Pilot Products: New Ideas

Chartflier EFB, iFly 700, ShareZen

March 1, 2011

Chartflier EFB

Chartflier EFB

chartflier

Who: Essential Flight Technology Chartflier EFB
What: Subscription not required, weather and limited traffic, electronic approach plates
Where: www.essentialflight.us
Why: ADS-B is the future, and Chartflier is a good value
Cost: $149 for an annual subscription; tablet and ADS-B receiver options on website

Pros:

  • Easy to use, reliable chart backup
  • Free weather and some traffic
  • Inexpensive software

Cons:

  • ADS-B not yet available nationwide
  • Our tests were sometimes buggy

Electronic approach plate and moving-map hardware and software applications are so ubiquitous now that the choices are getting downright confusing. One of the many options, Essential Filght Technology’s Chartflier Electronic Flight Bag, can be summed up in four familiar letters—ADS-B.

Until Chartflier came along, to benefit from free ADS-B weather and traffic, you had to buy and install a box that costs thousands of dollars. Chartflier is offering a portable option that is refreshingly flexible. All you need is the portable ADS-B, a personal computer, and the company’s software, and you could have a lifetime of free weather, and in some cases traffic, in the cockpit. Stay current on Chartflier’s inexpensive chart updates, and you get a route planner, moving map with VFR or IFR, georeferenced airport diagrams, and—very soon—georeferenced approach plates.

We tested Chartflier on a 2GO SL10 touch-screen tablet computer. The user interface is so easy we never even looked at the directions. Start up the program and basically, you’re off. There’s no requirement to plot a route, although the software can do it if you’re a slave to the magenta line.

Before takeoff you can download weather via the Internet, which allows for some basic preflight planning preparations. Once in the air, the ADS-B receiver (which also includes GPS) will latch on to the signal and update the weather continuously. Airports show color-coded circles to indicate current weather conditions, a nice feature that saved the time of searching each listing.

The software was fast, and charts loaded quickly. It was sometimes buggy for us, with small areas of a chart not completed filled in. But that could have been the tablet, too. Even so, the bottom line is that the entire system will pay for itself in a few years if you cancel a weather subscription. And if you haven’t used ADS-B in the past, it’s reliable, accurate, and rapidly expanding.


iFly 700

iFly 700

iFly 700

Who: Adventure Pilot iFly 700
What: Moving map GPS
Where: www.iFlyGPS.com
Why: A handheld GPS doesn’t have to break the bank
Cost: $499 plus $69 a year in chart updates

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Great display
  • Easy user interface

Cons:

  • Too many cords
  • No weather interface yet

Believe it or not, there are options out there for a handheld GPS with full functionality for less than $500. The iFly 700 from Adventure Pilot is a great example.

Featuring a seven-inch touch-screen display, a full suite of approach plates, and IFR and VFR charts, the iFly 700 is a robust package for a great price. Route planning is quick and easy, and the screen is very responsive. Buttons on the main map page take you anywhere you want to go in the unit, and the menu system is logical and well organized.

We tested the iFly 700 on a sunny day in a Diamond DA40, reasoning that if glare ever was going to be an issue, that would have been the day. But the iFly 700 performed well. The display shows the actual sectional or en route chart, which makes it easy to follow along. The history of the airplane’s ground track was shown automatically, a great flight-training tool.

The iFly 700 comes with a large suction-cup mounting bracket that is too big to fit in some airplanes. Anything other than solo in the Diamond would have been an issue. A new yoke mount will be available soon. Cords are a concern; they took over the cockpit like some sort of all-you-can-eat plate of spaghetti. Even the battery pack comes on a separate cord.


ShareZen

ShareZen

ShareZen

Who: ShareZen
What: Multiple ownership tool
Where: www.sharezen.com
Why: Owning an airplane with others is hard work sometimes; why not make it easier?
Cost: $15 a month for most users

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Features owners will find useful

Cons:

  • Not a one-stop shop for all multiownership challenges

Thinking about going into an airplane partnership but unsure about the difficulties of managing the partnership and the airplane? ShareZen was created for people to more effectively share their big toys—including airplanes.

Although a service such as ShareZen could theoretically handle everything from matching partners to preparing documents and managing the partnership, CEO Drew Brenard said he kept the focus limited to the communication and management aspects of multiple-ownership airplanes.

The site does a great job of bringing owners together in one place for airplane and maintenance scheduling and tracking, cost and accounting tracking, and contacts. Many different alerts keep users informed via text or e-mail. Users can also share stories. There’s also a place to store documents, such as handbooks, checklists, and passenger briefing cards. The organization of the site is elegant, with main navigation done via a few tabs at the top. That’s good because it will likely bring together computer users of differing abilities.

ShareZen does a nice job of allowing owners to better communicate, which should make everyone happier.

E-mail the author at ian.twombly@aopa.org.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly | "Flight Training" Editor

Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.