Boeing buys ForeFlight – what comes next?

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ForeFlight, the scrappy software startup that grew into an aviation powerhouse over the last 10 years, has officially made it to the flight levels. Boeing announced today that the $100 billion airplane maker is buying the Houston-based app company for an undisclosed sum.

Boeing ForeFlight
Will pilots win from this deal?

This shouldn’t come as a total surprise, given the collaboration between the two companies since they announced a software development partnership in 2017. In addition to integrating Jeppesen charts into ForeFlight, they worked together to launch an all-new version of Jeppesen’s FliteDeck airline app (a major undertaking). Those projects obviously went well, and this formal acquisition seems to be the next step.

What the merger means

The Boeing press release is, as you might expect with a public company, quite vague. We talked to ForeFlight Co-Founder and CEO Tyson Weihs about the deal, and he said the companies’ complementary skills were the most compelling factor: “We’re inspired by what Boeing is doing – they are innovating in so many areas – and there is so much we can accomplish together. Since we started ForeFlight, we’ve changed the way pilots fly and made a measurable impact on safety. That will continue at Boeing, where we have access to a broad array of resources that we will use to create even greater things for ForeFlight customers.”

In particular, Weihs pointed out that a Boeing-ForeFlight partnership is not all about airlines; he’s excited about bringing some emerging commercial aviation technology to general aviation. He thinks there’s a lot for airline and military pilots to learn from general aviation’s use of electronic flight bag apps, and vice versa.

ForeFlight 2
ForeFlight has come a long way since its days as a basic iPhone app.

While that’s hopefully good news for general aviation pilots, it’s certainly the end of an era for ForeFlight, which was started in 2007 by Weihs and Co-Founder Jason Miller as a side project while the two worked their day jobs. The two pilots, who had never met in person, created an iPhone app at a time when the concept was untested and digital charts were almost impossible to use. That first app was successful, so they added an iPad version when the best-selling tablet was introduced in 2010, and later expanded to online tools, international charting options, and so much more. The company now boasts 180 employees spread across three US offices, and customers ranging from bush pilots to major airlines to the US Air Force.

Given Boeing’s dominant position in both commercial and military aviation, we expect to see more of those pilots flying with ForeFlight or perhaps a new version of the FliteDeck Pro X app. As Ben Davis of Boeing told us, “Boeing is excited to build on ForeFlight’s experience in business and general aviation so we can provide integrated digital lifecycle solutions to commercial and government aviation customers. Combined with Boeing’s global market access and resources, ForeFlight is well positioned to capture new opportunities.”

There’s also the potential for much tighter integration between apps and airframes, perhaps with model-specific performance, crew alerting, and documentation features integrated into one place. Jeppesen has a variety of apps that provide some of these features already, but there’s room for improvement and consolidation.

Given that Jeppesen’s current apps are available on platforms besides just iOS, some pilots are hoping this announcement could lead to an Android or Windows version of ForeFlight. Time will tell, but Boeing certainly brings new resources and new customer requirements.

Any changes for GA pilots?

Jepp FliteDeck Pro X
ForeFlight collaborated with Jeppesen for a new version of the FliteDeck Pro app.

Many pilots have greeted the news with a mix of excitement and trepidation, happy that ForeFlight is growing but nervous about potential changes. We asked Davis what pilots can expect from Boeing.

  • Will there be any changes for current ForeFlight subscribers over the next few months in terms of product features or subscription plans? “Near term, no changes are planned to existing ForeFlight products or services.”
  • Will support procedures change at all? “No changes in support procedures are planned. ForeFlight will integrate into Boeing’s Global Services business and continue to support existing customers while benefitting from Boeing’s resources, scale, technology research and commercial expertise.”
  • My university/flight department has an educational/fleet license program – any changes? “Not at this time.”
  • Any changes to current ForeFlight leadership roles? “There are no planned changes to the workforce at this time. We are focused on combining best practices from both organizations to deliver high-value digital lifecycle solutions to our customers.” Weihs also confirmed that he’s not going anywhere.

Of course this isn’t the first general aviation acquisition for Boeing. In 2000, the company bought the famed Jeppesen line of charts and training products; in 2006 they bought parts distributor Aviall.

This news also fits with the recent trend of consolidation in the app marketplace. Last year, Garmin bought Fltplan.com, combining the leading panel avionics company and a very popular flight planning tool for professional pilots. The result is almost a Coke vs. Pepsi situation, with two billion dollar companies competing for customers. Will the winners of this Boeing-ForeFlight vs. Garmin-Fltplan.com battle be pilots? Let’s hope so.

