ForeFlight Mobile 8.0.2 Available On The App Store

ForeFlight 8.0.2 is a minor release that delivers a refinement in the Airports view to include more nearby weather stations, as well as some fixes in preparation for iOS 10 compatibility. Apple has announced that it plans to release iOS 10 to the public on Tuesday, September 13th. We continue to conduct thorough testing on iOS 10 to ensure full compatibility with ForeFlight. Please stay tuned to our blog post, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for updates on our ‘all-clear’ notice. As always, feel free to email team@foreflight.com if you have any questions.

ForeFlight 8: Global Data-Driven Aeronautical Maps, Logbook Enhancements, TFR Alerts

Featured

The wait is over—ForeFlight 8 is here! Download on the App Store today to experience our groundbreaking data-driven Aeronautical Maps. New TFR Alerts help you steer clear of TFRs while inflight and upgrades to Logbook make flight logging even easier and more connected than ever. In addition, major enhancements to ForeFlight on the web make it possible to plan, file, and brief whenever and wherever it is most convenient. Read more about web updates here.

The Future Of Maps Is Here

Fast, powerful, and beautiful, ForeFlight Aeronautical Maps represent the next generation of mapping technology. Rather than using scans of paper charts, Aeronautical Maps are driven by data, opening up a huge range of possibilities for how information is displayed on the map.

In the Map Settings menu, new ForeFlight Map controls allow you to select from Light and Dark map themes and to turn the Terrain layer on or off. You will also see new Aeronautical Map Settings when the Aeronautical layer is selected in the Maps dropdown. The ability to customize the map is made possible by ForeFlight’s data-driven map technology. You can turn airspace on or off, set airways to High, Low, or Off, turn ARTCC boundaries on or off, and more. Use the text slider to adjust label text size for better readability. This set of controls for the Aeronautical Map is the first iteration of the choices you will have over what map elements you show or hide—future updates will bring more capability.

Aeronautical Maps settings

New Aeronautical Map Settings give you control over what map elements to show or hide.

In addition, Continuous Zoom™ and dynamic decluttering of map elements allows you to find useful information at any zoom level, and “always-up” labels make it easy to read text on the map no matter how it’s oriented.

A new feature called Smart Airway Labels provides information about segments of any airway in your flight plan. These labels start out small – only showing the name of the airway – but expand as you zoom in, showing additional information about the airway segment like magnetic heading and the MEA.

We’ve also taken our Plates on Maps feature to a new level by directly integrating ForeFlight’s airport diagrams into the Aeronautical layer. Zoom in on an airport and runways and taxiways materialize right on the map, complete with labels and FBO markers.

ForeFlight Aeronautical Maps are available with Basic Plus, Pro Plus, and Business Pro plans.

Logbook Is More Connected Than Ever

ForeFlight 8 adds a new feature to Logbook that busy CFIs and flight students might find useful – Remote Signing. Students can send draft logbook entries to their instructor who can review, send back edits, or sign the entry, whenever and wherever it is most convenient. The instructor can also opt to add the flight to their own logbook as ‘Dual Given’ time. As an added benefit, students take command and learn how to manage their logbook from the beginning.

We also introduce Logbook Connect, an ecosystem of third-party services that you can connect to your ForeFlight Logbook. Logbook Connect makes it easier to add flight entries directly from the other pilot services you use. Our launch partners, Redbird Flight and Schedule Pointe, allow you to send draft entries from their respective dashboards to your own logbook.

ForeFlight-Logbook-Twitter-Facebook-sharing

Sharing flights with friends and followers on social media is easy!

In addition, Logbook Progress Reports are available to help student pilots track the progress of accumulated flight time towards their PPL or Instrument rating.

Finally, sharing flight entries with your friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook is really easy. Simply tap the send-to button in an entry and ForeFlight will create a template post, along with photo attachments.

ForeFlight Logbook is bundled with our Basic Plus and Pro Plus plans.

TFR Alerts Keep You Aware In The Air

The new alerts watch for active TFRs near your current altitude and provide visual and auditory warnings as you approach, and again if you enter one. The alerts work whether or not the TFR layer is selected on the Maps view.

