At the risk of sounding like an Apple Fanboy, one of the most useful apps for the iPad is the Foreflight Mobile HD Aviation app. I have been using it extensively since May for planning flights, and in the cockpit.
Foreflight was conceived as a total Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) package for flight planning: weather, radar, routing, checking fuel prices, instrument approach plates and a nifty moving map using either downloadable IFR or VFR charts. The aviation database is extensive, including all frequencies, FBOs, fuel and airport information.
With Foreflight, the pilot can check weather via a wi-fi or 3G connection. Maps and procedures are downloaded every 28 or 56 days in accordance with published updates. Charts and plates are cached in the iPad memory so an internet connection is not necessary during flight.
Foreflight allows you to enter your route on the map page, including airways, intersections, VORs, SIDs and STARS. Or you can simply use the “Present Position/Direct-To” function. The route will be part of your weather briefing and once your briefing is complete, you can file your IFR or VFR flight plan directly from your iPad using your DUATS profile embedded in the app.
In flight, using the internal GPS chip, a little airplane icon will move along the chart, indicating your groundspeed, GPS altitude and track, giving you instant positional awareness.
Just in the past few days, Foreflight has announced support for two external GPS pucks for the iPad. The first supported device is the Bad Elf GPS Receiver for the iPad (66-channel, SBAS/WAAS, 10Hz). This small, directly attached GPS receiver avoids the need for charging a separate device while providing high quality GPS fixes for ForeFlight Mobile HD. The BadElf GPS requires zero setup and plugs directly into the iPad.
The second GPS puck is the GNS 5870 MFI Bluetooth GPS for iPad. This battery-powered device provides wireless GPS signals to the iPad. There is some initial setup required to connect the MFI over Bluetooth, but it doesn’t drain any battery life from your iPad.
Before Foreflight, I used paper charts and IFR approach plates in the cockpit, at an annual cost of over $400 per year. Foreflight’s subscription cost is just $75 per year, and it covers the entire country for charts and approach procedures.
It is not a good idea to rely completely on the iPad for your primary means of navigation, and the iPad/Foreflight combination is not perfect, but it is a good back up unit for positional awareness and eliminates a lot of paper charts.