49 COMMENTS

  1. “so we (Boeing) can provide integrated digital lifecycle solutions to commercial and government aviation customers…” So basically Boeing does not know how to cater to GA needs so they bought Foreflight so Foreflight also stops knowing how to cater to GA.. Boeing is puzzled how is it we can fly direct so flawlesly nowadays so they will either capitalize on it ($) or will make sure things do not go that flawlessly anymore. Smart business move. The are charging millions for what FF does for hundreds so they will make sure that service ends. That speaks trouble for me. Maybe it’s time to develop open source nav tools for good.

  2. If any GA Pilot thinks this is a good happening then they are out of touch with reality. Boeing couldn’t care less about GA. Foreflight has been gravitating towards Corporate for the last couple of years. I love Foreflight. I bought the Stratus 2 for my ADSB. I knew soon I would be in trouble with being tied to Foreflight. Thank god for the Stratus 3. I can use other Platforms now. Boeing will price Foreflight out of sight for GA Pilots.

    Thank god for WingX, Fltplan.com, FlyQ EFB and Seattle Avionics. I hope they can survive this merger. If we lose any of those options, GA will pay dearly.

    • Your lead says pilots are greeting the news with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I have read this story on two different sources and all I’ve seen is trepidation in the comments. No excitement.

  3. I have never seen a merger that made life better for the little guy. GA pilots are the little guys and we Foreflight devotees are in for some moderate to severe turbulence. The product might remain excellent, but the pricing will not and the now excellent customer service will only be available to airlines and other big hitters in short order.

    • I agree. Boeing will bring in their process management and quality control overseers, and any vestige of what was once Foreflight will disappear.

  4. Boeing bought AVIAL, the aircraft parts supplier a number of years ago. Prices went up, they used to ship the same or next day, now they ship 3 to 4 days after the order is placed.

  5. What comes next? Higher prices. Lousey Jeppesen style software. Minimum wage product support. What a great deal!

  6. Maybe a good time to look at FlyQ. The staff over there is focused on GA, and you can even email the president, Steve P– and get a response!

  7. VERY GOOD NEWS MORE THE AQUISITION IS CERTAINLY AS
    GOOD AS IT LOOKS. I’M SURE
    BIG THINGS COME TOGETHER
    BECAUSE THE TWO COMPANIES
    HAVE A COMPLEMENTARY OBJECTIVE IN IS FUTURE GOOD
    VERY GOOD JOB. BETTER FUTURE FOR BOTH THE COMPANIES.
    LUIS ALBERTO GUEDES

  8. Let’s hear from Boeing! Can they resssure us little guys that have been loyal to ForeFlight that we will benefit at the same reasonable pricing as we have?

  9. Congratulations to ForeFlight but this is probably not good news for us GA folks. Higher costs, less attention to GA, tome to reconsider Garmin App.

  10. Monopolistic mergers like this should be illegal. This is the same thing that Garmin did when they bought out Apollo CX80. I believe if FF does continue it will soon be made to just serve the airlines and the Military and GA will just be priced out. I believe this merger is the end of the line for GA with FF.

  11. I share my colleagues apprehension about this merger.
    I can’t imagine that Boeing will spend money to serve and support thousands of little guys when it can make much more from fewer big customers.
    I have been using WingX and was about to cancel and move to ForeFlight – but I’m now going to stay with WingX.
    Unfortunately – this is the way of the world. Smaller companies are being absorbed by bigger companies who can profit by dumping the smaller customers.

  12. How easy is it to move to Garmin from ForeFlight? I kind of knew it was a bad idea to use it for my log book, but now that I have does anyone know how to move log books from one to another?
    I’m thinking the instructor indorsements will be a problem.

  13. Such a bummer. I suspect I will not be on FF by the end of the year because of this. Will start looking at Garmin Pilot. Such a shame as FF was such a great product for GA.

  14. The tag line says “you win.” To whom could they be referring? Certainly not GA pilots. I had a feeling this was going to happen when they started working with Jeppesen. If you want to see monopolistic pricing, look no further than Jepp. Their pricing for data is ridiculous. Now we will probably see the same thing with FF. Its too bad as I really liked the app. I moved over from WingX, and while I liked it, FF was much better and more intuitive. Haven’t tried Garmin yet, but I think it will be time to give it a try once my subscription is over.
    Such a shame!!!

