If you are a pilot and own an iPad, chances are you have already heard about some new apps which allow your tablet to function as an Electronic Flight Bag, or EFB. The FAA has approved the iPad as Class 1 EFB for use in the cockpit, and several airline companies are in the testing phase..
There are two EFB software competitors creating a buzz in the aviation community; ForeFlight Mobile HD and WingX 7 Pro, by Hilton Software, LLC. These EFB apps go head-to-head in providing moving maps, aeronautical charts, geo-referenced Instrument Approach Procedures, geo-referenced taxi diagrams, weather, flight planning and airport data inexpensively to GA pilots.
A while back I wrote about my experience with Foreflight Mobile HD. It has replaced a lot of paper in my cockpit, and reduced subscription expenses. Recent software updates allowing geo-referenced approach procedures and taxi charts are just amazing. I wrote about that here.
Hilton recently released an updated version of WingX Pro7. I spent some time with them at Sun-n-Fun, and was impressed with the latest iteration. I downloaded the WingX app, and used it together with ForeFlight, during a recent flight to Tallahassee, FL in the A36.
Both WingX and ForeFlight aeronautical charts are clear, crisp, and easy to read in the cockpit. (Just don’t try to view the screen through Polarized sunglasses). However, WingX offers a “split screen” option to view IFR and/or VFR charts and/or Instrument Approach Procedures simultaneously. The split screens are way cool, and you can pinch-zoom or pan them independently of each other. With the Wing X split-screen option, the pilot can begin briefing the IAP without leaving the moving map page.
WingX provides geo-referenced taxi diagrams standard with their basic $99 yearly subscription plan. ForeFlight subscriptions cost $75 per year, but this does not include geo-referenced taxi diagrams. Geo-referenced IAPs cost an additional $75 per year whether you subscribe to WingX or ForeFlight. The geo-referenced data is supplied by Seattle Avionics, in a value-added partnership with both companies. For comparison, Jeppesen quotes $900+ per year for geo-referenced IAPs on the new Garmin GTN 750 panel mount units.
Other features are impressive with WingX. First and foremost, is the ability to overlay terrain directly on the IFR or VFR chart. Though many portables and panel mount GPS units have a terrain database, seeing it depicted on an iPad is intuitive and reassuring. The depicted terrain changes colors from none, to yellow/orange, then to red, on a gradient basis, in relation to the surrounding terrain. The color gradients change as you climb or descend. This would be helpful flying into mountainous areas on a hazy day. ForeFlight does not have a terrain option at this time.
Secondly, there is an option to highlight Special Use Airspace, including MOAs, Restricted and Prohibited Areas, as well as Class B, C and D airspace. Simply touch the iPad screen anywhere within the depicted airspace and the name, altitudes, and published operating times of the Special Use Airspace pops up. This feature will assist VFR pilots to avoid busting SUA and positive control airspace. I would have taken it a step further and listed the controlling ARTCC or Approach Control, including frequencies. Unfortunately, ForeFlight does not have an option to identify SUA, so one should have a sectional on board when flying VFR. (Edit: Foreflight now has a SUA airspace function)
In addition to the features above, there are some differences between WingX 7 and ForeFlight. Some of these differences are major, others inconsequential. It depends on the type of flying you do.
Advantages of WingX:
1. TFRs are shown as red circles on the maps, not so with ForeFlight.
2. Zoom capabilities are greater on WingX. Congested sectionals are easier to read when zoomed.
3. WingX offers an icon to invert the IAP image from white to black for night-time viewing. ForeFlight requires you to triple-tap the home screen.
4. Maps and charts seem to load slightly faster with WingX.
5. ICAO airport identifiers and intersections are overlaid in bold on both IFR and VFR charts, making it easier to view your route.
6. At the tops of the map pages, WingX gives you more data, including bearing, distance, ETA in Zulu time, and ETE. Data is shown, not only for the next waypoint along your route, but also to your destination. If ATC loses RADAR capability, or you fly into an area without RADAR coverage, it makes reporting IFR compulsory fixes very easy. (edit, Foreflight now has flight plan data on the top of the map page)
Disadvantages of WingX:
1. Fuel price data is an additional $29 annual expense, but it is available without a broadband connection. Fuel prices are free on ForeFlight, but require a broadband connection. For fuel prices, I still like AIRNAV the best. (edit: AirNav now has an iPhone/iPad app for fuel prices)
2. There are no SIDS or STARS in the auto-routing function. This is a big deal to me as someone who mostly files IFR. (Edit: WingX now has SIDS and STARS)
3. ForeFlight understands Victor airways and SIDS/STARS during the auto-routing function. With WingX, you must load each waypoint, intersection or VOR that defines a bend or turn in your route of flight. (edit: WingX now suports victor airways)
4. Route editing functions between WingX and ForeFlight are different. In ForeFlight, the pilot drags and drops the blue course line to the new waypoint, aka “rubber band routing”. It automatically sequences that waypoint into the existing flight plan. In WingX, the pilot opens up the flight plan page on the left side of the chart page, and then enters the name of the new fix, using the iPad’s virtual keyboard. WingX then sequences the new waypoint, or the pilot can move the waypoint to the desired location within the flightplan.
5. WingX does not offer a scratch pad for copying clearances and amendments.
6. WingX does not convert VFR sectionals to published TACs when zooming in on those areas.
WingX is more suited towards the VFR pilot. The pop-up Special Use Airspace option on WingX is a great tool. When you are operating on an IFR flight plan, airspace lines essentially disappear. It’s nice to see the published times and altitudes for SUA with a simple touch of the map.
The SIDS/STARS and Victor airway auto-routing capabilities on ForeFlight seem more suited towards the IFR pilot.
Both of these companies should be commended for their investment in GA technology, and for what they have done to bring paperless cockpits to us in an affordable way. As consumers, we are the winners. I would expect that future feature updates will look very similar. In the meantime, I plan on keeping both subscriptions, using the basic WingX plan for VFR days, and ForeFlight for IFR flights. No one says you have to pick just one vendor. In aviation terms, both programs give you a lot for your money. Just remember these programs are not approved for primary navigation.
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