features to make CloudAhoy better than ever.
11. LiveATC. Pilots use this app every day to improve their communication skills or just listen in on Air Traffic Control from around the world. It’s surprisingly fun and addictive, especially for big events like Oshkosh or the Super Bowl.
12. FlightAware. The internet has made it easy to track airplanes in flight, both airline and general aviation, and there are plenty of good tracking apps available. FlightAware is one of the most popular, with a good mix of features and convenience. Want to see if your friend has landed? Want to see how big your weather diversion was? This free app makes it easy to do that and more.
13. AOPA. This a relatively new app, but it’s already finding fans. It’s an easy way to access a wide variety of content from the world’s largest pilot organization. There are videos, articles, podcasts, news, event schedules and much more.
14. LogTen Pro. A logbook app makes it a lot faster and easier to keep track of currency, and it’s almost a requirement for aspiring airline pilots. LogTen Pro is one of the most powerful logbook apps we’ve seen, with a ton of customization options, airline schedule interfaces, and plenty of automated reports. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it for an active pilot.
15. Learn to Fly. As any student pilot knows, there’s a lot to learn about flying outside the cockpit, but modern technology makes it much more convenient to learn at home than in a boring ground school. This complete Sport/Recreational/Private course is a convenient way to prepare for the FAA written test and check ride. It includes over 20 hours of HD video, practice tests, maneuvers guide, syllabus, and more. When you complete the course, you can get your sign-off to take the written test.
16. Windy. This is a beautiful app, with stunning visualizations of wind conditions up to 240 hours into the future. This is surprisingly helpful for weather planning, and gives you a solid understanding of the big picture. The app has recently added aviation-specific features like METARs and TAFs, making it even more useful for pilots.
17. X-Plane. Laminar Research has offered a powerful desktop flight simulator for many years, but they’ve also been a leader in mobile simulation. While the X-Plane app may not allow you to log time, it’s a surprisingly realistic tool for training on procedures, with a variety of airplanes, cockpits and weather options. It’s also a lot of fun.
18. FAR/AIM. Searching for relevant regulations is much simpler than flipping through hundreds of pages, so it’s no surprise there are a variety of FAR/AIM apps. It’s a great way to brush up on the important rules of aviation, and features like highlighting are ideal for test preparation. The app is also a whole lot easier to carry around than a 5 lb. book.
19. Xavion. This app is unlike anything else we’ve seen. While it has many features you’d expect to find in an EFB app, its focus is on engine-out glides. The app is continuously monitoring nearby airports, and in case of an engine failure, it will draw a highway-in-the-sky to the best one, while taking into account your airplane’s glide performance.
20. RadarScope. For real weather geeks, this app is hard to beat. It goes far beyond a basic radar map, with a whole slew of options for viewing NEXRAD radar. You can compare base and composite reflectivity, look at individual radar sites, and overlay lightning data. For storm season, it’s a great tool
So there’s our list of the top 20 apps for pilots. Some are free, some are paid, but all have something to offer for pilots. This list is far from complete – there are dozens of other great apps out there in addition to these. What’s your top 20?