Garmin buys Fltplan.com, setting up big rivalry with ForeFlight

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Slowly but surely, the aviation app landscape has changed over the last three years, as the market moves into a more mature stage and the number of new electronic flight bag (EFB) apps decreases. Whereas the market was once packed with dozens of small companies with similar apps, lately pilots have chosen between just a few big players. In fact, our latest surveys show that over 90% of general aviation pilots are flying with either ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, or Fltplan Go.

That trend looks set to continue, or even accelerate, as Garmin announced today they have acquired Fltplan.com, including the popular flight planning website and EFB apps. Terms of the deal were not released, but Garmin says the Connecticut headquarters of Fltplan.com will continue to support the product line.

Fltplan Go
Fltplan Go already works with many Garmin avionics; expect more.

The motivation for such a deal is fairly obvious, but it’s worth considering how many complementary parts there are. For one, Fltplan.com has a large user base, especially among turbine pilots and charter/fractional companies. The company claims they have 165,000 registered users who create more than 6 million flight plans per year – over 50% of all N-registered flight plans. Do the math and you find that Fltplan.com customers are filing an average of 36 flight plans per year, meaning they are an active group. The acquisition instantly adds a huge new list of pilots to the Garmin ecosystem, which has been growing but still trails ForeFlight by a significant margin in the app world.

Beyond the new customers, Fltplan.com also gives Garmin a much more complete suite of tools, including pre-departure clearances (PDCs), eAPIS services, runway analysis, and Safety Management Systems (SMS). Fltplan.com is also know for extremely accurate performance models, which can predict flight times and fuel burns within one or two percent. These higher end features will be especially valuable when competing against ForeFlight, which has been pushing into the turbine market aggressively over the last year. The feature gap between the two companies is much smaller now.

The deal raises some important questions, too. Fltplan.com’s business model is quite different from Garmin’s. Their apps and website are free, supported by a combination of ads and premium services (the eAPIS service, for example, costs $249/year). Garmin’s apps, by contrast, require an annual subscription. Both companies offer iOS and Android versions of their apps.

Garmin logbook website
Garmin’s website has been adding features over the last year, and might get even more with the addition of Fltplan.com.

Will the apps stay separate? Jessica Koss of Garmin says that’s the plan for now: “We have no plans to discontinue the FltPlan Go app, and view the app as a growth opportunity. We also plan to continue to grow and invest in Garmin Pilot and its existing services well into the future and view this as a significant opportunity for both Garmin Pilot and FltPlan Go.”

If that’s the case, we would expect some Garmin features to migrate into Fltplan Go and vice versa. For example, Fltplan.com’s performance models would be a nice addition to Garmin Pilot.

Another area to watch is website integration. Garmin has slowly been building additional features into its fly.garmin.com website, including device management and logbook entries. Might some of Fltplan.com’s online flight planning features come to the Garmin website? Koss says the company is still evaluating those opportunities: “It’s too early for us to announce anything at this time.”

This will certainly be an interesting story to follow over the next few months. The battle between Garmin and ForeFlight is heating up, and pilots will probably be the winners.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t believe for a minute Go and Pilot will remain EFB apps. Short term maybe, but long term Go is gone.

    Garmin needed this to integrate into G3000 and G5000 decks. Huge money here and a large customer group. FF has serious competition with Fltplan’s server and filing systems.

    I predict Jepp buys FF as big iron flies Jepp plates, and the battle of the titans begins. FF does integrate with Jepp noe, right?

    I am going to miss free georeferenced approach plates. Was good while it lasted.

    Anyone else note no mention of FlyQ?

    • A Jeppessn plate subscription is available with Garmin Pilot. FlyQ is number 3. Seattle Avionics who authored FlyQ provides all digital chart data to both Jeppesen and Garmin, and a few more. FlyQ has some patents which the ‘big two’ have to pay to use.
      Yes, you can fly with FltPlanGo charts on your IPad and use the GPS, or have one atttached on WI-Fi and have geo-referenced flight…for free! Not all the bells and whistles, but it works.
      GO will stay: it may be a fee based app down the road/runway, but it is the best flight plan app going, and will integrate into Garmin FMS, if it doesn’t already. Garmin Pilot already does.

  2. Face it; ForeFlight falls flat on hardware installations. Because Garmin “owns the cockpit”, the FltPlan.com move is strategically considered “cornering the market.”

    “Eat … or be eaten.” (… anybody remember “WingX?”)

    • I still fly WingX, but only because they offer a military discount. I would have stayed with FF if they would have offered even a little something for military & veterans.

      • Which is why I use FPGo in Canada…free charts. It’s clunky compared to ForeFlight, though, so I pay for FF in America. Worth every dollar.

        I suspect that if FPGo begins charging it’s popularity will dwindle. My conundrum, as a Garmin panel and ForeFlight fanboy, is will I still be able to use ForeFlight? ForeFlight and Garmin’s Flight Stream is a Godsend for me.

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