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FAA Establishes Restrictions on Drone Operations over DOJ and DOD Facilities

At the request of its federal security partners, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is using its existing authority under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) 99.7 Special Security Instructions to address concerns about drone operations over national security sensitive facilities by establishing temporary unmanned aircraft system (UAS) specific flight restrictions.

Information on the FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which defines these restrictions, and all of the currently covered locations, can be found at the UAS Data Display System, which provides an interactive map, downloadable geospatial data, and other important details. A link to these restrictions is also included in the FAAs B4UFLY mobile app.

Additional, broader information regarding flying drones in the National Airspace System, including frequently asked questions, is available on the FAAs UAS website.

In cooperation with Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Defense (DOD), the FAA is establishing additional restrictions on drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of the following Federal facilities:

  • Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood Medium in Allenwood, PA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Beaumont Medium in Beaumont, TX
  • Federal Correctional Institution Butner Medium I in Butner, NC
  • Federal Correctional Institution Butner Medium II in Butner, NC
  • Federal Correctional Institution Coleman Medium near Sumterville, FL
  • Federal Correctional Institution Florence in Florence, CO
  • Federal Correctional Institution Forrest City Medium in Forrest City, AR
  • Federal Correctional Institution Hazelton near Bruceton Mills, WV
  • Federal Correctional Institution Lompoc in Lompoc, CA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale I in Oakdale, LA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale II in Oakdale, LA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg near Hopewell, VA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Pollock in Pollock, LA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Terre Haute in Terre Haute, IN
  • Federal Correctional Institution Tucson in Tucson, AZ
  • Federal Correctional Institution Victorville Medium I in Victorville, CA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Victorville Medium II in Victorville, CA
  • Federal Correctional Institution Yazoo City Medium in Yazoo City, MS
  • Federal Detention Center Honolulu in Honolulu, HI
  • Federal Detention Center Houston in Houston, TX
  • Federal Detention Center Miami in Miami, FL
  • Federal Detention Center Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA
  • Federal Detention Center SeaTac near Seattle, WA
  • Federal Medical Center Carswell near Fort Worth, TX
  • Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in Fort Worth, TX
  • Federal Medical Center Rochester in Rochester, MN
  • Metropolitan Correctional Center Chicago in Chicago, IL
  • Metropolitan Correctional Center New York in New York City, NY
  • Metropolitan Correctional Center San Diego in San Diego, CA
  • Medical Center for Federal Prisoners Springfield in Springfield, MO
  • Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn in Brooklyn, NY
  • Metropolitan Detention Center Guaynabo in Guaynabo, PR
  • Metropolitan Detention Center Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA
  • Fort Detrick in Frederick, MD
  • Fort Gordon near Augusta, GA
  • Fort Lee near Richmond, VA
  • Holston Army Ammunition Plant near Kingsport, TN
  • McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, OK
  • Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, VA
  • Joint Base McGuire near Trenton, NJ
  • Pearl Harbor Naval Defense Sea Area in Honolulu, HI

These changes, which have been highlighted by FAA NOTAM FDC [9/2586], are pending until they become effective on February 26. Note that there are only a few exceptions that permit drone flights within these restrictions, and they must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.

Operators who violate the flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.

The FAA is continuing to consider additional requests by eligible federal security agencies for UAS specific flight restrictions using the Agencys 99.7 authority as they are received. Additional changes to these restrictions will be announced by the FAA as appropriate.

Source: FAAFAA Establishes Restrictions on Drone Operations over DOJ and DOD Facilities

Using your iPad on a Caribbean flying trip

Bahamas
The Bahamas are less than an hour away in most GA airplanes.

This time of year, many pilots are dreaming of warmer weather and perhaps a flying getaway to the islands of the Bahamas or another Caribbean destination. Flying the islands is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things any pilot can do in a small airplane – we’ve been doing it for decades at Sporty’s and we keep going back every year.

Despite the fact that the iPad has been in our hands for nearly 9 years, it wasn’t until the last few years that Caribbean charts and resources started making their way into aviation apps. Today you can confidently navigate the islands with everything you need right on your iPad, including geo-referenced VFR and IFR en route charts, airport and airspace databases, synthetic vision and even ADS-B weather in certain spots.

Here we’re going to take a closer look at ForeFlight Mobile and Garmin Pilot, since they offer the most comprehensive resources for Caribbean-bound pilots.