TFR ahead on data-driven light theme

Enhancements To ForeFlight On The Web

In conjunction with ForeFlight 8, ForeFlight on the web features a number of updates that are now available for ForeFlight subscribers, including the ability to file flight plans, generate weather briefings, and manage aircraft profiles. You can also access and plan flights with our new global Aeronautical Maps. Log in to ForeFlight anytime using your ForeFlight Mobile credentials and access ForeFlight’s powerful flight planning from your desktop computer. Read more about updates to ForeFlight on the web in this article.

Apple iOS 9.3.5 and ForeFlight

UPDATE August 26, 2016: Compatibility testing between ForeFlight Mobile and iOS 9.3.5 is complete and we are issuing the “all-clear” to ForeFlight customers. Feel free to update at your convenience.

ORIGINAL POST August 25, 2016: We are performing compatibility testing between ForeFlight and the newly released iOS 9.3.5 to ensure that everything is working smoothly. We will update this post with an “all-clear” when testing is completed.

Logbook Flight Sharing, Stratus ESG Support, New Radar Layer in ForeFlight 7.7

ForeFlight 7.7 introduces the ability to share Logbook draft entries with other pilots, as well as a new radar layer, a new rate of descent instrument, Stratus ESG support, and lots of work under the hood to improve general map performance.

Flight Logging Just Got Easier with Flight Sharing

The new Flight Sharing feature in ForeFlight Logbook makes it easy for pilots to send and receive draft flight entries. Pilots can share a flight with one or more people right from the ForeFlight app. The receiving party then modifies and accepts the entry into their own Logbook. Flight Sharing makes it convenient when practicing approaches with a friend– use one iPad to collect the flight details, then simply share the entry. It is also a time-saver for corporate flight crews who can now share a logbook entry between the Captain and First Officer, reducing time spent on the administrative aspect of a flight.

You can review and make edits to the shared entry before adding it to your Logbook

Shared entries are just like drafts from Track Logs – review and edit the information, then tap Approve to add it to your Logbook.

Track Medical Currency in LogbookTrack the time left on your medical certificate with other currency types

Don’t let your medical expiration sneak up on you. When you add your medical certificate to the Logbook Qualifications section, you can now also add it to your currency summary view. This keeps the time remaining until your medical certificate expires front and center.

 

Stratus ESG Support and Firmware Upgrade for Stratus 1S/2S

Bundled with ForeFlight 7.7 is a firmware upgrade for Stratus 1S and 2S receivers. This upgrade adds support for the Stratus ESG, Appareo’s new all-in-one ADS-B Out solution. Stratus 1S and 2S devices can connect to the Stratus ESG via a USB cable to take advantage of its auxiliary power for continual charging, as well as the transponder’s externally mounted WAAS GPS and ADS-B receivers for maximum reception.

Stratus ESG with 2S and iPad

The upgrade also adds new features to the Stratus 2S. The built-in Flight Data Recorder now has automatic flight leg detection which automatically stops a Stratus Track Log and starts a new one when a full landing is detected. In addition, customers now have the option to save AHRS calibration settings between uses – this is especially helpful for taildragger aircraft pilots who set ‘straight and level’ attitude while inflight.

New ‘Lowest Tilt’ Radar Layer

For more informed preflight planning, you can now choose between the existing NEXRAD composite reflectivity layer and a new NEXRAD base reflectivity from the lowest elevation angle, or Lowest Tilt, layer. The current radar layer — renamed ‘Radar (Composite)’ — does what its name implies: it shows a composite view of multiple angles of radar scans. The new Radar (Lowest Tilt) layer shows only the lowest angle scan, generally providing a more accurate picture of where precipitation is actually reaching the ground.

Lowest-tilt radar provides a better indication of where precipitation is reaching the ground

The composite radar image at left shows precipitation over Atlanta, but the lowest-tilt scan on the right reveals that precipitation is only reaching the ground well west of the city.

In addition, you can display either radar layer in the low resolution, 4-color scheme defined by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics as the standard for airborne radar coloring. This option is available in the Map Settings menu as “Four-color Radar”.

Display radar in a basic four-color formatCheck out Scott Dennstaedt’s blog post to learn more about these new radar features.

Finally, the Lightning layer no longer declutters groups of lightning strikes, allowing you to see all the strikes in a given area to get a better sense of where dangerous convection is occurring in a storm.

Find Your Rate of Descent to Destination

Also on the Maps view is a new option in the instrument panel: Descent to Dest. This instrument uses your GPS ground speed, GPS altitude, and distance to destination to compute the required rate of descent in feet per minute to be at your destination elevation upon arrival.

