The number of aviation apps seems to expand daily, with thousands of options for flight training, weather briefings, games and so much more. With that in mind, compiling a list of the top apps may seem foolish, but we’re going to try – after all, a brand new iPad pilot needs to start somewhere. The list below isn’t necessarily our 20 favorite apps, but rather the ones we see in use most often, and are worth considering for any pilot’s tablet:
1. ForeFlight Mobile. This is the app that has, probably more than any other, revolutionized the way pilots view the iPad. The all-in-one pre-flight and in-flight product includes moving maps, approach charts, terrain awareness, weather graphics, weight and balance, flight plan filing and a whole lot more. It has replaced paper charts and even portable GPSs for a lot of pilots, especially as products like the Stratus ADS-B Receiver and the Garmin GDL 52 SiriusXM receiver have come onto the market.
2. Garmin Pilot. Garmin practically invented portable navigation products for pilots, and they’ve extended this expertise to tablet and phone apps. This impressive app includes many of the same features as ForeFlight, and adds Garmin GTN-style menus, split screen, GDL 50, GDL 51 and GDL 52 integration, international charts and more. It’s also available on Android.
3. MyRadar. This free app is simple, but it’s fast and easy to use. MyRadar shows looping NEXRAD radar for the entire US that is easy to zoom in on – perfect for pre-flight weather briefings. It even includes some nice added some nice aviation features, like TFRs, AIR/SIGMET overlay and route overlays based on N-numbers.
4. Sporty’s E6B. The good old fashioned whiz wheel can rest in peace – the iPhone or iPad makes it much easier to do performance or weight and balance calculations. This $9.99 app does all that plus conversions, timer features and basic arithmetic. It was Sporty’s first app and still one of the most downloaded among pilots. Just don’t try to take it to your FAA written exam. The iOS app works on iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch, and E6B is also available on Android.
5. CloudTopper. Will you top that cloud ahead of you? It’s not an easy question to answer for many pilots, but this app can help a lot. It uses your phone’s camera and gyroscope to make a sight level: point it out the front of your airplane and look for the big black line. At just 99 cents, it’s a must-have.
6. FltPlan Go. The free FltPlan.com website continues to be one of the most widely used flight planning services around today, especially for corporate aviation. This free companion app allows you to retrieve and store your navlogs and weather briefings and includes FAA charts, moving map navigation, checklists, weather imagery and more. It has slowly evolved into a complete Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) app.
7. Sporty’s Pilot Training. As any student pilot knows, there’s a lot to learn about flying outside the cockpit, but modern technology makes it much more convenient to learn at home than in a boring ground school. This next generation training app from Sporty’s includes over 12 aviation video and test prep courses, including Private Pilot, Instrument Rating, Garmin G1000, Flight Review and other aircraft and avionics transition courses. It’s also available on Android.
8. Aerovie. This app began as a niche weather app, focused on soliciting PIREPs, but has since grown up a lot. It now features complete charts, moving map navigation, in-flight weather, flight plan filing, and much more. The focus on weather hasn’t disappeared, and the app has a number of advanced maps and forecast tools. Aerovie also has a powerful Apple Watch app. It’s free to download and use for many of the essential features; a full subscription costs $69.99/year.
9. FlyQ Insight. The InSight app brings a fun augmented reality concept to the cockpit and allows pilots to hold an iPhone or iPad up to the window and view a virtual marker on the ground showing the location of nearby airports. It can be a big help on cross-country flights when flying to a new airport for the first time.
10. CloudAhoy. This app is a lot of fun, but it’s also useful for currency and flight instructors. Simply open the app and begin tracking (or use a Stratus or G1000 flight data recorder). CloudAhoy keeps a detailed log of your flight, including speed, altitude and location. You can play back the flight over a Google Earth map or an aviation chart, complete with simulated instrument panels and terrain. There’s even a CFI mode that makes it easy to review key maneuvers. A big update this year added a number of features to make CloudAhoy better than ever.
11. LiveATC. Pilots use this app every day to improve their communication skills or just listen in on Air Traffic Control from around the world. It’s surprisingly fun and addictive, especially for big events like Oshkosh or the Super Bowl.
12. FlightAware. The internet has made it easy to track airplanes in flight, both airline and general aviation, and there are plenty of good tracking apps available. FlightAware is one of the most popular, with a good mix of features and convenience. Want to see if your friend has landed? Want to see how big your weather diversion was? This free app makes it easy to do that and more.
13. MiraCheck. By integrating voice controls and voice recognition, MiraCheck provides a heads-up and hands-free way to run normal and emergency checklists in flight, turning your iPad into a virtual copilot.
14. LogTen Pro. A logbook app makes it a lot faster and easier to keep track of currency, and it’s almost a requirement for aspiring airline pilots. LogTen Pro is one of the most powerful logbook apps we’ve seen, with a ton of customization options, airline schedule interfaces, and plenty of automated reports. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it for an active pilot.
15. Takeoff. Sometimes called “Facebook for pilots,” this app doesn’t have annoying political posts or baby pictures – just practical video tips, articles and quizzes. Two new posts per day, plus breaking news from around the aviation world, makes this a great way to improve your flying skills and get a daily dose of aviation. It’s free to download and use; a $59.99/year subscription unlocks additional content and removes ads.
16. Windy. This is a beautiful app, with stunning visualizations of wind conditions up to 240 hours into the future. This is surprisingly helpful for weather planning, and gives you a solid understanding of the big picture. The app has recently added aviation-specific features like METARs and TAFs, making it even more useful for pilots.
17. X-Plane. Laminar Research has offered a powerful desktop flight simulator for many years, but they’ve also been a leader in mobile simulation. While the X-Plane app may not allow you to log time, it’s a surprisingly realistic tool for training on procedures, with a variety of airplanes, cockpits and weather options. It’s also a lot of fun.
18. Weatherspork. WeatherSpork is not an EFB app, but rather an easy-to-use app that focuses on smarter preflight weather briefings. The company was co-founded by Scott Dennstaedt, a well-known former meteorologist and active flight instructor. For planning a flight a few days in the future – especially for VFR pilots – we think it can save time and help you make better decisions. It’s also fun to play around with if you’re a weather geek.
19. FlashPass eAPIS. This app provides an alternative method for filing the required eAPIS passenger manifest to US Customs when flying internationally across the U.S. border. It includes time-saving features like passport scanning, aircraft and passenger profiles that you can save in the app for quick entry for future trips.
20. RadarScope. For real weather geeks, this app is hard to beat. It goes far beyond a basic radar map, with a whole slew of options for viewing NEXRAD radar. You can compare base and composite reflectivity, look at individual radar sites, and overlay lightning data. For storm season, it’s a great tool
So there’s our list of the top 20 apps for pilots. Some are free, some are paid, but all have something to offer for pilots. This list is far from complete – there are dozens of other great apps out there in addition to these. What’s your top 20?
For a comprehensive list of aviation apps, check out our Pilot’s Aviation App Directory.