The FAA’s New Open Data Initiatve

Last week the FAA launched the External Data Access Initiative and held the first industry forum to start a discussion about industry wants and needs. This is an important milestone, and I am happy that we at ForeFlight played a role in its development.

Over the past two years, and via our involvement in GAMA and our FAA and industry relationships, we have had the opportunity to present our vision for an “Open Source FAA” to FAA leadership. What I believed is that by opening access to data – and where possible computer source code such as the FAA’s ERAM and other systems – innovations will follow and ultimately create new business opportunities for entrepreneurs and a more efficient FAA. We are excited to see this initiative launched.

We encourage others to participate in the FAA forums and provide feedback. The FAA website for the External Data Access Initiative is here.

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Able Flight Delivers Our Most Memorable Oshkosh Moment

Able Flight pilot Randy Green

Able Flight pilots from the Class of 2015 on the Main Stage at this year’s EAA Airventure.

Amid the wall-to-wall schedule of activities at Oshkosh, the most memorable moment for us was the Able Flight Wing Pinning Ceremony. ForeFlight proudly sponsors flight training scholarships for Able Flight, a non-profit organization that enables people with disabilities to challenge themselves through flight and aviation career training. Able Flight pilots achieve aviation goals some might say are impossible.

Tyson Weihs, our CEO and co-founder, had the honor of pinning wings on pilot Randy Green at this year’s EAA Airventure. Randy is an incredible gentleman who was born without hands or feet. His lifelong, unflinching desire to be a pilot and his many aviation accomplishments speak to how he doesn’t let his disability stop him from achieving his goals.

Able Flight pilot Randy Green about to get his wings

ForeFlight CEO and co-founder, Tyson Weihs, joins pilot Randy Green on stage for the Wing Pinning ceremony.

Able Flight pilot Randy Green gets his Able Flight wings

Able Flight pilot Randy Green receives his wings from ForeFlight’s Tyson Weihs.

Randy’s dreams of becoming a pilot began in an Ercoupe that his father purchased so he and his brother could learn to fly. Taking those childhood dreams and turning them into a career, Randy earned his Private Pilot certificate in 1994 and quickly continued on to gain instrument, commercial, multi-engine and flight instructor ratings. Randy doesn’t use any special adapted equipment to operate hand controls and in his first year instructing he logged more than 1000 hours teaching others to fly.

Randy’s ultimate goal was to become a Corporate Pilot and after logging the hours, ratings, and showing others that he could do just about anything, he set his sights on completing his Air Transport Pilot rating. With the help of the Able Flight Career Training Scholarship, Randy passed his ATP check-ride in April of this year.

A recent job opportunity took Randy, his wife, and two daughters to Idaho where he now flies a corporate plane for a locally based company. Randy’s story is truly inspirational and a testament to never giving up on your dreams. Congratulations Randy on all of your accomplishments, we know there will be many more to come!

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Summer Flying for EAA-ForeFlight Scholarship Winners

School is out for summer and our scholarship recipients, Jacob Rasmussen and Megan Kerstein, are already back in the air. If you missed our first follow up with these two, read part one here. Although this Spring brought some challenging weather, Jacob and Megan remained focused on their pursuit of flight.

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Megan Kerstein

No pool parties and sleeping in for Megan this summer break as she switched hats from full time student to flying humanitarian. Megan is spending her summer on an environmental science/justice internship in Alaska. The organization she is interning with helps indigenous Alaskans and other community members to prevent environmental destruction on their lands. Megan explained that it’s not all work and no play; she’s expanding her flight experience by taking some lessons with Artic’s Air Academy in Palmer, Alaska. Megan reports that “the scenery is absolutely incredible!”

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Where are you in your training now?

I’m prepping for my solo currently.

Has there been a flight that sticks out in your mind so far?

My most recent flight in Alaska sticks out in my mind. I’ve never been at the flight controls through mountain terrain, so that was pretty exciting! We flew through mountain passes and then ended up over the Prince William Sound, a gorgeous body of water. We flew over several glaciers on the way to the Sound. The whole experience was unreal!

What’s your favorite part of flying?