Descent to Dest Instrument

The Descent to Dest instrument shows the rate of descent required to be at destination elevation upon arrival.

Military Flight Bag Gets new Data Features

Military Flight Bag (or MFB), our dedicated subscription plan for military customers, now allows charts and data to be loaded onto an iPad over a wired computer connection — a process termed “sideloading”. While most of us have ready access to high-speed Wi-Fi and cellular connections, many of our military customers operate in areas of the world with slow or no internet – imagine trying to download a 2GB chart update over dial-up. Sideloading allows these updates to be delivered to multiple devices by connecting them to a central computer with the data already on it, giving military customers added flexibility in how they operate around the world.

Getting The Lowdown On ForeFlight Radar

In the pilot world there is a ubiquitous debate that continues to thrive over what ground-based radar product is better to use – NEXRAD composite reflectivity or NEXRAD base reflectivity from the lowest elevation angle. Without question, both of these radar mosaics provide a high glance value to the pilot to highlight the location and movement of the truly nasty adverse weather along your proposed route assuming you understand each of their inherent limitations. Now in ForeFlight Mobile 7.7, you’ll have the opportunity to wrangle over which is best since we’ve added a high resolution base reflectivity layer from the lowest elevation angle to complement the current composite reflectivity layer within the app.

But wait…there’s more! In addition to this new layer, we now offer two new low resolution NEXRAD mosaics, namely, a composite reflectivity and lowest elevation angle base reflectivity layer. These two four-color ground-based radar mosaics comply with the dBZ-to-color mapping standards defined by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) documented in Table 3.2 of DO-267A. More on these later.

Radar-Selection

You can now select from one of two radar mosaic depictions in ForeFlight Mobile. The selections include Composite reflectivity and reflectivity from the lowest elevation angle or Lowest Tilt.

Base does NOT equal lowest

First, let’s squash a misnomer about base reflectivity. Many pilots (and even weather professionals) may use the term “base” in base reflectivity to imply lowest. That’s not what it means. In fact, every elevation angle generated by the WSR-88D NEXRAD Doppler radars has a base reflectivity product. The amount of energy directed back to the radar is measured and recorded in a logarithmic scale called decibels of Z (abbreviated dBZ), where Z is the reflectivity parameter. Next, these base data returns are processed by a radar product generator (RPG) to produce hundreds of meteorological and hydrological products including a few near and dear to pilots such as reflectivity.

A more accurate description would be to prefix the product with the elevation angle such as “0.5 degree base reflectivity.” Nevertheless, you may see labels like “Composite Reflectivity” and “Base Reflectivity” on various public and subscription-based websites including those from NOAA. It’s likely that the base reflectivity is from the lowest elevation angle (or lowest tilt) of NEXRAD radar. That’s because the lowest elevation sweep is most representative of precipitation that is reaching the surface which is helpful to the average person on the street including hikers, golfers, boaters and anyone else who wants to know if they need to take the umbrella to work. Unfortunately, the elevation angle is usually dropped (likely due to ignorance or brevity) from these labels.

CompositevsBase-Animation

This is an animated comparison of the composite reflectivity and lowest elevation angle for convection in Florida. Notice the composite reflectivity provides a larger footprint since it picks up on the ice crystals that make up the cirrus anvil.

You might be surprised to learn that in many locations across the U.S., the composite reflectivity image you study before or during a flight is largely made up of only three or four of the lowest 14 elevation scans of the radar.  So in these areas the composite reflectivity and base reflectivity from the lowest elevation angle are not all that different. These areas include regions where the NEXRAD coverage is sparse. Which surprisingly doesn’t only occur in the western U.S. Places such as my home town of Charlotte, North Carolina have distinct gaps in radar coverage.

Radar to the max

Each NEXRAD radar makes multiple 360° azimuthal sweeps at increasing elevation angles from 0.5° to 19.5° depending on the current mode of operation. The number of elevation angles (or tilts) depends on the scanning strategy or Volume Coverage Pattern (VCP) of the individual radar which is set by the radar operator that is located at the local weather forecast office that monitors and manages that particular radar site. A composite reflectivity image considers the base reflectivity from all of the most recent sweeps at each elevation angle and shows only the maximum reflected energy in the vertical column above each location within the radar’s effective coverage area.

