One of the reasons electronic flight bag apps have become so popular is that they eliminate common pain points for pilots. Whether it’s the hassle of trying to connect three folded charts or reviewing preflight weather products, the iPad simply makes it faster and easier to access widely scattered data. ForeFlight’s latest update, version 7.4, continues this trend with a whole new approach to weather briefings.
Traditional text briefings from flight service or DUATS have barely evolved from the days of the telegraph, with abbreviations, all caps text and confusing layouts. Hidden within this mess is some very important information, but many pilots skip the formal briefing because it’s almost impossible to use.
What ForeFlight has done with the new “ForeFlight Briefing” is basically to unbundle the different weather products that make up a standard briefing and present it in a way that takes advantage of tablets and smartphones. Tap the File & Brief page, enter a flight plan and select Brief. The app will return a comprehensive preflight briefing, from the weather overview to METARs to NOTAMs.
Instead of just text, ForeFlight organizes the information into coherent sections, or chapters: adverse conditions, synopsis, current weather, forecasts, NOTAMs and miscellaneous. This is the same logical flow that a telephone briefer follows, and each section is quickly accessible with the left side menu.
Tap on a section to read more and you’ll see two other benefits: the text is translated into plain English and presented with relevant graphics. So instead of just reading a text AIRMET, the ForeFlight Briefing will show a map of it, plus your proposed route. This is particularly helpful with METARs, where the app shows departure, destination and en route weather – both with text and color-coded symbols.
This is a fully “legal” briefing that is derived from approved government sources, and each briefing is timestamped. Furthermore, the briefing is stored on your iPad or iPhone – so it both meets FAR 91.103(a) and is accessible in flight when you don’t have an internet connection.
More weather options
In addition to the new ForeFlight Briefing, ForeFlight version 7.4 adds Center Weather Advisories (CWAs) to the list of map overlay options. CWAs are a lot like AIRMETs and SIGMETs, and can be selected in the same way on the Maps page, but in many ways they are actually more valuable for in-flight use. The app also offers a quick-access way to display only the AIRMETs, SIGMETs and CWAs that you care about: icing, turbulence, IFR conditions or thunderstorms. We’ve found this already to be a great way to declutter the map on a bad weather day.
Also, ForeFlight now offers global SIGMETs for pilots flying trips outside the US.
Automatic track log
Track logging is one of ForeFlight’s more under-appreciated features, but we’ve found it to be very useful. It’s ideal for reviewing proficiency flights (how good were those S-turns?) and for use as a backup logbook. Our one complaint has been that it’s easy to forget to start recording your flight – many times we’ve looked down at the map halfway through a flight to see the record button off.
That problem has been fixed with the new option for automatic track logging. ForeFlight does some fairly sophisticated calculations in the background to guess when a flight has started and stopped, including taxi time. To turn on this auto start-stop setting, go to the Settings page:
Finally, this version of ForeFlight includes two minor fixes for pilots using the Stratus ADS-B receiver. iOS 9.2 had introduced a minor hitch in AHRS performance, causing jerky movements from time to time. This is now fixed, and does not require a firmware update. Simply download version 7.4.
For pilots using the Stratus 2 receiver, there is a new firmware version included. This offers WiFi security settings (as found on the new Stratus 1S and 2S), enabling pilots to hide the SSID or set a password. The new firmware also includes even more AHRS performance improvements. This is a free update. For details on how to update firmware, watch this video.