Navigation and Charts

VFR Considerations

From a VFR pilot’s perspective, the most useful navigation charts are the two FAA Caribbean VFR Aeronautical Chart (CAC). These pick up where the Florida sectionals leave off, with CAC1 covering the Bahamas and Cuba, while CAC2 covers Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

These charts provide just about everything you’re used to seeing on VFR sectionals including airport data, airspace, VORs and NDBs, and ATC communication frequencies. The nice thing when viewing them on your iPad is that each aviation app seamlessly stitches them together, so all you need to do is load the map layer (US VFR Sectional in ForeFlight, VFR US in Garmin Pilot) and go flying. Best of all, they’re geo-referenced in the apps so you’ll see your airplane’s position on the chart.

If your travels take you beyond the Bahamas and down to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, you’ll find the FAA Puerto Rico TAC to be a helpful resource when flying in this region. It contains a greater level of detail compared to the CAC and shows additional airspace information. Just continue zooming in to see the enhanced detail.

Both apps offer an airport directory for the Caribbean airports and you can search them the same way as you would for a U.S. airport – just make sure to use the proper country code. For example, airports in the Bahamas and Dominican Republic start with M (MYNN for Nassau), and airports extending from Puerto Rico down through the West Indies begin with T (TNCM for Princess Juliana in St. Maarten). Here you’ll find all the essential information about each airport including runway info, FBO details (sometimes), and communication frequencies. ForeFlight’s new 3D Airport View also works throughout the Caribbean, although the quality of the aerial images can vary.

One important tip here: when you start planning your trip, you’ll see that the Caribbean chart options are turned off by default. In ForeFlight, for example, you have to go to the Downloads section of the app, select the Caribbean region from the Download Settings at the top, and then turn on the options for each type of chart or database you’d like to use. This will enable that map layer in the Maps section of the app.

ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot also include data-driven map layers that are pretty good replacements for actual FAA charts. Turn on the Aeronautical layer in ForeFlight or the VFR layer under Maps in Garmin Pilot.

IFR Considerations

There are 2 additional considerations for the Caribbean iPad pilot when flying in the IFR system: en route charts and approach procedures. The en route chart requirement is an easy one since the FAA publishes both high and low altitude en route charts for the Caribbean and Mexico. These charts include most of Florida too, so you won’t have to switch between the U.S. En Route charts when heading out over the Atlantic Ocean.

The IFR high charts go a little further south into South America.

You’ll notice that most of the airways are either ATS/Oceanic routes (based on VORs), or RNAV routes (based on GPS). You can enter these airways in all 3 apps just like you would a traditional victor airway and they’ll take care of populating all of the intersections and waypoints in your flight plan. In our Caribbean flying experience, the airways are more a formality to get you on your way, and then Miami or San Juan Center will ultimately clear you direct to a waypoint near your destination.

There are also some oceanic planning charts in ForeFlight. With the Carib/Mexico low and high charts, these aren’t of much use, but they do offer a slightly different presentation.

Unless a major storm system is affecting the Caribbean (e.g. hurricane), the weather is almost always VFR in the islands. But if you’re flying IFR, you’ll still need approach charts for your destination and alternate. Unfortunately the FAA does not publish terminal procedures for Caribbean airports, so your only option is to use Jeppesen’s Caribbean approach charts. The good news is that both Garmin Pilot and ForeFlight can be tied to a Jeppesen subscription so once the setup work is done, the process is very simple.

Jeppesen sells their international charts by region, so you’ll only need to purchase access to Latin America ($195 for an annual subscription). This covers Mexico, Bermuda, Central America and the Caribbean Islands. Once you set up an account and purchase a subscription, you can download and access the charts in ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot.

One other helpful feature of the Jepp plates is that they show transition altitude (where you switch to 29.92 on the altimeter and report flight levels intead of altitudes). While 18,000 feet is the standard in the US, in some parts of the Caribbean it’s much lower.

If you do add a Jeppesen subscription, you can also select the company’s data-driven IFR or VFR map layers. These are slightly different from ForeFlight’s presentation, and provide some additional information in an easy-to-read format.

Filing an IFR flight plan to a Caribbean destination is pretty seamless, since all both apps (plus FltPlan.com) support the ICAO flight plan format. When it comes time to head back to the US, it’s a good idea to check with the local tower controller to make sure they can access an electronically filed ICAO flight plan. Several of the smaller airports we’ve visited over the years still require the ICAO flight plan form to be hand-delivered to the controller in advance.