It’s all about range

With respect to ground-based radar, range or distance is the key.  Even though the lowest elevation angle is only 0.5°, at 124 nautical miles away the center of the radar beam is already nearly 17,000 feet above the surface due to the curvature of the earth.  So it is easy to see how the higher elevation angles may easily overshoot precipitation that is not in the immediate vicinity of a radar site. Moreover, even if the beam is low enough to see the storm, it may still overshoot the precipitation core.  Let’s take a look at an example.

Below is a two-image animation from the NEXRAD located at the Greenville-Spartanburg Weather Forecast Office in Greer, South Carolina. This shows the returns received from the lowest elevation angle or lowest tilt of the radar which is 0.5° and the fourth elevation angle which is only 1.7° (remember that 19.5° is the maximum elevation). Notice the radar at the lowest elevation has identified an area of weather over Fayetteville, North Carolina (seen on the far right). This cell is approximately 150 miles away from the radar site in Greer (on the far left). However, given it’s distance from the radar, the 1.7° elevation scan completely overshoots this area of precipitation. That means the composite reflectivity image in the Fayetteville area is likely made up of only the lowest three elevation angles of the radar. The remaining higher 11 elevation angles overshoot the precipitation in this region.

Angles

This two-image animation from WDT’s RadarScope app shows the base reflectivity from the 0.5 degree and 1.7 degree elevations. The NEXRAD radar producing this image is located in Greer, SC on the far left. Notice that some returns farther from the radar completely disappear as the radar beam overshoots the weather entirely.

Now it’s true that other adjacent radars such as the one from Raleigh Durham, North Carolina might be able to see this area of weather at higher elevation angles. However, due to the curvature of the earth, the radar beam from the highest elevation angles often overshoots much of the precipitation out there unless it is close to the radar site. This means that locations where there is little overlap between adjacent radars, expect the composite reflectivity image to be very similar to the base reflectivity image for the lowest elevation angle in these gaps.

The four-color radar

If you are flying with airborne radar, you may want to look at the new low resolution four-color NEXRAD mosaic now available in ForeFlight Mobile. The colors depicted in this radar mosaic match the standard color-to-dBZ mapping defined by the RTCA as documented in Section 3.8.2 (Table 3-2) of RTCA DO-267A (shown below). This standard is also used for airborne radar displays.

RTCA radar

This is Table 3.2 of DO-267A that defines the color-to-dBZ mapping for airborne radar.

To see the four-color radar depiction, simply select one of the two radar layers on the Map view. Then tap the gear button next to the Map mode button and scroll down the Settings window until you see the setting switch labeled Four-color Radar just above the Radar Opacity slider. Tapping on the right side of this switch will change the radar depiction from the high resolution radar mosaic to the four-color mosaic. You can also find this four-color switch in the general Map View settings.

4-color setting

The four-color radar switch is located in the general Map View settings or can be found under the gear button at the top of the Map view.

If you use the Stratus (FIS-B) to receive weather while in flight, you won’t find the capability to select the lowest tilt, but you will find the four-color radar will also be available for the composite reflectivity mosaic. As you can see below, the four-color radar mosaic (second image) provides a much more ominous depiction of the weather as compared to its higher resolution counterpart (first image).

Stratus-High-Res

Normal resolution radar mosaic from FIS-B (Stratus).

Stratus-4-color

Four-color radar mosaic from FIS-B (Stratus).

The reason for this may not be obvious. The data broadcast for FIS-B radar does not specifically include the raw dBZ values. Instead it uses intensity encoded values or “bins” that map to dBZ ranges as shown in the table below. Notice the wide 10 dBZ ranges for intensity encoded values of 2 and 3. Based on the RTCA standard defined in the table above, these are mapped in the ForeFlight four-color radar to green and yellow, respectively. Red is mapped to intensity encoded values of 4 and 5 with magenta mapped to 6 and 7. Because of the wide ranges as they map to the RTCA standards, the four-color radar depiction from FIS-B will use much “warmer” colors than the standard depiction.

Intensity-To-dBZ-Mapping

This table from RTCA DO-358 defines the intensity-to-dBZ mapping for FIS-B radar broadcasts. The intensity encoded values of 0 and 1 are considered background and are not displayed as a color. ForeFlight chose to use magenta for intensity encoded values of 7.

Keep in mind that the four-color radar mosaic is a low resolution depiction and will not emphasize storm characteristics like you may see with the Internet radar. This is especially true for the initial evolution of convective cells.

