Which ForeFlight subscription plan is right for me?
Over the past 14 years, ForeFlight has grown from a simple phone app created by two part time software developers into a powerful suite of flight planning tools supported by a Fortune 100 company. That has meant more features, global coverage, and custom-built external devices—and as a result, safer and easier flights. However, this growth has also meant an increasing array of choices for pilots to make.
ForeFlight now offers three main subscription plans: Basic Plus, Pro Plus, and Performance Plus. On top of that there are choices for geographic regions, and considerations for fleet operators. Which subscription is right for you? What are the pros and cons of each level? In this article, we’ll examine the key differences and offer a few opinions. We will not list every feature with every plan (ForeFlight has a nice comparison chart on their site), but we will help you match your subscription to your mission.
Don’t let the word “basic” mislead you here—the lowest cost plan from ForeFlight is loaded with features. In fact, if you’re just starting out as a pilot, or if you fly exclusively on VFR days in the local area, Basic Plus is more than enough. It includes complete preflight planning features, like the powerful FPL window on the Maps page, full charts, a huge library of weather maps, graphical weather briefings, flight plan filing, and detailed airport information. That’s enough to plan a route, get an accurate time en route and fuel burn, get a weather briefing, and navigate in flight with current FAA charts.
Beyond those essentials, Basic Plus includes some helpful add-ons (which a lot of pilots overlook). For example, the built-in logbook is an easy way to track your currency and is a legal replacement for paper logbooks. The weight and balance tool calculates gross weight and center of gravity for a wide range of airplanes. The checklist feature can keep your flight organized, with pre-loaded templates and options for customization.
Also note that Basic Plus is not a “VFR plan.” It includes both IFR and VFR charts, and will file flight plans for IFR, VFR, or international flights.
Based on our informal surveys of general aviation pilots, this plan is probably the most popular option. It’s double the price of Basic Plus but still less expensive than a typical paper chart subscription. The most valuable additions here are:
- Geo-referenced approach and taxi charts. This seems like a small thing, but once you’ve flown an instrument approach with your airplane’s position overlaid on the approach plate, it’s hard to go back. This requires a GPS source (either internal to the iPad or from an external ADS-B receiver), but most pilots have that anyway. One note: Basic Plus includes geo-referenced taxi diagrams as a part of the Aeronautical map layer, but Pro Plus adds the actual FAA charts.
- Option to overlay approach plates on the Maps page. The next step is to actually overlay a plate on the Maps page. This integrates critical approach information into the moving map display, and makes it easy to add weather and traffic information to your approach path. This can be quickly removed if you need to declutter the screen.
- Synthetic vision. This powerful split-screen view adds a lifelike view of the outside world, including terrain, obstacles, and traffic. It’s a great aid to situational awareness and a helpful backup in an emergency. This feature will show a GPS-derived bank as you turn, but to unlock full pitch and roll you’ll need an ADS-B receiver with an AHRS (see below for more).
- Terrain profile and airspace. Here’s another feature that often gets overlooked. From the Maps page, open the FPL window and tap on Profile. You’ll see a side view of your planned route, including terrain, obstacles, and airspace.
As you can see from the above list, some of these features will appeal mostly to IFR pilots. But terrain profile and synthetic vision are invaluable for VFR pilots too. If you fly a lot of cross country flights, we think Pro Plus is worth it.
The newest subscription level, Performance Plus, might sound like an offering for jets, but while some of the features found here are definitely most useful for turbine pilots that doesn’t mean Baron or Cirrus owners should ignore it. The core of this plan is detailed, airplane-specific performance profiles (available for hundreds of aircraft), which take into consideration weight, altitude, and temperature. The result is very accurate time en route and fuel calculations, and this is helpful no matter what you fly. We’ve found the estimates to be shockingly good.
In addition to the more accurate aircraft profiles, there are a host of higher end features that make both preflight planning and in-flight navigation easier. Many of ForeFlight’s recent updates have built out their 3D views, including airport previews, route overviews, and track log playback. Sophisticated takeoff and landing calculations are also available, so you can “run the math” before every flight—including temperature, runway slope, and wind. Finally, Trip Assistant is a handy online tool that makes it easy to compute total trip time (including ground transportation) or plan a fuel stop.
Two features in Performance Plus really are reserved for turbine pilots. First, the integrated JetFuelX tool allows pilots to quickly research prices at any airport, including contract fuel prices. So instead of simply seeing list prices and having to call each FBO for a quote, you can enter all your cards online (Avfuel, Colt, CAA, etc.) and get accurate prices based on the number of gallons you’ll purchase. This is a huge time saver for anyone who buys fuel away from home. Second, while takeoff and landing calculations are available for many piston and turboprop airplanes as a standard feature in Performance Plus, ForeFlight also offers a sophisticated Runway Analysis tool (for an additional fee) for jets. This includes complete calculations for takeoff, factoring in obstacles, engine-out procedures, and emergency return.
What about ADS-B receivers?
A frequent question we hear is whether you need a specific ForeFlight plan to use an external device, like a Sentry or Stratus. The good news is, portable GPS and ADS-B receivers work with all three subscriptions. To use a Sentry, for example, just turn it on and connect to your iPad via WiFi (in the Settings app). When you open ForeFlight you’ll see the ADS-B receiver connected, and you can display radar, METARs, and traffic on the Maps page. All of these features are available no matter what subscription you have.
There’s one asterisk. Many of these devices include a built-in AHRS to deliver backup attitude information to your iPad. With a Basic Plus subscription, you’ll see real-time pitch and roll on the left side of the screen with a standard blue/brown horizon; with Pro Plus or Performance Plus, you’ll see a synthetic vision view that adds terrain and obstacles. So the AHRS feature works with all three levels, but the two higher ones include a nice enhancement.