Weather

Both apps deliver METARs and TAFs, where reported, throughout the Caribbean. This makes the airport Flight Category overlay on the map a good resource to use to display the equivalent of a weather depiction chart, showing areas of VFR/MVFR/IFR weather. The only difference you may notice in the METAR is that many of the airports report the altimeter setting as QNH (e.g. Q1016), which means it’s measured in millibars instead of inches of mercury (1013.2 mb = 29.92 inHg).

Radar coverage is pretty scarce in the Caribbean, but this isn’t much of a limitation provided there are no large-scale adverse weather systems in the region. Visibility is typically great, making it easy to see and avoid localized areas of precipitation. Garmin Pilot does a good job of drawing the edges of radar coverage – basically south Florida and around Puerto Rico.

From a planning perspective, you’ll find the Satellite map overlay to be a more useful tool for flight planning. ForeFlight now colorizes the satellite data, making it easy to identify developed storm systems with high levels of moisture. The AWC Caribbean Area Forecast is another good planning resource to check out as well.

Also remember that some forecast products are global, including the Icing and Turbulence layers in ForeFlight. Make sure you select the Icing (Global) or Turbulence (Global) and not the US product.

For pilots flying with an ADS-B weather receiver like Stratus or Sentry, you’ll be glad to know that it still provides some usefulness when flying outside the borders of the continental U.S. There are 3 ADS-B ground towers located across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (2 on PR, and 1 on St. Thomas). You’ll be able to start receiving data from these when within a few hundred miles of this area. You’ll get all the standard weather products, including radar imagery and METARs for the U.S territories.

Puerto Rico ADS-B

 

When flying back to the continental U.S., you’ll start picking up data from the Florida ADS-B ground towers about 200 miles off the coast. The radar coverage extends about 75 to 100 NM off the coast, so this is helpful to start making routing decisions if it’s a stormy day in Florida.

There are 2 other benefits you’ll get when flying with an ADS-B receivers in the Caribbean: traffic and attitude-based synthetic vision. First you’ll be able to see other airplanes equipped with ADS-B out transponders in your app, which is a nice benefit when out of ATC radar coverage. While this won’t be a “complete” traffic picture (since all GA airplanes aren’t ADS-B out yet), you’ll still find it useful to identify the airliners flying high above you.

Secondly, the AHRS built into today’s ADS-B receivers power the attitude-based synthetic vision feature in ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot. This provides a great view of the surrounding area on your iPad (including 3D terrain info for the volcanic islands) as you travel around.

Finally, SiriusXM is another option for weather in the islands. With a receiver like the Garmin GDL 52, you’ll get satellite coverage into the Bahamas, but the signal fades by the time you get down to the Turks and Caicos islands. The same limitation applies to the ground-based radar coverage area, so you’ll see Florida radar but nothing in the Out Islands or over Hispaniola.

Specialty Apps

Caribbean Pilot’s Guide

AOPA Bahamas app
The latest edition of AOPA’s island-flying app includes plenty of travel tips.

AOPA offers the latest version of the popular Bahamas and Caribbean Pilot’s Guide books, produced for over 3 decades, and are the go-to resources for detailed airport information based on the contributors’ years of island flying experience. These comprehensive books offers a unique mix of public data, personally verified airport information and helpful aerial pictures of airstrips throughout the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and more. It gives pilots an added measure of confidence that a 12-month old chart just can’t match.

This information is also available as an iPhone/iPad app, so you can replace the large (and fairly heavy) book. The app is basically a digital edition of the print book, with a helpful tab-style navigation menu on the right side of the screen. Each area of the Caribbean has its own tab, which are further divided by island and airport. In addition to data about runway length, frequencies and customs, there are some valuable editorial additions – including real world pilot reports of runway conditions, up-to-date airport pictures, and even reviews of hotels and restaurants. This is invaluable when planning a visit to a new island, and we’ve found the comments to be pretty accurate over the years.

The app is free to download and you can purchase an annual subscription to the Bahamas area, the Caribbean area, or both. Individual coverage areas cost $39.99.

FlashPass

FlashPass
FlashPass makes it easy to comply with eAPIS requirements.

The United States Customs and Border Protection requires that you electronically submit a passenger manifest a minimum of 1 hour prior to departure when flying a private aircraft from the U.S. to a foreign destination, and again when returning to the U.S. from a foreign location.