ForeFlight Establishes TFR Desk to Ensure Accurate Depiction of Graphical TFR Information

We are excited to share that ForeFlight’s development team recently deployed technology that can recognize missing or corrupted graphical TFRs that are delivered via the NOTAM system. The new tool alerts ForeFlight’s TFR Desk team members, who then take immediate action to correct the TFR graphic and distribute it quickly to ForeFlight customers.

ForeFlight with graphical TFR

As a pilot, you rely on web, mobile, and data-link apps and services to display accurate and up-to-date TFR information. And, as Tyson Weihs, ForeFlight’s co-founder and CEO, explains: “From time-to-time, the NOTAM system publishes TFRs without the shape information necessary to depict them. We built the monitoring systems and established the TFR Desk so that pilots can have the highest-quality TFR information as quickly as possible. TFR incursions are still an important issue for the aviation community, and we are doing our part to help.”

In addition to identifying and creating or correcting TFR information, ForeFlight notifies the AOPA’s regulatory affairs team of the discrepancy, who then works with the FAA to correct the information in the NOTAM system. These corrections then make their way back to users via other channels, such as the ADS-B data link system.

The team will continue to improve the tool’s capability to also recognize misshapen TFR files. This effort helps us to quickly distribute the most accurate information and minimize the risk that a pilot will violate a TFR area.

Four Things You May Not Know About ForeFlight Lightning

The lightning layer now in ForeFlight has been switched to use a much improved lightning source called the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network (ENTLN). This is the world’s largest lightning detection network with over 1200 sensors worldwide. This is the same lightning network that has been used by the NTSB when investigating aircraft accidents. Here are four facts about the lightning displayed in ForeFlight.

#1 – The lightning depicted in ForeFlight is worldwide

It is estimated by research meteorologists that at any given moment in time, there are nearly 2,000 thunderstorms occurring around the world. This includes about 100 strikes for every second that passes. This is important since the presence of lightning is indicative of dangerous convective turbulence and the potential for low-level wind shear. Ground-based radar such as NEXRAD has a limited range and only covers a small portion of the earth. Lightning detectors, on the other hand, can sense strikes from a thunderstorm that is a thousand miles away providing coverage in regions where ground-based radar does not reach.

#2 – All forms of lightning are included

The Earth Networks lightning sensor is a wideband system. This enables the sensor to not only detect strong cloud-to-ground strikes, but detect weak in-cloud pulses as well. With a detection efficiency of nearly 95 percent, the lightning depicted in the distinct ForeFlight layer includes just about all of the natural lightning that is occurring around the world.

#3 – Radar layer includes lightning

While connected to the Internet, there are two ways to display lightning in the ForeFlight Mobile app. By default, lightning is included as part of the radar layer. So tapping on the radar layer in the dropdown menu will also overlay the latest lightning. However, it is important to understand that this lightning depiction overlaid on the radar has not been upgraded to use the new ENTLN as of yet.

To get the higher density lightning, you must tap on the Map mode button and select Lightning from the dropdown menu. This unique lightning layer is useful when also displaying the color-enhanced satellite layer. Areas of thunderstorms typically have very cold (high) cloud tops. Blue, yellow, orange and red colors on the satellite layer depict regions with cold cloud tops. However, not all cold cloud tops indicate an area of deep, moist convection (thunderstorms). So the lightning layer as an overlay is a good way to confirm where the truly nasty convection is occurring.

#4 – Latest 5 minutes of lightning are depicted

Regardless if you are viewing the lightning overlaid on the radar layer or the separate lightning layer, the age of the strikes depicted typically ranges from 3 to 8 minutes. Then, this lightning continues to age as it is cached in the app for the next five minutes. After this five minute period, the app automatically removes the older strikes and refreshes the display to include the latest strikes.

foreflight-lightning

Garmin Unveils New ForeFlight-Compatible ADS-B Transponders

ForeFlight connectivity with GTX345

Garmin announced today the release of two new options to help you meet the 2020 ADS-B Out mandate. The GTX 345 and GTX 335 all-in-one transponders are compatible with ForeFlight and, depending on the model you choose, wirelessly deliver (via Bluetooth) FIS-B weather, ADS-B traffic, GPS position, and attitude information to your mobile device.

We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Garmin and to offer ForeFlight customers flying with Garmin hardware the opportunity to unlock more value from their avionics investment and gain access to connectivity options that enhance the ForeFlight experience.

Visit foreflight.com/connect to learn about all of the ForeFlight connectivity partnerships.

