ForeFlight, iPad and VFR : Advice sought, please
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I am getting back into flying after a 20-year hiatus.  I am delighted with the tech advancements I'm seeing, especially because I embrace tech eagerly and feel it can enhance both safety and situational awareness for GA pilots (as long as one does not neglect VOR navigation in favour of what seems "easier").  Until I started to re-train, I had never flown with a GPS, moving map or autopilot.

I have a few fairly expensive decisions to make about adopting ForeFlight, so I hope that some of the more experienced folks here can chime in re. the following:

-  The aircraft I'll be renting are GPS-equipped but only one of the two C172/Gs has a moving map.  My reasoning, therefore, is that an iPad with ForeFlight (and yolk clamp) will be a very desirable piece of kit considering I won't always have access to a moving map.

-  I have looked on the ForeFlight site for minimum, and recommended, specs for iPads intended to run their app in-flight but the information available is surprisingly incomplete.  My plan is to get an iPad Mini, which the site says will run the app post-second generation.  Can anyone please clarify however, whether I need both WiFi and Cellular options for the iPad and what might be the optimal choice re. storage capacity.

-  Is ForeFlight's 3-D visualisation app a paid add-on or does it come with the subscription?  My instructor showed it to me yesterday and I was really impressed with the capacity it offers to familiarise oneself with visual approaches to unfamiliar airports.

- My instructor tells me to be careful because here in southern California, iPads can overheat in flight in the summer.  Does anyone have a strategy to deal with this?

I would appreciate your opinions. As I said, they will be particularly valuable to me as this is a fairly big-dollar decision to make; the "right" iPad is likely to cost $600+.  Thanks in anticipation.
13 Replies
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The iPad/Foreflight combination is far more than just a moving map.  It is a powerful flight planning tool for weather, routes, NOTAMS, fuel, and W&B, as well as housing a huge reference library of FAA publications ranging from inflight tools such as the Chart Supplements (the "green book" formerly known as the A/FD) to all the FAA handbooks like the Airplane Flying Handbook and the AIM.  As such, it is most definitely a "very desirable piece of kit" even if the aircraft you'll be flying has an installed GPS.

You do need to get the cellular version to get an internal GPS, but no matter what the sales clerk tells you, you do NOT need to activate the cellular service.  You can get the WiFi-only version and also get one of the several external GPS devices that bluetooths to the iPad, but it's an extra device you have to carry around, and the cellular option is cheaper than an external GPS device.

The synthetic visual capability is indeed an extra-cost option above the basic price.  In fact, I think it's about two jumps above the basic subscription.  I don't have it, and after nine years of Foreflighting, I don't miss it.

Yes, if you leave it in direct sunlight, it can overheat and shut down until cooled, especially in summer heat.  My solution is to keep it loose rather than on any fixed mount, and move it around as needed to keep it in the shade.

And I do believe that after a few months using it, you'll never want to fly without it again.
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This is very helpful, many thanks. 
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Hi Barry
I also use Foreflight. I hold a CFII and fly 70% locally (within 50-100NM) and 30% long cross country. I use a 2015 iPAD mini 2, 32GB capacity with cellular. I activated a data service as sometimes I find myself beyond wifi coverage. I not only use Foreflight on the device but have other aps as well, mail, Books, maps, some news, messaging and am using about 60% storage capacity. I usually download all VFR, IFR charts and procedures for at least two -three surrounding states. I also subscribe to Jeppesen charts and procedures. Not really necessary but as an instructor I wanted to become familiar with them (FWIW, I like them much better than the FAA NACO charts, but they are expensive).  I am perfectly happy with performance. When I was instructing in Florida last summer it would overheat but removing it from the mount and putting in shade would revive the display. While in and on my knee board it has never overheated. I've learned to monitor temperature by just touching to see if it's getting too hot. Check out Sporty's website for some good articles on optional knee board and clamp style mounts.
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It is a big investment!  I too was lapsed for quite some time (I think my last actual instrument approach was with a LORAN unit).  But my advice is to go on in on Foreflight and an iPad to whatever your budget allows.  I use the newest iPad mini (withOUT the celluar GBS), yoke mounted, a Foreflight Sentry, and the Performance Plus Foreflight subscription (I've kept my CFI current - so I get that Foreflight discount).