  15. An innovative company, responsive to customers, loved by legions of users, swallowed up by a conglomerate. Boeing is not a software company. They are a hardware company at their core technical competency and their major money maker. Fore Flight founders and investors are now even richer. GA poorer. Cool upgrades will not be for the $99 or $199 subscription levels. As we’ve recently seen, recent new features for “high performance” users. It won’t happen over night, but like many types of cancer, it will rot slowly from the inside. Alas, we’ve seen this before. Sadness.

  16. Foreflight gives up it’s strategic advantages in being small, agile, innovative and very customer focused. These have been the keys to its success, and the appeal. Will likely move to Seattle Avionics FlyQ instead of renewing with FF pending further news. This was inevitable for sure, and happy for the teams payday! Sad day for this GA pilot.

  17. Boeing purchased possibly the best learning/examination software for pilots (PPL -> ATPL) in Europe (Peter’s Software) and basically have ignored it for the part 3 years. Went from leading the market to a joke. Used to be the go-to for the German authorities for testing, nowadays not to be trusted/used. ForeFlight will end up the same. Thumbs down on purchase and glad I use Garmin Pilot.

  18. Boeing promises “the breakneck pace of enhancements”. This always means that the software changes are sloppy, fast, and not tested adequately. Goodbye to Foreflight, it was fun knowing you.

  19. First, I am happy for the ForeFlight guys. FF is groudbreaking and makes GA safer. 35 years as a CFI, and FF was the first innovation I was really excited about… until now.

    30+ years as a M&A accountant I’ve learned when a big company (B) acquires a little company (FF), they do so for the product, not the talent or culture or prospects of future innovation. NEVER (although they pretend to). Boeing has nearly zero history of being GA friendly. (I was a Chicago resident when Boeing moved in, and said nothing when Daily shut down Meigs – and they really haven’t done a lot for Jepp for the GA world).

    There is a very good chance that long term the folks who have hitched their wagon to FF (like Stratus) are going to get hurt in the GA market. Long term this will be good for Garmin’s GA presence. Boeing bought ForeFlight for the 121 guys and not the General Aviation folks. Even last year at SnF, the FF guys were nice and appreciative of their popularity, but were openly saying “we need to get on more corporate flight decks”. Now they have their chance.

    Can you tell I am not happy about Boeing buying ForeFlight? If you’re reading this, this isn’t good news for you. However I am very happy for the ForeFlight guys as they absolutely deserved to cash in.

  20. Boeing will raise prices and reduce services…that is what they do. They bought what their corporate monster could not innovate, now they need to milk it to get a good ROI.

    The owners of Foreflight have the right to sell, but this is an unfortunate loss for everyone who uses Foreflight. Remember the cost and hassle of Jeppesen?

  21. I’m SOOOOO EXCITED I started out with Garmin Pilot abd still use it to this day. Say what you want about Garmin but at least they have GA interest at its core and they’ll always best protect GA.

  22. The funny thing in this: they will jack up the prices, I already pay a crazy price for foreflight, I have to buy the U.S and the Canadian program, plus 30 cents on the dollar. NUTS
    I fly 40 hours a year It costs me $15.00 an hour for the app now.
    But they will pay for a year with no way of getting their money back, because many will switch to another app when their renewal comes up.

  23. I switched to Garmin Pilot a few years ago for the better integration with their FS210 box and the discount for bundling Pilotpro with 430W subscription made less than 1/2 the price. I loves foreflight but think Pilot is equal and does some things better than Forelfight and vice versa. Gamin, like Apple locks you into their ecosystem, but also like Apple, make an extremely good ecosystem. If you think Boeing will be good for Foreflight, just look at what Raytheon did to Beechcraft.

  24. Add me to the list of really sad users. It makes financial sense that Boeing/ForeFlight will cater to the corporate, commercial, and military clients who either don’t flinch at higher costs or can leverage a better price with volume. ForeFlight has been a groundbreaking product for general aviation, and I have been an enthusiastic user for probably 10 years. Product innovation has been amazing and customer service unsurpassed. I’ve felt sorry for commercial and military pilots who didn’t have it. Now, I feel sorry for us little guys who see the writing on the wall. Happy for the ForeFlight developers and wish them well – just will hate to see them go. I hope ForeFlight continues for a while, and I can afford it until my now 48 years of flying ends.