That’s a tough one. I love the exhilaration of taking off, but I also love getting up to cruise altitude and taking in the scenery around me while interacting with the flight controls and navigating the plane. For me, cruise flight is when all my skills come together, which is really energizing.

What’s next? Do you have new goals for what you would like to do with your pilots license?

I’m going to fly a couple times a week in Alaska, which should bring me very close to finishing up. From there, I’d love to take some of my friends up and hope that the aviation bug bites them. I just really want to inspire others to get involved in aviation to some degree. I would love to be a mentor for the Women Soar You Soar Program held at Oshkosh AirVenture every year, as that program was very meaningful to me as a participant.

Blog-JacobRasmussen-1Jacob Rasmussen

Congratulations are in order for Jacob—when we caught up with him, we found out that he has been accepted into EAA’s Advanced Air Academy SportAir Camp to take place following this year’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. At this camp Jacob will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with composite construction, fabric covering techniques and ground flight training.

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Where are you in your training?

Due to scheduling, weather and other obstacles the last couple of months have been especially difficult getting in hours, however I am working hard on bookwork and ground instruction. I have a total of 18 hours as pilot in command, 1.5 hours of solo time and I am about to embark on my second cross-country flight with my instructor.

Has there been a flight that sticks out in your mind so far?

As empowering and memorable as one’s first solo must be and is, the one flight that has stuck in my mind the most would have to be the first with my instructor. From being pilot in command, radioing the tower, taking off, all the way to wrestling the airplane back to earth, with a death grip on the yoke and my eyes fixated on the runway. I imagine the experience to be like what a rookie naval pilot would have when landing his first F-16 on an aircraft carrier in the middle of a typhoon…it was exhilarating. It was my first glimpse into what many believe to be an impossibility or a mere dream that only the most well off and elite can aspire to fulfill. When in actuality it is more easily obtainable and by no means impossible as one might think. With just a little dedication of one’s time and resources, as well as a true desire to follow through, anything is possible within aviation.

What’s your favorite part of flying?

My absolute favorite part of flying is the feeling of accomplishment and knowledge I get when completing each step to the goal of becoming a private pilot.

What’s next? Do you have new goals for what you would like to do with your pilots license?

My plans as of now, are to continue pursuing aviation as a hobby and potential carrier for the future to help serve my community. I would love to (hopefully in the near future)  learn to fly helicopters while continuing along my training of fixed wing aircraft. My only warning to those who may be interested in flying is that when you start you will never want to quit and if you do quit you will wish every clear day of your life that you hadn’t given it up.

We’ll be checking back in with Jacob and Megan once they’ve officially received their licenses. Until then, we wish them the best of luck with their summer activities that will help take their aviation skills and knowledge to new heights.

ForeFlight is Onboard Historic Air Race Classic

As a veteran of this and other cross-country air races, I was thrilled to participate in the Air Race Classic starting events in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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Visiting with Pilots Jessie Davidson, Topaz Grabman, and Emma Sullivan from Above All Aviation. These ladies are strategizing for a win!

The Air Race Classic has its roots in the first Women’s National Air Derby, held in 1929, when twenty female pilots set out to prove to the world that air racing was not just a sport for men. Beginning in Santa Monica, California they flew over 2,800 miles to the finish line—the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. From that event, the Ninety-Nines were formed, as ninety-nine of the then 117 licensed female pilots organized to promote flying, friendship, and freedom around the world. Air Race Classic, Inc. continues the tradition of this historic race.

With airplanes and logbooks impounded for meticulous inspection by members of AWAM (Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance), anticipation and excitement built over the weekend as the 51 race teams gathered for three days of pre-race briefings. During the briefings I shared with racers how to get the most out of ForeFlight features such as our new weather imagery for better forecast planning, user waypoints, and annotating taxi diagrams with race time lines. It was fun to share my experience in what goes into creating a strategy for this race.

Each airplane is ‘handicapped’ to provide the best way possible to make all airplanes equally competitive. During the handicap flight the plane is flown full throttle on a rectangular course at a specific altitude. Vents are closed and engines are leaned for best performance. This levels the playing field and so the race becomes one of pilot skill and strategy rather than the raw speed of the fastest airplane, as it was in 1929.