This can be done at the US Customs’ eAPIS website, but a more convenient alternative is to use the FlashPass eAPIS filing app. The Customs eAPIS website is a bit clumsy, and this app eliminates the complications present there by allowing you to complete and submit a manifest in a matter of seconds right from your iPad or iPhone. It allows you to store all your aircraft and passenger data, saving time on future manifests. Flash Pass is cloud-based, so you can use the service’s web interface when that option is more convenient.

Convenience comes with a price – the annual subscription plan is $60 – but if you fly a lot of international trips, this is well worth it.

It’s worth pointing out here too that FltPlan.com also offers an eAPIS filing service for $249 annually that integrates seamlessly with their other flight planning services, including Garmin Pilot. For an additional $200 per year, FltPlan.com can also comply with the advanced notice requirements of the CARICOM system (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis , St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago). This is alternatively accomplished by submitting a manifest through the CARICOM eAPIS website.

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Source: Ipad appsUsing your iPad on a Caribbean flying trip

FAA Modifies LAANC Service Provider Request

WASHINGTON The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has modified its process to request new service suppliers for the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC pronounced LANCE).

The FAA began considering applicants beyond the current 14 suppliers on January 7. The initial application period has now been extended to increase participation, and the agency has revised all key dates this year for the application process. Also, there will now be only one application period in 2019 instead of two.

A major reason for the changes is the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, under which the Agency is tasked with expanding the LAANC capability. Existing and potential unmanned aircraft system service suppliers are expected to broaden the scope of their applications to include these changes, so the entire selection process will take 10 months, not five as previously announced.

The new schedule is:

  • January 7 March 18
    Application period
  • March 19 May 26
    FAA submission review
  • May 27 August 16
    Technical interviews
  • August 17 October 21
    Formal selection and startup

Interested parties should reviewinformation on the application process.

LAANC provides near real-time processing of airspace authorization and notification requests for Part 107 drone operators nationwide. The system is designed to automatically approve most requests to operate in specific areas of controlled airspace below designated altitudes.

Through approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers, drone operators can interact with industry developed applications and obtain near real-time authorization from the FAA. Requests are checked against multiple airspace data sources in the FAA UAS Data Exchange such as temporary flight restrictions, NOTAMS and the UAS Facility Maps. If approved, pilots receive their authorization in near-real time.

Source: FAAFAA Modifies LAANC Service Provider Request

Annual maintenance checklist for your iPad

Before the iPad’s introduction in 2010, pilots were skeptical to use off-the-shelf computers or tablets for electronic flight bags due to a lack of reliability with the Windows operating system. A pilot’s worst fear was to look down at an EFB and see the infamous “blue screen of death” on an IFR flight while setting up for an approach. The scenario gets worse as you go to restart the device and see the message “Configuring Windows update 1 of 15…” as you near the final approach fix.

Fortunately, Apple developed an ultra-reliable operating system with the iPad that has evolved into the EFB platform of choice for pilots for nearly a decade. Provided you download current charts and perform a quick preflight before each flight, it’s highly unlikely the iPad will ever let you down. The one side effect from this high level of performance is that it can cause pilots to develop a bit of complacency over time, especially if you don’t periodically inspect your device settings, preferences, app configuration and system updates.

Similar to the routine of having your airplane undergo an annual inspection, we recommend that you take the time to review the following items once a year to keep your iPad, apps and accessories performing at their best.

Restart the device

It’s possible that you may go months or years without having to restart your device, which is a testament to the iPad’s stability. Make it a habit though from time to time to completely power down your iPad, and then turn it back on to reset internal memory and give the operating system a fresh start. To do this, press and hold the power button at the top of the iPad (press the power button and volume up on iPad Pro), and you’ll see a “Slide to Power Off” slider appear. After the device completely powers down, turn it back on by pressing the power button again.

Check the battery usage report

Open the main Settings app, and choose Battery from the list of options on the left side of the screen. Here you can see which apps are demanding the most power from the battery over either a 24 hour or 10 day period. You view each app’s power draw as a percentage of total usage and see how the length of time an app is running in the background during the selected interval. If there’s an app you see here consuming a lot of power that you don’t use very often, consider tweaking that app’s location services settings, or its background app refresh permissions, which can be adjusted in Settings > General > Background App Refresh.