  25. I have both ForeFlight and IFly ,if IFly covered Canada I would drop ForeFlight,much more
    user friendly and reliable.The cost is half of ForeFlight.Over the years these takeovers have never
    once been good for the small guy.Stand alone companies have always been better on price and
    service.Another example is Garmin as I received notice of another list of good low cost avionics
    Like the Apollo cx80(Garmin) which will no longer be repaired or serviced pushing everyone to have
    to buy expensive replacements.

  26. I’ve flown all my life. Aircraft owner for last 43 years. Dad had planes. I might have been Born in the back of a Cub or Aeronca. I’ve resisted the urge to move on from stick and rudder. Dead Reckening. Flying is expensive I’ve resisted things with reoccurring fees. A windows guy. Never had Foreflight because it was IOS. Used AVARE simple and free. It worked on Android. Had installed all my 1000 CD MUSIC on it.
    Finally I divided to up grade the Cardinal with Avidyne 540/ Trutrak Vision. Avidyne IFD-100 is IOS. So I decide it switch to Apple . I get an IPhone 8, Apple ipad Mini 4,Apple S4 Watch. It’s all a brave new world. The day the IPad shows up I find out Foreflight sells to Boeing. What’s next Ill bet Boeing buys Apple! Trust this in aviation nothing goes down except airplanes running out of gas. Maybe If we’re lucky it will continue to be the staple it has. Maybe only billionaires will have it. In another year I’ll be flying on Social Security, prolly have to go back to my roots. My thought. At least Airbus didn’t get it.

  27. Oh puhleeez, stop the pearl clutching! The inks not even dry and the dire
    outcome is beginning to set in concrete. I admit I’m cautiously optimistic as more frequently than not these buyouts degrade the quality of a product. However we’re talking Aviation here, where the dynamics of innovation continue to evolve and amaze. Should this union end in an even more impressive product, few if any of the terminally pessimistic will acknowledge it, if they do it’ll be with a “ya but”. We’ve morphed into a population that leans toward convict or conclude merely on suggestion or allegations. You think not? Have you heard anyone suggest “climate change” could be beneficial? The Boeing/Foreflight deal will prove out to be what it becomes. If it degrades, someone else will enter the field with a better product just like Foreflight did a few years ago. Get off the fainting couch and enjoy what we have.

  28. In every site that posted this merger, all I have seen was dissatisfaction/disappointment regarding this merger. I am a current PPL student, and I use ForeFlight. I’m just before taking my checkride, and switching now would be a disaster. After I finish with my PPL, I’m planing on going to ATP, which heavily relies on ForeFlight. This merger is terrible, and I believe my relationship with ForeFlight will end, when I’m done with training. Every merger results in people getting fired, and quality of product goes to hell. Lucky I didn’t start my logbook in ForeFlight. Any recommendations for an electronic logbook would be appreciated.

    • Long time user of SafeLog Web, never did convert to the FF logbook. Like everyone else, I am not seeing a bright future for GA in this merger. I hope that I am wrong.

  29. I certainly wouldn’t abandon FF tomorrow based on this. That said it is difficult to view this development favourably; it will come down to measuring a few high profit customers against innumerable low profit customers. I agree with an earlier comment; FF really proved that there is a successful business in catering to GA in this realm. The reason this happened is that charting is no longer a ponderous publishing business; if FF ceases to be an agile software business, we will find competitors that are.

  30. Just upgraded my FF subscription to get the new Airports3D feature so I have 15 months to evaluate what happens. Like others, experience tells me that changes are coming that I will not appreciate. Will however hope for the best.

  31. This will just be the icing on the cake as a lead into user fees and squashing GA out of the way of the airlines. Remember folks, it is the airlines that are “FOR” user fees and they want GA out of the way. Who are Boeing’s customers………the airlines. All they have to do is shut it off, and escalate subscriptions, and look what will happen to the thousands of GA pilots dependent on this now. No, we do not “NEED” Foreflight to fly. I am sure Foreflight or Boeing will not reveal the actual current customer count. Boeing wants the technology for their aircraft and customers, they could care less about the GA pilot. Since Boeing is a proponent of user fees, I am absolutely certain that the Foreflight subscription costs will begin to increase very, very soon and squeeze us GA out of our subscriptions.

  32. Well I always wondered how foreflight will looks like in Middle East since maps are not supported or even upgrade it data. This is why I’m using AirNav Pro
    100% supports Europe and Middle East plus of course USA!
    So guys if foreflight end up raising the prices I suggest you have a flght with AirNav pro

    Good luck

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