As an Air Race Classic racer myself, I can tell you that the best strategy is to scrutinize the weather each day of the race and capture the best possible winds on the best possible days. Sometimes that means not flying on a day of headwinds if more favorable weather is forecast. As long as the course is completed in the four days allowed, how many of the legs are flown each day is up to each race team. There are some other fine-tuned race strategies I have used, but you’ll have to be my race partner to find out what those are! My ultimate advice: fly straight, fly fast.

2015 Air Race Classic star route

This year’s 2400 mile race forms a star pattern.

On Monday, the clock started against the 111 racers. The day VFR race legs total more than 2,400 miles. The race route is different each year; this year’s path draws a sort of star pattern, with the required timed legs going first to Hickory, NC, then Connellsville, PA, Jeffersonville, IN, Kalamazoo, MI, Lawrenceville, IL, Kirksville, MO, Union City, TN, and Gadsden, AL, and crossing the finish line at Fairhope, AL. Those who crossed the starting timeline have until 5:00 pm EDT Thursday to finish the course.

Engineers and rocket scientists who work for companies like Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, airline pilots, and airport managers, artists, singers, veterinarians, and retirees, and more people with fascinating backgrounds are in this race. Seventeen collegiate teams from around the country are vying not only for the coveted first place prize, but the chance to finish ahead of all other competing schools.

Unfortunately not all registered teams arrived for the start, as weather kept four race teams from reaching Fredericksburg. Another nerve-trying situation occurred at the start when Team 54, Terry Kane and Roxanne Ostrowski, returned from the starting line with a low voltage light. To remain contenders, they had three hours to secure the parts, complete repairs, and fly the timeline to start the race. I’m happy to report that they beat the clock and are still in the competition!

As the race teams navigate through the challenging race course, Team ForeFlight sends its best wishes for a safe and exciting adventure! Find out more about the race teams here, and join us as we track their progress here.

An Eventful Weekend with AOPA Salinas and Sporty’s Fly-In

Spring is in the air and so are we—this weekend ForeFlight team members are flying to Salinas, California for AOPA’s opening fly-in and Batavia, Ohio for Sporty’s annual event.

We’re proud to support AOPA’s second year of events that celebrate grassroots aviation. Visit with Josh and Thomas at booth #57 and experience new ForeFlight Mobile features like Procedure Preview, FBOs on Taxi Charts, and Synthetic Vision.

The Clermont County Airport may be small, but this fly-in is big. Education seminars, a hot dog lunch, the RV-12 sweepstakes winner announcement, and more make this a fun day for all. ForeFlight team members Susan and Jason will be on hand to demonstrate the latest ForeFlight features. In addition, Jason (ForeFlight co-founder and CTO) presents “The Latest from ForeFlight” at 1:30 pm.

We hope to see you there!

Flight Bag Tiles (FBTiles) Specification Available on GitHub

Today we are publishing the first of a set of “flight bag” specifications and projects aimed at creating some standards for the distribution of data sets to aviation apps and electronic flight bags. There are quite a few standards in aviation with respect to formatting and distribution of aeronautical and charting data, but many of these are not in the public domain and are not suitable for all applications.

Historically, aeronautical information publishers have favored text file formats like fixed width and CSV. While text formats are easy to produce and distribute, app developers ultimately have to build parsers and packagers to format or store the data in a format suitable for use in an application. If data providers package data in portable database formats like SQLite, the amount of parser and import code written worldwide is reduced, and devs will write and publish drivers to read these standardized database formats. Our hope is that this will reduce code duplication, accelerate adoption, and focus devs on innovative new features.

The first specification we are publishing is the Flight Bag Tiles specification – “FBTiles” for short. FBTiles is a SQLite database specification for packaging the tile bits that make up a raster chart (SQLite is a widely used, portable database engine for apps). FBTiles is a superset of the MBTiles format published by MapBox that adds support for showing and hiding chart margins that typically appear around raster charts.