The battery usage report will also provide suggestions on how to improve battery life based on your individual usage habits. In the following example, the Battery screen pointed out that we didn’t have Auto-Lock enabled, which can drain the battery quickly if you forget to lock the screen manually after closing out an app.

Delete unused apps and media

It’s not hard to accumulate a lot of extraneous apps and media on your iPad over the course of a year. Go to the main Settings app, General and select iPad Storage. You’ll see a list of all apps installed, sorted by those that are taking up the most space. You’ll see info about the last time you used each app and how much space the app’s downloaded documents and data downloaded are taking up.

After reviewing this information, you might find it helpful to open one of the bloated apps and remove old downloaded content, like podcasts, movies and books. And like with the Battery screen, you’ll find suggestions to help you isolate large chunks of data for quick removal.

Check that your iOS is up to date

Apple releases major iOS software updates during the fall and numerous minor updates throughout the year to the iPad’s operating system. Make it a point to keep your iPad up to date as these new iOS updates become available, which typically include security and reliability improvements. Just make sure to check our iOS Update Green Light page after each update is released to verify it is compatible with your aviation EFB app and accessory. iOS updates are available in the Software Updates section of the Settings app.

One word of caution on iOS updates. You might be tempted to enable the “Automatic Updates” option on the Software Update screen, but we recommend you leave this setting disabled. You want to manually initiate each update after compatibility has been confirmed with each iOS update with your apps and accessories.

Check that your apps are up to date

There’s a running joke on the internet that there are two types of people:

The same goes for apps, where a large volume of app updates can pile up over time, leading you to fall way behind and give up on updating app altogether – not a good idea. Not only will app updates get you the latest feature enhancements, but you’ll also be getting the most stable version of the application as developers continue to address bugs and other inconsistencies in older versions of the app.

And as with iOS automatic updates, we recommend leaving the automatic updates option disabled for apps too, so that you can control when you update each of your aviation apps and take note of new features or changes.

Verify your ADS-B and GPS accessory firmware is up to date

Your wireless accessories also have software installed on them, called firmware, that can be updated from time to time with stability and feature improvements. Make it a point to periodically check that you have the latest firmware installed on your portable ADS-B and GPS accessories. Here’s how to do it for several of the popular receivers:

How to update Stratus Firmware

Garmin GDL 50/51/52 Firmware

Bad Elf Firmware is managed by the Bad Elf app

Dual GPS and ADS-B receiver firmware

Review and update downloaded EFB documents

Most of the major aviation EFB apps feature a document viewer with a catalog of FAA and supplemental reference documents. This is the only place to find supplemental aviation data and charts that were traditionally printed only in paper format. These are updated throughout the year and should be reviewed periodically to make sure you have the latest versions saved for offline viewing in the airplane. You’ll probably stumble across some new documents too when you revisit the document catalog.

Check/update your aircraft performance and equipment data

Today’s aviation apps make it nearly effortless to plan a flight and determine ETA and fuel burn with pinpoint precision. These calculations are based on the performance profiles created by the app developers using data from the POH, but there are often variables you can configure based on cruise power % and leaning preferences. Take a look at these from time to time to make sure they’re representative of how you’re actually flying the airplane so that you continue to get accurate performance planning numbers before takeoff.

Also, check out the equipment assigned to the aircraft profile, like ADS-B transponder type, GPS navigator performance and survival equipment onboard. This information is included with every ICAO flight plan you file, and it may not be up to date if you’ve recently performed upgrades to your aircraft.

Optimize the Control Center buttons and layouts

Your iPad habits will likely evolve over time as you download new apps and find different uses for your iPad. The Control Center, accessed from swiping down from the top right of the screen, provides quick access to frequently used settings and shortcuts. Head over to the Settings app, select Control Center, and the Customize Controls option. You may find yourself using the magnifier and notes app more frequently, for example, and find it helpful to add shortcuts to those functions to the Control Center.

Verify Find my iPad and Backups are enabled

The worst time to question whether you have the iPad tracking feature enabled is after you misplace it, so take the time once a year to verify that the “Find my iPad” option is enabled. Tap on your name at the top left of the Settings screen, select your device name at the bottom right, and you’ll see the Find my iPad setting.

While you’re viewing your device settings, also verify that iCloud Backups are enabled. This will automatically back up your photos, accounts, documents and settings when connected to power and Wi-Fi. It’s a handy insurance policy for your data should you damage or misplace your iPad.

