There are thousands of apps that are useful for pilots, from flight training and weather briefings to calculators and games. With that in mind, compiling a list of the top apps may seem foolish, but once again 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, come to define the iPad era in aviation. 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, a digital logbook, flight playback, and a whole lot more. It has replaced paper charts and portable GPSs for a lot of pilots, especially as products like the Sentry and Stratus ADS-B receivers and the Garmin GDL 52 SiriusXM receiver have come onto the market.
2. Garmin Pilot. Garmin practically invented portable navigation products for pilots, and while those aren’t as popular as they once were, the avionics giant hasn’t ceded the category. This impressive app has continued to evolve over the years and now includes many of the same features as ForeFlight, plus Garmin GTN-style menus, powerful split-screen options, and deep integration with Garmin panel-mount avionics. 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 aviation features, like TFRs, AIR/SIGMET overlay and route overlays based on N-numbers. We’ve seen everyone from airline pilots to glider pilots use this app.
4. Sporty’s Pilot Training. Flight training is hot right now, and fortunately modern technology makes it much more convenient to learn at home than in a boring ground school. This all-in-one training app from Sporty’s includes 26 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.
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. It’s our top pick for a free EFB app, and is also available on Android.
7. Stratus Insight. Formerly called Aerovie, this app started with a focus on soliciting PIREPs. It has since grown up a lot and last year was purchased by Appareo, the maker of Stratus devices. It now features complete charts, moving map navigation, in-flight weather, flight plan filing, and much more. It can also record, transcribe and playback ATC recordings when connected to your intercom. It’s free to download and use for many of the essential features; a full subscription costs $99.99/year.
8. 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 was just updated with an all-new design. 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.
9. 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.
10. ForeFlight Passenger. This free app is a companion to the main ForeFlight EFB app, and it answers a common question: “when will we get there?” When connected to another device in the cockpit running ForeFlight, this simple app shows the route, airplane position, altitude and time remaining. Definitely worth trying out if you frequently fly with the same passengers.
11. CloudAhoy. This app is a lot of fun and a useful tool for pilots of all levels to analyze and debrief their flights. Simply open the app and begin tracking (or use a Stratus or ForeFlight tracklog or G1000 flight data recorder). In addition to playing back your flight over a satellite map or an aviation chart, CloudAhoy will score the flight and its various segments to give you an objective analysis of your performance. The latest update added instrument approach debrief support, to analyze and help improve your ILS approaches.
12. 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.
13. 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. If you sign up for an account, you can even track your own airplane (if it’s ADS-B Out equipped) when it’s flying VFR.
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. Aviation Radio Simulator. This innovative training app goes beyond just static content to present dozens of interactive communication scenarios. You can practice receiving a taxi clearance or requesting flight following, complete with airport diagrams, audio prompts, and graded review of your own transmissions. Perfect for helping with mic fright, and includes the option to upgrade to an IFR simulator.
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. Over the years, the app has added aviation-specific features like METARs and TAFs, making it even more useful for pilots.
17. Weatherspork. This is not an EFB app, but rather an easy-to-use tool 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.
18. 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. If you fly to the Caribbean or Mexico a lot, this app is a major time-saver.
19. Lightspeed FlightLink. A companion for Lightspeed headsets, this free app allows you to record all your cockpit communications, replay them, and even save recordings. It’s helpful for flight training or instrument flights, and works with all Sierra, Tango, Zulu, and PFX headsets made since 2012.
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? Add a comment below.
For a comprehensive list of aviation apps, check out our Pilot’s Aviation App Directory.