Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New AOPA pilot app for Apple

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association recently announced the release of a new Apple application for pilots.  The application, called FlyQ, is free to download and use for AOPA members.  The app uses DUAT, the FAA’s online weather source for pilots, to provide pilots with legal weather briefings and the ability to file flight plans.

The app consists of three main areas, which are tabbed across the bottom of the screen.  The first of these is the airports tab.  This uses the location feature of the iPhone or iPad to automatically bring up a list of nearby airports.  Along with airport data such as runway, fuel available, and frequencies is a small tab that tells whether each airport is VFR, marginal VFR, IFR, or low IFR at a glance.

When an airport is selected from the list, more detailed information is available.  This includes most of the pertinent information that you would find in the Airport Facility Directory such as all frequencies, the airport elevation, and a runway diagram are listed as well as other items such as satellite photos of the airport.  Recent weather reports and forecasts are also displayed.  This page also lists nearby navaids and airports.  Airport services from FBOs to ground transportation to restaurants and local attractions are also listed.

The weather tab automatically pulls up nearby weather reports and radar along with nice-to-know things like the expected high and low temperatures and general forecasts for the next week.  The radar can depict local, regional or national information.

Weather charts for the U.S. and Canada are available under the Gallery section.  This allows pilots to view useful graphic charts such as Freezing Levels, Icing Potential, and Turbulence charts quickly and easily.  The search function allows the pilot to type in another airport, such as the destination or alternate, to view the weather there.  Aviation weather reports and forecasts can be viewed in the standard coded format or in a plain English translation.

The plans section allows the user to log into their DUAT account to create flight plans and receive official weather briefings.  This requires creating both a pilot profile and an aircraft profile.  Many aircraft have default values that populate their profile, but the user should confirm the entries before relying on the flight plan data.  The ability to build a profile for almost any airplane, along with a variety of routing options such as jet airways, GPS direct, and optimizing for best winds means that even professional pilots of long range jets can use the app for most of their flight-planning needs.

There are some weaknesses with the FlyQ app.  The most obvious is that it is currently only available on Apple products.  AOPA does say that there is an Android version in the works, but there is no word on when it will be released.

Another is that the app is limited to the United States.  Canadian weather and airport data is accessible from the app, but the flight plan feature does not work for flights to Canadian airports.  Likewise, the user can look at Caribbean and Mexican airports and weather, but cannot file a flight plan to or from these destinations.

Finally, it was hard to figure out how to delete an old flight plan.  The FAQs suggested selecting the flight plan and then tapping on the action button, the box with an arrow coming out of it, in the upper left corner.  This brings up several options including emailing, printing or deleting the flight plan.  Unfortunately, this does not always work.

The AOPA FlyQ app is a good tool for any pilot with an iPad or iPhone.  For the most part it is very quick, easy to use, and works well.  As a free service of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, FlyQ could easily replace more expensive apps or programs.  With avgas and jet fuel prices so high, most pilots would probably be happy to save the money.  FlyQ is available in the Apple app store.

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