 

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Source: Ipad appsAnnual maintenance checklist for your iPad

FAA Makes Major Drone ID Marking Change

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has posted a rule in the Federal Register requiring small drone owners to display the FAA-issued registration number on an outside surface of the aircraft. Owners and operators may no longer place or write registration numbers in an interior compartment. The rule is effective on February 25. The markings must be in place for any flight after that date.

When the FAA first required registration of small drones in 2015, the agency mandated that the registration marking be readily accessible and maintained in readable condition. The rule granted some flexibility by permitting the marking to be placed in an enclosed compartment, such as a battery case, if it could be accessed without the use of tools.

Subsequently, law enforcement officials and the FAAs interagency security partners have expressed concerns about the risk a concealed explosive device might pose to first responders upon opening a compartment to find a drones registration number. The FAA believes this action will enhance safety and security by allowing a person to view the unique identifier directly without handling the drone.

This interim final rule does not change the original acceptable methods of external marking, nor does it specify a particular external surface on which the registration number must be placed. The requirement is that it can be seen upon visual inspection of the aircrafts exterior.

The FAA has issued this requirement as an Interim Final Rulea rule that takes effect while also inviting public comment. The FAA issues interim final rules when delaying implementation of the rule would be impractical, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. In this case, the agency has determined the importance of mitigating the risk to first responders outweighs the minimal inconvenience this change may impose on small drone owners, and justifies implementation without a prior public comment period.

The FAA will consider comments from the public on this Interim Final Rule, and will then review any submissions to determine if the provisions of the ultimate Final Rule should be changed. The 30-day comment period will end on March 15, 2019. To submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for RIN 2120-AL32.

As Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao promised last month, today the FAA also posted proposed new rules to let drones fly routinely at night and over people, and to further integrate them safely into the nations airspace. The comment period for these proposals begins tomorrow and will end April 15.

Source: FAAFAA Makes Major Drone ID Marking Change

Lightspeed releases new FlightLink headset companion app

Everything is connected these days, from home automation and security systems to cars and video cameras, allowing you to monitor and control these devices remotely with a mobile app on an iPhone or iPad. Connected systems are becoming more and more common in aviation too, providing the ability to transfer flight plans, GPS, weather and more between your iPad and the avionics in the instrument panel.

This technology has also made its way into aviation headsets, and Lightspeed’s FlightLink app allows you to wirelessly record in-flight audio, take notes and customize headset settings. The latest version adds several new features and an improved interface that is optimized for all the latest iPhone and iPad models. Here’s how it works.

Getting started with FlightLink

The FlightLink app is completely free and is compatible with all Lightspeed headsets manufactured since 2012, including the Zulu 2 and 3, Sierra, Tango, and PFX. Before getting started, you’ll want to open up your headset’s battery cover, remove the batteries and turn on switch #6, which enables FlightLink compatibility.

Next, power on the headset and pair it wirelessly to your iPad or iPhone using Bluetooth.

Recording Audio and Notes

After connecting your Lightspeed headset to the app, you now have the ability to wirelessly record all activity over the intercom, including inbound and outbound transmissions, and in-cabin conversation. Simply press the large silver Record button located on the left side of the screen, and the app will begin recording audio. Once the recording starts, you’ll see a waveform display on the left side of the screen showing the last 2 minutes of audio recording. You can tap anywhere in this range and instantly play back that audio, which is perfect for those times you need to double check a clearance.

While you can only do an instant replay of the last two minutes of recorded audio, there are no limits to the total amount of audio you can record. This makes it especially useful in the flight training environment, as it allows you to create a permanent archive of all flight communications for postflight briefing and training. After stopping a recording, the Library section of the app allows you to replay it, edit the name and share the audio file. It includes all the standard sharing methods, including email and AirDrop, and also allows you to save the M4A audio file to the iOS Files app.

The FlightLink app also includes an interactive notepad, allowing you to take notes alongside the audio recording. You can use your finger, stylus, or the advanced features of the Apple Pencil 2, like the double-tap gesture to switch between writing modes.

FlightLink supports all the iOS multitasking modes too, including split-screen and slideover views, allowing you to use the app alongside your favorite EFB app.

