The 2016 edition of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh was notably upbeat, with large crowds and plenty of new product announcements. The positive momentum was evident in the world of iPad apps and accessories, especially from big players like Garmin, ForeFlight and Avidyne. While we can’t possibly recap every announcement and new feature, here are three trends that dominated the discussion in Wisconsin.
This has been one of the hottest trends in avionics for a while now, as avionics companies and app developers work to break down the wall between non-certified portable devices and certified panel avionics. The most recent advances have involved sharing weather and AHRS data from the panel to apps, and also some flight plan syncing.
Garmin continued to push their lead in this area at AirVenture with the announcement of Flight Stream 510. This tiny MultiMediaCard creates a wireless bridge between Garmin Pilot and Garmin panel-mount avionics, enabling flight plan transfer and ADS-B weather display on an iPad. Most significantly, the powerful little card also allows pilots to wirelessly (and quickly) update databases on panel-mount GPSs like the GTN 650/750. This is a major step forward for Garmin, especially when paired with their announcement of their own navigation databases. Previously, the only option was to buy expensive Jeppesen databases and update data cards from a computer. Now pilots can download less expensive updates to Garmin Pilot, tap a button and in less than 5 minutes be ready to fly.
In other connected panel news, Appareo was showing off their newly-certified Stratus ESG ADS-B Out transponder, an affordable, all-in-one solution for the 2020 mandate. Appareo also takes a unique approach to ADS-B In: since ADS-B In equipment does not have to be certified, the company offers two different portable (and non-certified) options. The Stratus 2S has been a popular receiver for a while now, but there is a new remote-mount version, called Stratus 2i. This $500 upgrade to Stratus ESG adds weather, traffic and AHRS, and transmits this data to ForeFlight.
Next Generation Maps
Another trend this year was the fading of traditional FAA charts and the emergence of data-driven maps. Garmin Pilot and Jeppesen have offered versions of this for some time now, but industry leader ForeFlight joined the party with a preview of ForeFlight 8. The familiar sectional charts are still there, but so are numerous options for vector-based, scalable maps. Compared to the single zoom level of a traditional chart, these are a major step forward, with automatic decluttering and precise resizing of map elements. They’re also configurable, so you can turn off intersections if you’re VFR-only or hide terrain if you’re IFR.
That may all sound basic, but the implications are significant. With most of the major apps moving to this data-driven map style, pilots may increasingly interact with FAA data, but not FAA charts. That should open up more opportunities for app developers to make maps more readable, more useful and faster. There’s even the prospect, promoted by ForeFlight, of making it easier to create entirely new maps. This transition won’t happen overnight, but it’s coming, and it’s good news for pilots.
iPad as panel?
This one goes in the category of “maybe,” but we saw it in multiple booths, notably Avidyne. Instead of relying on expensive, certified primary flight displays, some companies are pushing the idea of using iPads to upgrade round gauge panels. This isn’t merely as a kneeboard EFB, but as a panel-mounted display of synthetic vision or moving map. In Avidyne’s case, they are using their IFD100 app, mounted over the top of the traditional six pack, to display a copy of the certified GPS/Nav/Com screen.
To be clear, that $400 iPad is not a legal replacement for an airspeed indicator or altimeter; Avidyne was simply showing the potential for apps to become avionics. While the FAA is moving to loosen regulations on non-certified avionics (see their recent NORSEE policy for a promising example), it will be some time before such an upgrade becomes practical. However, we certainly agree with Aspen Avionics CEO John Uczekaj, who remarked: “That vacuum pump is less reliable than any electronic device, including an iPad.”
Sporty’s also presented multiple seminars during Oshkosh. Below are the complete slide decks for our two most popular presentations: 10 things every iPad pilot should know, and ADS-B: a pilot’s guide.