How many devices?
A subscription to ForeFlight is a license for one person to use ForeFlight on two iPads and an iPhone, or one iPad and two iPhones. That means you can use it on an iPad (primary) and an iPhone (backup) without buying two subscriptions, but two pilots who share an airplane should buy two separate subscriptions.
All of ForeFlight’s pricing is based on one geographic region, but the good news is that “geographic region” means typically a country or even continent—not just a few states. For example, $120/year buys a Basic Plus plan for all of the United States; if you live in Canada you can change that coverage area to Canada for the same price.
Likewise, you can add coverage for $100/year, so if you fly in both the US and Canada, the Canadian charts requires a simple $100 add-on, not a separate subscription. European coverage—complete with Jeppesen European VFR data, EUROCONTROL AIP procedures, and more—is also available.
ForeFlight comes standard with FAA charts and data-driven maps, but pilots can also add Jeppesen IFR charts for an additional charge (typically $200-500/year). This is particularly attractive for pilots flying outside the US and Canada, or for jet pilots who regularly fly to multiple countries. If you already subscribe to Jeppesen charts for your airplane, you may be able to link that subscription to ForeFlight.
Finally, if you’re in a flight department, charter operator, or fractional operation, ForeFlight offers a Business Plan specifically targeted at multi-pilot companies. Business Pro is $200/year and Business Performance is $300/year, but discounts are available for five or more pilots.
As you can see, there are a lot of options here. That’s mostly because ForeFlight serves a huge variety of operators, from student pilots to business jet pilots to airline pilots. Our advice is to not overthink things. Here are the takeaways:
- If you’re just starting out, Basic Plus is a great plan—much more than just a demo, and more features than any app had five or six years ago.
- Pro Plus is a slam dunk for instrument pilots, and probably worth serious consideration for VFR pilots who fly cross country a lot. Synthetic vision alone will seal the deal for many.
- If you fly a higher performance piston, a turboprop, or a jet, Performance Plus is a good investment. You’ll probably save the extra $100/year in better fuel planning. If you’re flying a Cessna 172 on CAVU days, this plan is probably overkill.
- Remember, you can always upgrade if you decide you want more features so don’t worry if you have subscription envy three months after signing up. ForeFlight makes this pretty painless: if you make changes to your subscription mid-term, like upgrading to a higher plan, the balance of your remaining time is credited to the new subscription.
Am I wrong or do you have to have Performance Plus just to do basic takeoff and landing calculations? I am a Bonanza that wants to fly in and out of small strips in the mountains.
That’s right. Performance Plus gives you the takeoff and landing calculations for piston and turboprop airplanes. The only add-on is if you want the full jet takeoff, engine out calculations.
When my current Jepp chart subscription comes up for renewal, do I renew it again to get the charts linked to
Foreflight? My subscription costs me about $999 per year.
Does foreflight cover Australia as well ?
Yes, the airport database is global. However, if you want full IFR charts you’ll need to add a Jeppesen subscription (about $270 for that region).
I have a GLD 39 portable GPS receiver in my C182, It is for the Garmin 696 that is built into the panel, but I would like to hook up my foreflight on my mini I pad as well. I have no problem connecting the bluetooth to the GLD 39, but I don’t seem to be getting traffic information. My mini I pad is a cellular model so I get the traffic on the ground, but up in the air it typically disappears. What am I doing wrong?
This sounds obvious, but check to make sure the traffic layer is turned on for the Maps page. If so, tap on More -> Devices and see if the GDL 39 shows up there.
There are some illogical Feature exclusions (and even a few inclusions) between subscription levels in my opinion. I’ll focus on only one in this comment. Geo-referenced Taxi charts– this feature should be included in the Basic Plus tier. Of course that is self serving since I am a day time VFR Sport Pilot; will never have an instrument rating or cover 1000 miles in one day. But really, all the recent 3-D visuals and graphics are logically offered only in higher tiers and that makes sense. Some might even argue that Instrument Flying features belong only in higher tiers but I don’t want to take anything away from Private Pilots exercising light instrument flying in modest aircraft who benefit from those features. Synthetic Vision and full PFD features are also a very logical feature set, deserving of a higher price point. For what this humble pilot’s opinion is worth, I really believe Geo-referenced Taxi Charts belong in the Basic Plus plan. Thank you.
You must be a handsome fella with such a great name!
I use a ForeFlight military flight bag (plan) for work and have a Pro Plus subscription for when I’m playing around in a club-owned 172.
I love the geo-referenced plates (for IFR) and couldn’t agree with you more; it’s one of the main reasons I went up to the mid-level plan. I also agree that the $100 more a year for geo-referenced plates is likely overkill for non-IFR pilots, but leaves them out in the cold for taxi. The lack of this feature in the basic plan is not ideal based on the possible runway incursions it could help prevent, among other things including enhanced SA during taxi. It’s even one of the skill components of taxi in the Private Pilot ASEL ACS:
Use an airport diagram or taxi chart during taxi, if published, and maintain situational awareness.
While researching what subscription I wanted to purchase for personal use I did read a great tip that might help you here. By displaying the Aeronautical layer you can zoom in while on deck at any field and see the field structure, to include all taxiway names, Rwy numbers, FBO location and names, etc. Its essentially all the data you would receive from a taxi plate, and it’s geo-referenced in that your aircraft is displayed since you are not in a plate. All you have to do is zoom in during taxi and tap the position button top right to keep yourself centered as you taxi. Zoom out after departure.
This displays no matter what other layer you have selected (i.e. sectional, ELA, etc) as long as you have the aeronautical layer selected.
Hopefully this workaround helps with this specific issue.
Will this work for the Asian continent?