Modern electronic flight bag (EFB) apps are jammed with so many features that a lot of pilots don’t even know about some of the less popular options. That doesn’t mean these features aren’t valuable, though, so we recently asked four top app companies for their insight. The question was: “What one feature do you wish more pilots knew about in your app?” The answers below are an interesting mix.
ForeFlight is famous for its powerful moving maps and easy-to-use preflight weather briefings, but Director of Marketing Angela Anderson told us one of the most under-appreciated features is the the taxi charts. These can be used on almost every flight, and both prevent runway incursions and make it easier to find the FBO at a new airport. Over the years, ForeFlight has added diagrams for hundreds of airports, extending far beyond the FAA’s relatively small list.
Besides adding their own exclusive catalog of taxi charts, ForeFlight also adds the location of FBOs right on the diagram. This feature can be turned on from the Plates page, by tapping on the FBO button at the top. At an airport with multiple runways, knowing the FBO location can help you request the most convenient runway for landing.
Plus, as ForeFlight’s Support Team Manager told us, helicopter pilots use this feature all the time: “This feature is huge for helo folks. We use those FBO markers to go Direct To or to make our own pattern entry on the Maps page ensuring we ‘avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic.'”
Garmin had a busy year in 2016, adding a number of new features that focused on helping pilots make better decisions both pre-flight and in-flight. Jan Mackenzie, Senior Manager of Business Development for the Garmin Chanhassen team, said one feature in particular that can help pilots is the Minimum Flight Requirement Warning.
This appears when the TAF for the departure or destination airport shows weather conditions that are below the appropriate VFR or IFR minimums. A yellow warning triangle will appear on the: Trip Planning icon on the main menu, the departure and/or destination airport on the Trip Planning form, and on the Upcoming Trip page. It’s a reminder to check the big weather picture before proceeding.
Jan said, “The feature is further expanded by allowing pilots to establish personal minimums for ceiling, visibility and winds, as an extension of the pilot profile. Once established, the Minimum Flight Requirement will alert pilots when the weather conditions are below the personal minimums (assuming they are greater than the FAR regulations).”
For years, professional pilots have loved FltPlan.com for planning routes and filing flight plans. One of the main reasons is because the website and its companion FltPlan Go app have incredibly accurate time en route and fuel burn calculations. The app now uses this data for a feature the company calls “Howgozit.” This uses distance covered, fuel consumed, and time elapsed to calculate arrival time and fuel on landing from any fix along the route. If your tablet has GPS, this feature automatically calculates the time over the fix. If you don’t have GPS, the time can be entered manually.
To use Howgozit, select your current route from the Maps icon, then My Routes. Then tap the split screen icon (a blue square with two arrows) and select Howgozit. You can also access this tool from the Navlogs icon by tapping on split screen and selecting Howgozit.
FltPlan.com’s Carole Mackay told us, “Because the calculations are based on data for your aircraft from the FltPlan navlog, not your current ground speed, you are assured of accurate and reliable landing fuel and ETA.”
Hilton Software has long focused on innovation, striving to be the first to offer new features for pilots. Their WingX app was the first to offer split screen, track up, GPWS, terrain, ADS-B weather, and many other features.
One of the latest additions to WingX is an upgrade to the app’s touchscreen-based planning tools. Instead of typing in a route, like an old flight plan form, the new Traca function allows pilots to trace a route on the map and then let the app create a flight plan. This makes it fast and easy to plan a long cross country, whether you’re avoiding terrain, weather, or just high fuel prices. Just tap the Actions drop-down menu from the arrow in the upper right hand corner, then Traca.
Hilton Goldstein, founder of Hilton Software, told us, “Being able to reroute around a mountain, around a thunderstorm, or around an entire lake in such a fast way is amazing. Moreover, you can plan you entire route in a few seconds simply by drawing right on the moving map. It is probably the most natural and intuitive way of creating a route.”
Are there any features you particularly like in your preferred EFB app? A hidden gem you’d like to share with other pilots? Add a comment below.