Here are some things you could do with FBTiles:

  • Distribute chart tiles that replace the default base tile layer in MapKit or in Android’s Maps SDK.
  • Display charts in a web browser served from a server app that can read the FBTiles format. ForeFlight, for example, uses an FBTiles server app we developed in house to send chart bits to ForeFlight Mobile.
  • Build a business around distributing chart databases in the FBTiles format to app publishers.
  • Distribute authorized charts (e.g. FAA, NAV CANADA, Air Services Australia charts) in FBTiles database format to app publishers.
  • Build a set of tools or a service for converting charts in GeoPDF or GeoTIFF format into FBTiles databases.

We plan to extend the Flight Bag specifications further to include database formats for providing airport and facility directory information, navigation databases, flight publications, weather information, NOTAMs, and more. Ideas for extensions to the flight bag specs are welcomed.

The goal is to provide and evolve an open set of standards that help accelerate the distribution of information to web, desktop, and mobile aviation apps.

You can find the FBTiles spec on GitHub: https://github.com/foreflight/fbtiles. Enjoy!

iPad Aviation, AOPA, and FSDO Approval

Sarah Brown of the AOPA pushed a piece about iPad aviation on Friday titled “How will the iPad change the GA cockpit?” featuring ForeFlight Mobile HD. Some interesting nuggets and links from the article about iPad aviation and the FAA advisory circulars that apply:

  • “The iPad has not—or at least not yet—gone through the process of being certified as a Class 1 EFB, but Part 91 operators of smaller aircraft do not require any specific authorization for EFB operations provided the EFB does not replace any system or equipment required by the regulations.”
  • A link to the 2003 advisory circular (AC 120-76A) that provides information about the certification, airworthiness, and operational approval of EFBs.
  • A link to the 2007 advisory circular (AC 91-78) that discusses that pilots are allowed to replace some paper information with electronic sources.

Part 91 drivers have a lot of latitude to replace paper with digital sources, so long as you stay within the bumper rails outlined in the two circulars. Our favorite sentence from AC 120-76a is in section ‘1. Purpose’: “Other part 91 operations do not require any specific authorization for EFB operations provided the EFB does not replace any system or equipment required by the regulations.”

One ForeFlighter in Virginia Beach, VA succeeded in getting Part 91 approval for use of ForeFlight Mobile HD and the iPad from his local FSDO head. Visit our Facebook page to follow the thread.

Other operators will need to run the “Operational Approval Process” gauntlet outlined in section 12 of AC 120-76a and ultimately seek an OpSpec from an FAA POI. If you’re operation is interested in learning more about the use of ForeFlight within your operation or flight department, contact Eric Hake (eric at foreflight dot com) for more information.

The Finer Points of Flying Launches Flight Training iPhone App

Always committed to employing the latest technologies to further improve ease and access to practical flight training, The Finer Points of Flying (www.TheFinerPoints.net) has joined forces with ForeFlight (www.ForeFlight.com) to develop the iPhone app, VFR Communications.
This five‐chapter instructional course available for the iPhone and iPod touch contains an hour of high‐definition video, computer animation and instruction from Jason Miller, recently nominated FAA flight instructor of the year. Each video provides in‐depth coverage of airspace, including dimensions, charting, airspace entry requirements, and real‐world cockpit footage demonstrating how a proficient pilot communicates efficiently and effectively in complex airspace. This instructional course is perfect for private pilots brushing up before a biennial flight review or check‐out, student pilots that desire a learning tool that goes beyond the content normally presented in a standard instructional flight lesson, or enthusiasts wanting to learn how pilots really communicate when navigating simple and complex airspace. Like nothing you’ve seen before. Filmed in stunning 1080i High Definition and completed with Computer Graphic Imaging and a fresh personality. It’s virtually all the instruction you’ll need. VFR Communications is available at Apple’s App Store at iTunes. The DVD version of the course is also available for purchase at TheFinerPoints.net.
Preview the content of both at http://www.thefinerpoints.myshopify.com. Click on VFR Communications DVD for a sneak peek. For members of the press: Press evaluation copies of the iPhone app, VFR Communications are available at the compliments of The Finer Points of Flying. The promo code to be used at the App Store checkout will be sent to you in a separate email with instructions on using it. Please evaluate and enjoy!
About The Finer Points of Flying: The Finer Points of Flying produces mobile media programs hosted by accomplished flight instructor and professional musician, Jason Miller. The Finer Points blends straight‐forward fundamentals of flight instruction with the charm and levity injected by on‐point storytelling and music. The series has won critical acclaim from viewers and many of the nation’s aviation luminaries alike for its use of captivating
video, motion graphics, and computer animation to convey concepts from a wide and varied range of aeronautical subjects in an enjoyable and easily comprehended way.