Advanced PFX Controls

The FlightLink app brings additional functionality when paired with the Lightspeed PFX app, including a variety of personal preference features:

  • Customize audio settings for different aircraft or users
  • Fine tune audio response for maximum voice clarity and music fidelity
  • Use the Voice Clarity option to boost frequencies common in human speech without impacting the quality of music from auxiliary devices
  • View remaining battery life with the battery level indicator
  • Enable/disable audible low battery alert
  • Choose Auto Shutoff delay intervals
  • Save custom settings in up to three personal profiles

The FlightLink app is available free as a free download in the app store. Learn more about Lightspeed’s advanced headsets here.

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Source: Ipad appsLightspeed releases new FlightLink headset companion app

Relaunched Aviation W&B Calculator app now available for iOS and Android

Aviation W&B app

Aviation W&B app
Aviation W&B works on iPad and iPhone.

Weight and balance is a chore for most pilots – important, but time consuming and a little tedious. That’s why for decades pilots have created their own spreadsheets to make these calculations a little faster, and why some of the first apps to hit the App Store a decade ago tried to simplify the weight and balance process.

One of the best apps early on was Aviation W&B Calculator. It featured an intuitive layout and a solid library of aircraft profiles when we reviewed it back in 2012. Unfortunately, the app was fairly out of date by 2017 and it was eventually removed from the App Store. Since then, founder Roy Kronenfeld has rebuilt the app from the ground up with a new look and more modern codebase.

The new look is clean and easy to use, with an opening screen showing the option to build your own aircraft template or to browse the app’s library of over 270 aircraft. This is a major help, and one of the reasons we like the app more than your typical spreadsheet approach. There are plenty of options for customizing a template, including units (lbs vs. gal, lbs. vs. kg) and custom stations.

Aviation WB
The app works particularly well on iPhone.

Once you’ve created a template, calculating different loading scenarios is fast and easy. Just enter the pilot, co-pilot, and passenger weights, then any fuel and baggage. The app will show the full table with weight/arm/moment calculations, plus a graphical loading chart at the top.

The other big upgrade is that Aviation W&B Calculator is now available for Android (version 4.1 and up) in addition to iOS. While ForeFlight offers an impressive weight and balance tool of its own, that does require a $99.99/year subscription and is not available on Android. For pilots flying with other apps, or for those who prefer a simple and standalone app, we can recommend Aviation W&B Calculator as a solid option.

Aviation W&B Calculator is available as a free download in the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store, which allows for two months of trial use. A basic yearly subscription is $4.99 and a pro yearly subscription is $9.99.

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Using ForeFlight’s new 3D view

ForeFlight version 11 is now available, and it includes a number of interesting additions as usual. For Performance Plus and Business Performance subscribers the new 3D airport preview tool is the most interesting. Here’s how to use it.

Using Airport 3D View

ForeFlight has integrated a feature that we have long used in the Google Earth app – the ability to do a simulated fly-by of an airport to get a feel for the surrounding terrain. It’s a great way to plan your visual approach or evaluate whether you can safely land, and at the very least can build confidence. But while this feature will certainly improve preflight planning, it’s also a lot of fun. If you’ve ever dreamed of flying into Aspen or Innsbruck, now you can do it from your couch.

First, view an airport, either on the Airports page or by tapping on an airport on the Maps page. From either location, you’ll see a button for 3D View. Tap on this to launch the pop-up view.

You’ll notice the app load in the aerial photo, but it’s more than just that. ForeFlight lays the photo on top of its high resolution terrain map for a 3D view of the terrain (notably, this feature works worldwide). By default you’ll be zoomed out above the airport, giving you a big picture view of the area. You can pinch to zoom in, just like you would on a 2D map. To pan around, tap and move the joystick control at the bottom left of the screen. Visualize yourself moving the camera angle when you do this and you’ll get the hang of it quickly. ForeFlight will stay centered on the airport itself, so you can zoom and tilt the camera but you cannot change the focal point.

As you move around, notice the data at the top left of the screen. This shows you the airport elevation right next to the camera’s altitude. So if you’re planning to arrive via a STAR and you expect to be at 5,000 feet, simply pull up until you’re at 5,000 feet to get a realistic preview. You’ll also see the distance from the airport in nautical miles and the angle you’re viewing currently (25 degrees in the example below).

While that’s helpful for a general overview (where is the high terrain, what are some forced landing options, where is the FBO), you can also tap the runway numbers at the top right for a final approach preview. When you tap one of the runways, ForeFlight will move you out to 1nm and on the published glideslope (often 3 degrees), or 6 degrees if there is no published glidelsope. This is what the runway should look like as you prepare to land.