Filing ICAO Flight Plans in ForeFlight

With the removal of the FAA domestic flight plan format coming later this year, all pilots currently filing both VFR and IFR domestic flights will need to switch to the ICAO format.

In this article, I recommend some simple tips that make it easy for someone who currently files with the domestic format to switch to the ICAO format. My main suggestion here is that you only file what is actually needed and can affect a clearance or availability of an ATC service in the US. Essentially, this approach allows you to replicate the clearances you would receive when using the domestic format.

If you currently use ForeFlight to file flight plans using the domestic flight plan format, there are just a few simple steps to get set up to file ICAO. The first is to set up the ICAO specific codes for your aircraft. Navigate to your aircraft’s profile in More > Aircraft and tap the blue ‘i’, and set up at least these three fields:

You need to set up the ICAO Equipment, ICAO Surveillance, and Wake Turbulence fields

  1.     ICAO Equipment
  2.     ICAO Surveillance
  3.     Wake Turbulence

The Wake Turbulence is the easiest to set up because the default value of ‘L’ fits the majority of GA aircraft. You would only change this if the max gross weight of your aircraft exceeds 15,500 pounds.

Next, let’s look at equipment codes. The three most common FAA/Domestic Equipment codes are:

  • /G (GPS and mode C transponder),
  • /A (DME and Mode C transponder), and
  • /U (No DME and a Mode C transponder).

Tap ICAO Equipment to view the list of codes. ICAO equipment codes are more specific and many types of equipment have their own code. Since almost all aircraft have VOR, localizer capability (ILS), and a VHF COM, a standard code of ‘S’ is used to specify the combination of this equipment. Pretty much every aircraft is going to select ‘S’. If for some reason your aircraft does not have one of the standard avionics systems, then you can specify the individual codes for what you do have instead of using S. For example, select ‘O’ if you have a VOR, ‘L’ if you have an ILS or localizer, and ‘V’ if you have a VHF Com radio.

Most aircraft will only need S to replicate Domestic flight plan clearances.

Other codes that are common in GA aircraft are ‘G’ for GPS, ‘D’ for DME, and ‘F’ for an ADF. Some aircraft will have a WAAS GPS and are capable of flying LPV approaches, so can also specify ‘B’ for LPV. There are many codes you can specify if you have the equipment, but to keep things simple I only specify something if it makes a difference. In line with that, my advice for an aircraft that is currently filing with domestic code /G is to specify ICAO equipment codes ‘G,S’. If you currently file /U, then ICAO equipment ‘S’ is all you need. If you currently file with /A, then file ICAO equipment ‘D,S’. Feel free to add the B (LPV), D (DME), or F (ADF) if you have the equipment, but they will not make a difference in terms of your flight plan being accepted or ATC providing a service. Once you have entered the ICAO equipment codes that reflect your aircraft, tap the ‘Aircraft’ back arrow to return to the main Aircraft Profile view.

Most aircraft will only require code C, though more can be selected depending on its capabilitiesNext, tap ICAO Surveillance to select the transponder type. Assuming you have a transponder with an altitude encoder, you can specify ‘C’. If it is of the mode S variety, you can change that to ‘S’, but it will not make any difference in your ability to file or use the ATC system, so specifying ‘C’ is the simplest way to do it.

That’s all you have to do to set up your aircraft profiles for ICAO filing. You can make ICAO the default flight plan format by tapping More > Settings, scrolling down to the File & Brief section, tapping ‘New Plan Format’ and selecting ICAO.

Now you can move to the Maps view to set up your route. Enter your route the same way you always have using the Route Editor. When you are done, use the ‘Send To’ File & Brief button to create and review the flight plan. Before you hit the ‘File’ button, here are a few additional considerations when entering information about your flight using the ICAO format.

ForeFlight makes it easy to enter your flight plan information by translating it into the proper formatIn the AIM and other documents, you will read about the need to specify certain information in Field 18 – Other Information. ForeFlight automatically fills out this field for you based on flight plan and aircraft profile data. This ensures the formatting is correct for what ATC expects. Even so, there are some considerations to take into account regarding Field 18 that can ensure your flight plans are filed as efficiently as possible.

