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Apps: Tilting Toward Simplicity?

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At AirVenture, Jeppesen has introduced a new app that runs a little against the trend in app development in general and frankly, I’m happy to see it. As described in this video, the app is called Mobile FliteDeck VFR and it’s aimed specifically at VFR-only pilots. And given the way flying habits may be changing—less use of small personal airplanes for business flying and more recreational flying—Jeppesen may be on to something.

The app market is intensely competitive with revisions to the major products arriving every couple of months, if not faster. The competitive thrust seems to be ever more features and gadgets related to performing tasks that pilots may or may not have thought they needed. This gives some apps a layered complexity that’s anything but simple in an industry that has plainly recognized (and stated) that it’s time for simpler, cheaper products across the board.

So Jeppesen’s Mobile FliteDeck  VFR is clearly intended to break through the noise and offer a VFR-only pilot who’s not interested in and doesn’t need the higher level functions required for IFR a more accessible and easy-to-use option to get from A to B. It’s full featured enough, but not so festooned with options as to be much of a training challenge to learn.

It’s interesting that such a product would come from Jeppesen, a company that’s owned by Boeing and which made its chops on building a worldwide network to collect data for the airline industry which is, by definition and regulation, IFR. I’m more than a little surprised that one of the other app makers didn’t come up with this idea.

On the other hand, none of the other app providers have access to Jeppesen’s excellent VFR charts. In 2009, as an alternative to the FAA’s sectional charts, Jeppesen developed its own visual charts and they are, quite simply, better. They’re less cluttered, use color more effectively and display more useful data. In Mobile FliteDeck VFR, Jeppesen has done something else we’ve been carping about for years: they’re using a database to render the charts on the tablet rather than using scans or PDFs. This makes for a sharper, crisper chart and usually a faster refresh.

 It also portends a recasting of the basic instrument approach plate that’s better suited for cockpit displays than is the traditional paper approach chart which, for years, has simply been rendered on whatever cockpit display has been available. In other words, we may be on the cusp of the data shaping the display rather than the display accommodating the ancient and fading notion of the paper chart.

If that’s progress, I’m liking what I see.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (45)

Paul,

Has there been any talk among the editors about looking at a couple of the free Android aviation apps? I have one installed on my Nexus 7 and phone called "Avare". It does offer geo-referenced VFR/IFR charts and airport diagrams as well as GPS derived groundspeed. I realize, being free, it definitely qualifies under "You get what you pay for", but the reviews on Google Play have been very positive.

Posted by: BRANDON FREEMAN | August 2, 2013 12:06 PM    Report this comment

We haven't discussed it specifically, but it's a good idea to take a look at them.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 2, 2013 2:51 PM    Report this comment

I've tried 'em all -- and I do mean all -- the iPad apps, and I gotta tell 'ya, I'm intrigued by it. Besides, I'm looking for a reason to ditch my GPSMAP 695. But I gotta say, I need a few more "nudges" like this. GPS glide-path would suuure help ...

Posted by: Phil Derosier | August 3, 2013 9:30 AM    Report this comment

Simplicity is the main reason I chose Garmin's Pilot app, and to stick with Android. I liked how everything just made sense to operate and didn't require looking up in the manual how to perform some function. Of course, another big reason I chose it is because it's available on both iOS and Android, and they've been doing a decent job at keeping feature-parity between the two. I was rather disappointed at AirVenture that so many vendors were ignoring the Android platform, but Garmin and FltPlan.com seem to be two standout vendors that see the value in dual-platform support. Perhaps it's the overall simplicity of the app that is working in their favor, and I hope to see more apps like Pilot and the above mentioned FliteDeck VFR.

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