“We are raising the bar for aeronautical maps,” said Tyson Weihs, ForeFlight co-founder and CEO, whose firm spent two years developing the mapping technology at the heart of the new release. “We are transforming the way maps are designed and delivered.”
That can include the kind of terrain shading and detail found on VFR sectionals, bare-bones navigational information found on IFR charts, or a hybrid of both.
“The paradigm of distinct VFR sectional or IFR en route charts will start to fade away,” Weihs said. “The new map-making paradigm lets pilots change styles, filter chart elements, add custom data, and tailor the map presentation to suit their preferences.”
Behind the scenes, ForeFlight links the air traffic control agencies throughout North America so that a pilot can file cross-border flight plans between the United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Mexico, and most of the Caribbean. Eventually, the company plans to expand those capabilities around the world.
The FAA is changing the way it manages aviation data and charges private companies like ForeFlight for access to it. Weihs said ForeFlight is ready for “the whole pipeline to change” to an all-digital format in which the FAA collects and shares data with private firms, and those firms modify and distribute updated charts and procedures electronically.
Such a system could dramatically reduce costs, improve efficiency, and reduce update cycles from months or weeks to days or even hours.
“There could be an order-of-magnitude reduction in the cost of producing aeronautical charts,” Weihs said, “and a tremendous reduction in the time it takes to get new information to pilots.”
ForeFlight 8 maps look and act the same on a desktop computer as they do on a tablet or smartphone, and the new web version allows users to sync flight plans made on one platform to another.
ForeFlight’s electronic logbook in version 8 enables remote signatures for logbook entries, sharing entries between pilots, and social media sharing. About one-third of ForeFlight users have already adopted the company’s electronic logbook, and Weihs expects that percentage to rise as new features are added.
ForeFlight plans to add automated insurance and FAA 8710 forms that will reduce pilot paperwork and avoid errors in the near future.
Other upgrades include more timely alerts and airborne updates to graphical TFRs, and new Stratus features such as a “sticky” attitude and heading reference system that remembers its precise orientation in the airplane so that pilots don’t need to recalibrate repeatedly.
The price of ForeFlight subscriptions won’t change. It’s still $99 a year for “Basic Plus” that includes VFR and IFR charts, and $199 a year for “Pro Plus” designed for professional pilots.
Weihs said the new maps in ForeFlight 8 will seamlessly integrate taxi, departure, arrival, and approach procedures, and they’ll make it easy to display special instructions like the VFR Fisk Arrival that thousands of pilots fly on their way to EAA AirVenture each year.
“Procedures are just things that should show on a map,” he said. “We’re reinventing the way pilots think about and use aeronautical charts. And we’re offering global coverage for the price of a regular subscription. That’s unprecedented.”