A systematic approach to planning a trip in ForeFlight

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While in-flight features like terrain alerts and ADS-B weather get a lot of attention, it’s the preflight where apps like ForeFlight can really save time. They make it easy to evaluate airports, find the best route, calculate weight and balance, review weather, and so much more. But with all these features comes a certain amount of complexity.

How do you plan a flight – from the Maps page, the Flights page or somewhere else? In this post, we’ll walk through a procedure for planning a flight and considering all the important information. It’s certainly not the only way to plan a flight in ForeFlight, but it should get you thinking.

Enter departure and destination on the Maps page

First, start by entering your departure and destination airports on the Maps page. This can be done using the search box at the top right or the FPL box (tap the FPL button, then Edit). This will draw your course line on the map and give you a quick overview of the route, including airspace and weather.

Choose your airplane

Next, tap the N-number button to the left of the Edit box and choose the correct airplane profile. This is critical for getting accurate performance calculations and for helping to find the correct route. If you haven’t set up an aircraft profile yet, go to the More page, then Aircraft.

Choose a route

Tap on the Routes button to the right of the Edit box and you’ll see a list of routes that Air Traffic Control recently used between your departure and destination. This is a huge time-saver for IFR pilots, since you can file the correct route without hours of research.

Choose an altitude

The last step on the Maps page is to pick the right altitude. For this, tap on the altitude button on the left side of the Edit box. Your aircraft’s default altitude will automatically be selected, but you can choose another to minimize time or fuel burn. Note that an internet connection is required to get updated winds aloft data.

Send to Flights

Now you have a good idea of what your flight will look like, including the route, altitude, time en route, and fuel burn. The next step is to use the Flights page to finalize details, but there’s an easy way to save time and eliminate the need to re-enter data. From the Edit box, tap the up arrow at the bottom right corner. Using the Send To menu, you can send your route, altitude and airplane to the Flights tab.

Request a formal briefing

At the top of the Flights page, tap the Briefing button to request an official preflight weather briefing. This will include all the essential information you need to make a smart go/no-go decision, including the synopsis, AIRMETs/SIGMETs, METARs, NOTAMs, and more.

Review fuel, weight and balance

Further down the Flights page, you’ll see your route and altitude (and you can change them here if you need to, based on your briefing), but you’ll also see information about fuel planning and weight and balance. Some of these features require a Performance Plus subscription, but they are a great check of your math. Will you land with enough fuel? Will you be under maximum gross weight for takeoff? This page is a quick check and also allows you to experiment with different range/payload scenarios.

Pack your databases

ForeFlight makes it easy to download all your chart databases for a specific flight, with its Pack feature. This can be done on the Maps page, but there’s also a button for it at the bottom of the Flights page that is very convenient. After you verify your route and altitude, tap the Pack option and download everything for the flight.

File your flight plan

At the bottom of the page, tap the Proceed to File button to file your flight plan with ATC. You’ll receive an acknowledgement almost immediately and later on you’ll receive an expected route from ATC.

Review your navlog

While not required, many pilots like to have an old school navlog for longer flights, listing each and every waypoint along the way. ForeFlight makes it easy to create one, by tapping the Navlog button at the top of the Flights page.

Of course there are plenty of other steps you might want to take while planning a flight: reviewing airport information from the Airports page, creating a binder on the Plates page, or consulting the weather forecast charts on the Imagery page. But by following this path, you’re guaranteed to check off the most essential preflight planning tasks.

12 COMMENTS

  1. You have the last step in the Maps Page as selecting an altitude. Would that last step not be to hit the “Pack” button to download all the charts you’ll need?

  2. I don’t have fore flight on here for know. I like to place what if to see where and how this works, but still have a lot to learn. I am not flying as yet, but have ask questions and some not answered. But I have a lot of them.

    I like the program, nice job. Looking forward to learning to fly. I am looking at the sea max.

    Thanks
    James

  3. Is there a way on ForeFlight to file what we, in the military, used to call a “Stop-over” Flight Plan? In other words, fly from the departure airport to an intermediate refueling stop, DELAY there for an hour or so for services, then take-off again for the final destination? We were able to do this on a single flight plan. Of course, we had to update it with FSS if the time at the intermediate stopover location got delayed or extended.

  4. I actually have a ForeFlight and GarminPilot subscription but currently am trying to use GarminPIlot.

    Can you do a similar article for Garmin Pilot?

  5. This procedure works well on the iPad or online but is very limited on the smaller screen of the iPhone. The route can be entered but not much else until it is sent to the flights page. The iPhone defaults to whichever plane you set up. Altitude etc. cannot be adjusted from the map page. Once the plan is sent to flights it is simple to complete the details. Personally I prefer to start with the flights page.

  6. Not very helpful in the real VFR world, where neither direct nor a canned ATC route is what you want. Rather, you want to go as direct as possible, but avoiding a TFR, an obstacle or other airspace.

    • As David says, use the rubber band feature. I fly only VFR and use FF for planning as well as in the cockpit to manage my route. Enter start, end,then just drag the line around to fit your needs. I am doing a lot of pilotage/dead reckoning flying and this process gives me a nice flight plan and eliminates the need to do the calculations for the nav log; this saves me at least 1/2 hour planning. I select/copy/paste the nav log into Libre Office (Excel clone), delete the columns I don’t need, and print it to fit on a kneeboard.

  7. Very good. Pretty much what I have developed for myself using trial and error. I would add the ETD in the maps page as well before sending to flights. ForeFlight uses forecast winds and updates the flight log based on the time as well as altitude. What a great tool.

  8. Do avoid a restricted area or sometimes class b I’ll use the rubber band feature. It lets me check the profile to ensure I’m clear as needed. This might also help to avoid a tfr. I’ve not loaded the lat. and long. into the Garmin 750 of our plane yet but plan to next time I use the rubber band feature from ForeFlight.

  9. It’s important to take a close look at the departure and destination and edit the flight plan for SIDS and expected approaches. When entering a waypoint for a destination approach the edit log will show the approach but for some reason does not make it to the filed Flight plan. I have been manually editing the edit portion by putting an initial fix. Is there a reason the destination waypoint and approach not get sent to the Flight plan?

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