But it's the best thing I've done to help me get current again.  It's an amazing piece of software - their support is phenomenal.  I echo that other comment - after a couple of flights - you won't believe you ever flew without it....
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Many thanks for your help and support, gents.  I have a couple of follow-up questions, if I may:

-  I am a little unsure re. your point about data service, Prometheus At AOPA‍, sorry if I am being dense.  I am assuming that it's a backup for pre-flight planning on the iPad if there is no WiFi available.  I intend to do most of my flight planning on my desktop via ForeFlight Web and then access it via the ForeFlight app on an iPad but of course it makes sense to have data service if I am in some FBO without WiFi and need to do any re-planning.

- Gary Moore‍, I have looked up the Sentry and am not completely sure of its function.  Is it a substitute for aircraft without built-in ADS-B transponders?  Does it provide a layer of information over and above what would otherwise be available with only the aircraft's ADS-B device?  Please excuse my ignorance, I am getting back into GA after a 20-year hiatus but I'm a reasonably quick study when it comes to tech.  As for the Performance Plus subscription, it may be more than I need as a VFR-only pilot flying in mainly familiar territory.  I am interested in the Airport 3-D View but is this available as a standalone add-on, I wonder?

Again, thanks for your help.  I'm sure I will dive into ForeFlight, it's just a question of knowing the best iPad specs and avoiding unpleasant surprises that arise from uninformed decisions.  I'm very happy to be flying with GPS for the first time ever but I reckon you guys might agree that in workhorse rental aircraft, even well maintained ones, it's reassuring to have one's own means of digital navigation, especially if, in some respects, it exceeds the capability of GPS.  Of course, I never want to rely on ForeFlight to the exclusion of everything else, very much including VORs.  I'm going to be doing relatively undemanding daytime, VFR good-weather flying in CA but it's reassuring to have access to forms of both weather briefing and flight planning that are less abstract and more graphic than I am used to.  For example, my daughter is at UC Santa Cruz; if I wanted to fly up to visit her from Los Angeles, I'd need to be aware that I'm dealing with two very different weather environments.  Much as I'd like to regain my IFR proficiency, it's highly unlikely, so the "sweet spot" I am looking for with ForeFlight is that which best suits a good-weather VFR pilot who wants to be prepared for the occasional unpleasant weather situation and wants to navigate with enhanced confidence and reduced chances of getting lost or disorientated.  Luckily, as I said, I like tech and embrace it eagerly.
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if your aircraft has a fancy glass panel - you may be able to connect your iPad/Foreflight directly to it in order to obtain GPS/ADSB/AHRS/WX etc...

if not - you'll need a device to provide that info to truly make Foreflight useful - I like the Sentry.....
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Gary Moore:
if your aircraft has a fancy glass panel - you may be able to connect your iPad/Foreflight directly to it in order to obtain GPS/ADSB/AHRS/WX etc...

if not - you'll need a device to provide that info to truly make Foreflight useful - I like the Sentry.....

Thank you.  There are glass panel equipped C172s available but I am not flying them at the moment.  I had the impression that the weather overlays -- i.e. live weather information, displayed graphically -- are available through the app and displayed on an iPad even without the Sentry?

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You have to have some source for that data.  Foreflight on its own - does not have that data.  
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The data service I mentioned is a plan from my cell phone service provider (ATT). A separate data plan offered for a monthly fee based upon the amount of data download capacity you select.
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As regards cellular data service, I've been running Foreflight on iPad for nine years without it.  Virtually every FBO around the USA has available WiFi for flight planning, weather, and filing purposes on the ground.  You can also tether your iPad to your cell phone where there is no WiFi.

The Foreflight Sentry is one of two similar portable devices (the other being the Appareo Stratus) about the size of two cell phones back-to-back which provide an external GPS as well as ADS-B-in (weather and traffic) for display on iPad/Foreflight.  It provide "in" service only -- it is NOT a substitute for an installed ADS-B-out device for compliance with 91.225.  And yes, Performance Plus is probably more than a VFR-only pilot needs -- the basic service should be sufficient until you start working on your instrument rating.

Live weather information is provided on the ground via your internet connection.  In flight, other than something like Sentry/Stratus, you'd need some installed source which feeds your iPad/Foreflight, such as the Garmin GTX345 ADS-B-in/out transponder, which connects to your iPad via Bluetooth to get weather/traffic information.