The Finer Points of Flying (TFP) and ForeFlight are excited to announce the launch of VFR Communications, a new flight training iPhone and iPod touch app for pilots. The new app, designed and developed by ForeFlight, is available for download today on the iTunes App Store. VFR Communications is the first app to provide pilots access to full-length educational video content on an iPhone or iPod touch.

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This five‐chapter instructional course contains an hour of  video filmed entirely in 1080i High Definition, computer animation, and charismatic instruction from Jason Miller, recently nominated FAA flight instructor of the year. Each video provides in‐depth coverage of airspace dimensions, charting, airspace entry requirements, and real‐world cockpit footage that demonstrates how a proficient pilot communicates efficiently and effectively in complex airspace. This instructional course is perfect for  student pilots that desire a learning tool that goes beyond the content normally presented in a standard instructional flight lesson, for private pilots brushing up before a biennial flight review or check‐out, or for enthusiasts wanting to learn how pilots really communicate when navigating simple and complex airspace.

VFR Communications is available for purchase today for $19.99 on the iTunes App Store. A DVD version of the course and a preview is available online at TheFinerPoints.net.

If you haven’t yet discovered Jason Miller, run – don’t walk – over to TheFinerPoints.net and walk through his collection of audio and video training sessions. If you like what you see, support his efforts through the purchase of his new app or a DVD. He is a fresh, talented, charismatic, and hard working educator that brings something magical and unique to flight training.

About The Finer Points of Flying

The Finer Points of Flying produces mobile media programs hosted by accomplished flight instructor and professional musician, Jason Miller. The Finer Points blends straight‐forward fundamentals of flight instruction with the charm and levity injected by on‐point storytelling and music. The series has won critical acclaim from viewers and many of the nation’s aviation luminaries alike for its use of captivating video, motion graphics, and computer animation to convey concepts from a wide and varied range of aeronautical subjects in an enjoyable and easily comprehended way.

ForeFlight and RunwayFinder Partner for Mobile Aviation Charts

To bring you the highest quality sectional images in ForeFlight Charts, we proudly partnered with RunwayFinder.com. RunwayFinder is a popular web site for viewing seamless sectional and terminal charts.

“As a pilot, I’ve always been a big fan of RunwayFinder” said ForeFlight co-founder Jason Miller. “I couldn’t be more excited to partner with them and bring two of the leading names in aviation innovation together.”

“It’s been great collaborating with ForeFlight” said RunwayFinder founder Dave Parsons. “ForeFlight is the leader in aviation apps on the iPhone, and the new Charts app is hands-down the best way to explore sectional and terminal charts on the iPhone.”

With RunwayFinder at our side, you can be assured that you’re always viewing the most up-to-date sectionals and terminal charts in ForeFlight Charts.

ForeFlight Charts

StudentPilotJournal.com Video Podcast Feature

Greg Summers is a ‘student pilot’ (in “the pilot is always learning, sense, as he has his PPL and is on to instrument work) who is chronicling his journey through a blog and video podcast available on the web at http://www.studentpilotjournal.com. He has produced 24 episodes of content, which is no small feat.  We were tickled to learn that Greg profiled both ForeFlight Mobile 2.0 and ForeFlight Checklist in his latest episode, Episode #24.

Greg’s setup in the plane is very similar to ours.  We use suction mounts from RAM Mounts, place them just forward of the door bulkhead and high so that they do not obstruct the panel, and keep the positioning as close to eye level as possible.  The positioning varies by aircraft, of course.  In a Mooney, for example, you might end up placing the suction mount just aft of the forward door jam, above the air inlet.  The point is to always keep the device mounted and within view so that you don’t have to go heads down to find your checklist or the next check item.

A streaming copy of the video is available on Viddler at http://www.viddler.com/explore/foreflight/videos/1/