The FAA guidance on filing ICAO states that if the airport identifier is not a four character ICAO identifier, then “ZZZZ” needs to be placed in the departure and/or destination airport fields of the flight plan, and the non ICAO identifier must be specified in Field 18 preceded by “DEP/” for the departure airport and “DEST/” for the destination airport. You don’t need to worry about this with ForeFlight as it does all this for you automatically. All ICAO identifiers consist of 4 alphabetic characters, and in the US they start with the letter K, in Canada with C, in the Bahamas with MY, and in Mexico with MM. Examples of non-ICAO identifiers are 60J, 35A, K60J, and SFO. Remember that SFO is not the ICAO format for San Francisco International, KSFO is the correct code. Either SFO or KSFO will work, but if you use the three letter identifier form, then ForeFlight will place “ZZZZ” in the departure or destination field and DEP/SFO or DEST/SFO into Field 18, although you won’t see these changes in the app itself. This plan will be accepted, but it is wasteful. In other words, specify the destination and departure airport identifier as a four character ICAO code whenever you can.

ICAO flight plans provide an ability to enter primary and secondary alternate airports. In the US, only a single alternate needs to be supplied on IFR flight plans that require one.

If you use the remarks field for domestic flight plans, with ICAO it will be moved to Field 18 automatically and follow the REM/ keyword. So there is no real difference in how remarks are specified, with one caveat. These special characters may not be used in ICAO remarks: the forward slash “/”, the dash “-“, and the left and right parentheses “(” and “)”.

The ICAO format also allows you to add specifications for emergency equipment such as dinghies, their capacity, their color, and if they are covered. Life jackets, portable radios, types of survival equipment, and any survival equipment remarks that you would wish search and rescue to be aware of can also be specified. Again, the remarks can’t include the special characters “/ – ( )”.

Finally, if your flight qualifies for special handling, you can optionally specify it on the ICAO form in the STS Special Handling field. A few that may be of interest are: FFR for firefighting, HOSP for medical flights, HUM for humanitarian flights, and SAR for search and rescue. Any special handling codes will automatically be included in Field 18 and formatted as required.

Although the final switch to ICAO filing is still months away, I recommend you try this now so you can work out any kinks and get a feel for the format. As you become more familiar with ICAO flight plans, you can refine your profile information; but in the meantime, you should have no hassle using the tips outlined here. Happy filing!

How to Comply with Part 135 Air Ambulance Obstacle Requirement Using ForeFlight

You may be familiar with some of the regulations governing how FAA Part 135 aircraft operators prepare for and conduct flights, but did you know that helicopter air ambulance operators have a number of special rules all to themselves under Part 135? One of these requires the pilot of any VFR flight to identify and document the highest obstacle along the planned route (§135.615). This ensures that the pilot briefs this potential hazard and determines the minimum safe altitude for the flight.

While a good safety measure to prevent collisions, the requirement has been a pain point for some operators as the somewhat vague guidance to “identify and document” is left open to interpretation. Not to mention that some methods of complying with the requirement could take up a good chunk of a pilot’s preflight preparation time, which is at a premium with air ambulance operations.

Fortunately for air ambulance operators using ForeFlight, there is a fast and easy method of complying with the highest obstacle requirement in the app itself. This method employs ForeFlight’s Profile view (available with Pro and Pro Plus subscriptions).

Viewing obstacles along your route using Profile view

Start by entering departure and destination points in the Route Editor, then tap Profile to view the vertical cross-section of the planned route.

Terrain and obstacles are dynamically highlighted based on relative height to your selected altitude. Tap and hold anywhere in the Profile window (other than directly under the altitude box) and a vertical dotted line and box will appear showing that point’s altitude in MSL, the clearance in feet between the point and your planned altitude, and the distance of that point from your departure point. Dragging your finger right or left shows this information for any point along your route. The selected point is also displayed on the “top-down” view of your route below, revealing where the point is along your route.

Use Profile view to measure and document the highest obstacle along your route.

The profile window also allows for pinch-zooming and dragging so you can unclutter nearby obstacles. You can change the total width of the corridor shown in Profile by tapping the button at the bottom-right of the window and tapping “Corridor Width” at the bottom of the popup.

Using Profile view allows the highest obstacle along a route to be easily identified. As for “documenting” it, simply place the dotted line on the highest point and take a screenshot by pressing the iPad’s home and lock buttons at the same. The screenshot can then be accessed and shared from the iPad’s Photos app, or from a cloud storage app like Dropbox.

A number of air ambulance operators using ForeFlight have shared with us how this feature helps them comply with the highest obstacle requirement. We hope this helps you, too.