There’s no question that pilots love free stuff, and more often than not pilots will burn a lot of avgas on the quest to find it. Just look at the Sporty’s ramp on any given Saturday during the free hot dog fly-in if you don’t believe us. But what’s better than a free hot dog? Free aviation apps for your iPad of course!
Fortunately, the Apple App Store is full of thousands of iPhone and iPad apps that are completely free. Here we’ve assembled some of our favorite free apps that are useful both on the ground and in the air. We’ve limited this collection to apps that are 100% free, and do not require an in-app purchase or subscription to unlock additional features.
Here are our top 10:
AirNav FBO – The AirNav.com website was around long before the iPad, and provides detailed airport, fuel and FBO information for pilots–all for free. AirNav also packages this information in a convenient iPhone app, which provides most of the same information. You can quickly search for an airport using its identifier, and the app will display airport info, an FBO directory and current fuel prices. One of our favorite features is the ability to enter a route and search for the cheapest fuel price along that route.
FlightAware – This app provides free, live flight tracking on your iPhone and iPad. It’ll display the real-time status of GA flights in the US and Canada, and commercial flights around the globe. The information is enhanced with a map depicting the aircraft’s current location and its previous flight path, along with a live NEXRAD overlay. You can search for specific data by using aircraft registration, route, airline, flight number, city pair or airport code.
CloudAhoy – This iPhone app has been a hit with pilots since the day it was released. CloudAhoy uses GPS to capture your flight path, allowing you to review it afterwards on the ground. You can overlay your flightpath on a Google satellite or terrain map right in the app, or display it over aviation charts. The app is great for student and instrument pilots to record maneuvers and instrument approaches, providing an instant review of the aircraft flight path in a 2D or 3D environment.
Airliners.net – The Airliners.net website features over 2 million high quality airplane pictures from around the world, all uploaded by aviation enthusiasts and pilots. The company also features a dedicated app, allowing you to browse this collection right on your iPad. Looking for pictures of a Beaver on floats? A quick search will retrieve hundreds of pictures of this popular floatplane shot in remote locations.
FlightLink – This free app from Lightspeed serves as an in-flight cockpit recorder, and is specifically designed for use with Lightspeed Aviation headsets. After pairing your iPad to your headset over Bluetooth, the app will record all cockpit and ATC communications for both instant playback and a permanent archive of all your flight communications.
Dual Bluetooth GPS Status Tool – This is a must-have app for pilots who fly with the Dual XGPS150 Bluetooth GPS, as it provides satellite reception status and battery information for your GPS. We’ve found it particularly useful when you’re having trouble getting a GPS fix in your aviation app and troubleshooting becomes necessary.
Bad Elf GPS Status Apps – This app provides similar information to the Dual app, but also displays basic navigation and trip-logging functions. It is designed to work with the Bad Elf and Bad Elf Pro GPS units.
SocialFlight – This free tool is perfect for finding nearby aviation-related events, including airport fly-ins, air shows, pancake breakfasts, conventions, FAA Safety Seminars and more. Finding events is as simple as looking at a map and tapping an icon to learn more about an event. You can also search for events, add events, chat, upload photos, get email notifications, send event notices to your friends or add events to your device calendar.
MyRadar – While most of the premium flight-planning apps include a NEXRAD radar feature, it can often be cumbersome to load . When you need to see a radar image quickly, you can’t beat MyRadar. Within seconds of launching the app you’ll have a clear radar picture centered on your location. The animation is fast too, allowing you to quickly evaluate precipitation trends. You can also enter an aircraft N# and the app will display the filed route on the map.
Fltplan.com – Fltplan.com is the hands-down winner for providing the most aviation features in a free app. This app provides the full complement of US aviation charts (VFR and IFR), a documents manager, weather briefing tool, logbook, flight tracking and GPS navigation features. Most pilots appreciate its ability to download and store flight plan nav logs created on the fltplan.com website.