Just in time for Sun ‘n Fun, Garmin has released version 5.0 of their Garmin Pilot app for iPad and iPhone. The latest version of the popular app is a fairly significant update that adds a number of new features, and it continues the arms race among the major app developers. The features that are now available for under $100/year is really extraordinary.
We went flying with the new version of Garmin Pilot recently and found a lot to like. Let’s look at some of the key upgrades:
Dynamic maps. Sometimes called “data driven maps,” this feature adds new map layers that look like portable GPS map pages. So instead of just digital versions of paper charts (although those are still available), Garmin Pilot can now display aviation maps that scale quickly and declutter automatically. Only Jeppesen has a similar feature among major aviation apps, and we think Garmin does it even better here. While we still found ourselves using sectional and IFR en route charts a lot, these new maps were especially useful for reviewing complex airspace or overlaying a lot of weather on a route.
Track Up. These new dynamic maps enable track up navigation, a feature that more and more pilots are asking for. When connected to a GPS source (either built-in iPad GPS or wireless GPS accessory), pilots can switch between track up and North up views in flight. The track up display works well with the dynamic maps, because all the text is written right side up. It’s a real MFD-style moving map presentation.
Easier SafeTaxi access. Garmin’s SafeTaxi airport diagrams have long been a pilot favorite, offering detailed charts for many airports beyond just the ones in the approach plate book. Now these charts are easier to get to–just like on Garmin portable GPSs, you can simply zoom in on an airport from the Map page. As you get in tighter, you’ll see hold short lines, runway incursion hot spots and a lot more. If you’re connected to a GPS, you can watch your airplane taxi.
Configurable maps. While most apps have menus for adjusting map settings, Garmin’s implementation here is pretty intuitive. From the map layers menu, you can quickly select a map or chart base layer, then add weather overlays and adjust settings with slider bars. There’s also a night mode here that makes the basemap black, which helps to preserve night vision.
Airport/Facility Directory. The trusty green A/FD book still has a lot of information that can’t be found anywhere else, including airport lighting details and communications data. Now the full A/FD pages can be viewed in Garmin Pilot, accessible from the Airport Info page. This even includes the general and supplemental A/FD information from the front and back of the book.
Cloud syncing. A version of this has been available for a while in Garmin Pilot, but with version 5.0 it has been expanded to be more useful. In addition to backing up your pilot information, you can now store your trips, aircraft, bookmarked flight plans and user waypoints in the cloud. This is great if you jump around between mobile devices (say, a phone and tablet)–you’ll always have your personal information.
Chart annotations. Sometimes it’s helpful to mark up an approach plate or airport diagram, and this feature allows you to do just that by extending the scratch pad feature to the Charts page. It’s great for taxi clearances or highlighting approach minima. This feature is available for iPad only.
Overall, it is Garmin is working hard to make their app look and work more like their panel avionics, from the map styles to the menus. That’s only natural, and it should be reassuring for users of GTN 650/750 and even G1000 equipment. This app has made great strides in the last year, and is a worthy competitor to ForeFlight, WingX and Jeppesen.
The new map and track-up features work really well with the Garmin GDL 39 portable ADS-B receiver in flight, especially when oriented track up. This makes it easier to see the relative location of traffic and radar imagery on the maps while en route.
One final note: Garmin says an iPad 2/iPhone 4 or newer is required for the app. This mirrors what many other aviation app developers have announced lately–the older hardware simply can’t keep up anymore with higher end features.
The update is available free in the App Store.