In this configuration, you can zoom out to see the approach on a 3 or 5 or 7 mile final at the same glideslope. Simply pinch to zoom out – the app stays centered on the runway end. Tap the runway button again to return to default position.

There’s one other detail to notice on this final approach view. A small windsock icon on the panning control shows the current wind direction, so you can choose the best runway for takeoff or landing.

Airport 3D View requires an internet connection to download the aerial imagery, but once downloaded the app will save it. So if you preview an airport before takeoff, you’ll be able to see it in flight. Airport 3D View is also included in the Pack feature.

More features

As usual, the latest ForeFlight release includes a number of enhancements, so Airport 3D View is just one. In-flight breadcrumbs have been added to the Track Log function, a tool we’ve been using since the days of black and white Garmin GPSs. You can view your track on the Maps page as it’s being recorded – simply turn on breadcrumbs from the map options menu (gear symbol at the top of the page). This is helpful for grading maneuvers (how clean was that turn around a point?), reviewing instrument approaches (were you really centered on the localizer?) or for unique missions like surveying or search and rescue.

You can tap on a breadcrumb line for details about the point, like average speed and time. Note that breadcrumbs are stored for about half an hour after a flight, so you can review them after a flight, but not forever. To permanently save breadcrumbs, tap on the line and tap Save as Track Log, which will send it to the Track Logs page. You can also delete breadcrumbs by tapping Delete. The Breadcrumbs feature is available for all subscription levels.

Graphical AIRMET ADS-B
ForeFlight can now display Graphical AIRMETs via ADS-B.

Graphical AIRMETs are also available now via ADS-B, so if you’re flying with a Stratus, Sentry, or GDL 50/52 you’ll have access to the FAA’s new format for weather advisories. You can filter AIRMETs by type (icing, tubulence, IFR conditions) and use the time slider to see the forecast conditions.

The popular Logbook feature now includes search. You can search for comments or equipment type, helpful if you’re trying to find a specific flight among hundreds of entries. Tap on All under Entries and you’ll see a Filter box at the top. You can also see all logbook entries that involved a particular person. Go to More -> Logbook -> People.

ForeFlight also supports KMZ files, an enhancement to the Content Packs feature. This is basically a more advanced version of a KML file, which allows fleet operators to add custom icons or map layers in a single file.

Finally, you can now search the ForeFlight settings, sort of like the feature that Apple added to iOS settings a few years ago. As the options have increased in the app, some pilots have struggled to find specific settings. Now you can type a phrase into the Filter box at the top and the app will show relevant settings in real time.

Subscription special

Airport 3D View, like many recent features, does require a Performance Plus or Business Performance Plan with ForeFlight. This is a $100/year premium over the Pro Plus plan (the most popular one in our experience), so it may not be for everyone. If you fly higher performance airplanes, or even if you just fly a lot of cross countries, we think it’s still an excellent value. Notable features include dummy-proof performance models, pre-departure clearances at busy airports, the helpful online Trip Assistant, and JetFuelX integration.

ForeFlight is also running a special – through February 18 you can get a 15-month subscription for the price of 12 months when you buy or upgrade to the Performance Plus plan. Use the code AIRPORT3D when you buy at ForeFlight’s website. The app is available for download or update in the iTunes App Store.

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Garmin Pilot: How to use the document viewer and advanced weather products

Garmin Pilot is one of the most advanced and capable aviation apps available for pilots today, but it can be challenging at times to keep up with all that it can do. Here are 3 quick video tips to show how to use the new Document viewer, Model Output Statistics (MOS) weather forecast and storm cell movement overlay.

Document Viewer

The document viewer feature within Garmin Pilot helps pilots better organize and access a variety of informational products, including the latest Garmin library of manuals such as pilots guides and cockpit reference guides, aviation handbooks and more. The premium version of Garmin Pilot allows pilots to access popular cloud storage sites like DropBox to create and add their own documents such as an aircraft flight manual (AFM) in PDF, JPG and PNG formats. Additionally, pilots can bookmark all electronic documents and highlight them for easy recall within the app.

Model Output Statistics Weather Forecast

This helpful feature displays weather forecasts for airports not served by a TAF, and provides guidance for several days out in the future.

Storm Cell Movement

With the Storm Cell Movement feature within Garmin Pilot, track storm cells, projected paths, reported hail and tornado activity plus more.

Download a free trial of Garmin Pilot here for iPhone and iPad

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