The desktop AOPA Flight Planner now has larger color-coded METAR and TAF icons that draw pilots’ attention to current conditions. Weather icons are easier to see than in previous versions, and the overlay can be zoomed in or out as desired.
“We’ve always had this feature,” said Eric Rush of AOPA’s flight planning products team. “The problem is that in previous versions, users had to zoom in really close and the view was so tight you might only see a few METAR icons. Most people simply overlooked them.”
The larger icons are particularly useful when planning long cross-country flights, Rush said, because they provide increased safety and peace of mind. AOPA Flight Planner users can now “visualize weather across the entire country” to get a better understanding of their options.
Another new feature combines the Airports Along Route and the Fuel Along Route overlays into one. This overlay integrates with the AOPA Airports directory and allows pilots to filter airport results along their route based on specific services or amenities, making it easier for them to pick stops on cross-country trips.
“When I am flying long flights that require a stop, I always like to stop at airports that have fuel, a restaurant on the field, a runway at least 3,000 feet long, and some type of instrument approach,” Rush said. “The new Airport Filters feature introduced in this version allows me to select what facility options I prefer when I am planning my trip.”
AOPA members also can submit ideas for new features and vote for suggestions submitted by other users to help make future versions of AOPA Flight Planner even better. Clicking on the Feedback button in the top menu bar of the flight planner opens the interactive conversation.
“It’s interesting because we rolled that feature out with no promotion,” Rush said. “It appeared in a little pop-up on the app, and more than 300 users had registered in the first week, so it’s alive and well.” The digital suggestion board will be evaluated by AOPA Flight Planner developers for ease of use and feasibility.
In a nod to AOPA pilots on the move, the association made it easier to integrate flight plans into digital devices prevalent in today’s cockpits.
The latest release of the AOPA GO mobile app allows downloaded flight plans to be sent directly to one of the three supported iOS electronic flight bag apps: ForeFlight, Seattle Avionics FlyQ EFB, and WingX Pro7.
“Routes created using the online flight planner can be downloaded to AOPA GO, and then the route can be sent to the EFB app as long as the EFB is installed on the same device as AOPA GO,” Rush said. “The great thing is that it also works offline, as long as users have already downloaded the route.”
The AOPA flight planning products team is currently talking to Android-based EFB developers regarding similar capabilities.
Another enhancement of AOPA GO allows users to select one of three color themes for the app. The dark high-contrast view is designed to optimize viewing in low-light conditions and to preserve night vision critical to operations after sunset. Text size and spacing has also been optimized to make viewing easier in all lighting conditions. Rush said that anyone with older eyes, himself included, “will find it easier to see white text on a dark background.”
All of these enhancements are in addition to the recent rollouts of the AOPA Flight Planner’s predictive fuel-warning system, EFB integration, and the user-friendly Edit Route sidebar window.