Trying out the surprisingly useful GPS Coordinate Converter app

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No matter how sophisticated your avionics are, latitude and longitude still have a central place in aviation. As we’ve mentioned before, sometimes there’s no substitute for the good old lat/lon coordinates: for filing flight plans, creating user waypoints or programming an FMS. A new app, GPS Coordinate Converter, aims to make GPS coordinates easier to manage.

The first thing the app does sounds simple, but it’s really handy: convert latitude and longitude from one format to another. If you’ve ever tried to manually input a waypoint, you may have discovered that there are multiple different formats for these simple number, including decimal degrees (popular in many apps and online services), decimal minutes (popular in aviation GPSs) and degrees/minutes/seconds (the classic map style). There are also different formats for FMSs, one called ARINC format, and even UTM. For pilots flying long international trips, flight plan waypoints can come in all kinds of formats. It’s frustrating, and even a little dangerous if you’re not careful.

As an example, if Google Earth tells you that private airport is at 39.077514 degrees north, and you try to enter that into your Garmin GTN 750 or aera 660, you’ll be disappointed. First, you need to convert that to 39° 4.6508° N. That’s where this app is so handy. Simply input a lat/lon, and it gives you the same point in multiple formats – even the street address with time zone.

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Next, GPS Coordinate Converter allows you to measure the distance between any two waypoints, complete with bearing and distance. You can even use the map to zoom in on a particular point, then get the coordinates. There’s also an option to save frequently used waypoints for quick access.

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One small feature that makes a big difference is the smart keyboard. When you tap on a field to enter a coordinate, the app knows what type of field it is and shows you a custom keyboard that’s appropriate for that input type. For example, you’ll see numbers and no letters, plus N/S/E/W if appropriate. This saves a lot of time.

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There’s also a very good selection of how-to resources in the app. If you’re unsure of a feature or unclear how certain lat/lon units work, you can find an easy answer in the bottom right tab.

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GPS Coordinate Converter is a simple app, but it’s well done and useful. The app is available for $3.99 in the iTunes App Store.