ForeFlight began as a pre-flight app, helping pilots make smarter go/no-go decisions by displaying radar, METARs, and other aviation weather products on an iPhone or iPad. Over time the app has become a powerful in-flight tool as well, with moving map navigation, terrain alerts, and even synthetic vision. The only phase that was lacking (and, to be honest, it’s the least important) was post-flight. While ForeFlight added a both logbook and track log features a few years back, there weren’t quite enough tools to do a comprehensive debriefing after a flight.
That may change now that the electronic flight bag giant has acquired CoudAhoy, an innovative software company with robust flight analysis tools.
CloudAhoy is a classic aviation startup story, founded in 2011 by Chuck Shavit and and his wife, Tani. During his flight training, Chuck noticed that the iPhone (a new technology at the time) was ideal for tracking airplane position and logging flights. As a successful entrepreneur and software developer, he decided to build an app that would allow pilots to play back and analyze their flights. CloudAhoy was born, and it slowly but steadily added a number of unique features. We have used it for years and found it to be quite valuable for training and proficiency flights, but it was always a little hard to use and the process of importing flight data could be time consuming. Many times we found ourselves saying, “I wish I could just do this in ForeFlight,” Now that might be an option.
For now, ForeFlight says it’s business as usual for CloudAhoy subscribers—the app is still available and subscriptions are being honored—but it’s not hard to imagine some potential improvements. Here are some areas to watch.
For general aviation pilots, the CloudAhoy acquisition could lead to dramatically upgraded post-flight debriefing tools. ForeFlight’s built-in track log features are a quick and easy way to review a flight, but it lacks some of CloudAhoy’s more sophisticated features. For example, while ForeFlight can play back a flight and show a graph of speed and altitude, CloudAhoy goes a step further by automatically scoring common maneuvers based on ACS standards. It can also estimate airspeed based on groundspeed and winds aloft, making it easier to evaluate stabilized approaches or airwork. When connected to a Sentry Plus ADS-B Receiver, pilots can also record attitude and G-load—that added data could unlock even more analysis options.
ForeFlight makes intuitive aviation software; CloudAhoy makes powerful debriefing tools. The combination, whether it’s all in ForeFlight or two more tightly integrated apps, seems like a recipe for success. Imagine a flight instructor and student sitting down after a lesson, having flown the flight using ForeFlight—in just seconds they could be analyzing that last steep turn or RNAV approach. This would be a great tool for any flight instructor to improve the quality of post-flight debriefings, but it would also be a powerful tool for larger flight schools who might manage dozens of CFIs.
For business aviation and airline pilots, these tools would be useful but they might take a back seat to CloudAhoy’s recently announced P-FOQA program. This uses the same technology as the standard CloudAhoy app, but pools data from similar operators (the Citation Jet Pilots Association is a launch customer) to analyze flights for potential safety issues. The goal is to catch an unsafe procedure or skill degradation before it causes an accident. This type of program has been successful with major airlines, and is now a standard feature of Part 121 operations. CloudAhoy is hoping to bring that same level of safety to the general aviation world.
Given ForeFlight’s strong push into the business and airline world over the last five years, this seems like a natural fit. Flight departments can already use ForeFlight’s Dispatch tools to manage multiple airplanes and pilots, including chart database updates and jet takeoff performance calculations. Integrating a FOQA program into this would be a logical step.
Wherever this merger goes, it should be good news for aviation safety. Chuck Shavit had a great insight 12 years ago and built a unique app. Now it will hopefully find its way onto many more pilots’ iPads.