1. Home
  3. Flight deck electronic aids

Flight deck electronic aids


From basic information to advanced features, here’s what an EFB application can do for your flight operation.

By Owen Davies
Contributing writer

ForeFlight’s venerable and popular EFB is among the most powerful.

Senior readers probably recall risking back strain just to board their airplanes lugging a bag with up to 40 lb of charts, manuals, and miscellaneous paper. For most pilots, electronic flight bags (EFBs) have sent all that paper for recycling.

So much has changed since we looked at EFBs. Let’s take another look at the digital cockpit aids now available to corporate pilots. Even if you already carry an EFB, as you surely do, you may find alternatives worth considering and new functions that may have escaped your notice.

Basic functions

For the rare pilot whose flight bag still hasn’t been digitized, here is the least you can expect from an EFB:

• A way to create and file a flight plan without leaving your tablet or smartphone.

• All the charts needed for flight planning and en route, plus airport charts for taxiing to and from the runway.

• A digital wiz wheel.

• A pilot logbook.

• A documents library that includes operations manuals, aircraft checklists, aircraft continuing airworthiness records, NOTAMs, and so on – all updated automatically.

• Some level of weather reports and forecasting – METARs, area forecasts, SIGMETs, AIRMETs, and pireps can be expected.

• Automatic flight logging and reporting.

Most EFB programs offer a unique twist on even basic features, and come in several varieties, from a basic plan that even recreational pilots would find handy to more advanced levels that may include anything from synthetic vision to optimized autorouting. Although the programs all have unique features, a significant distinction among them is the level of sophistication available in each tier.

Note that the software we’ll examin is just a tiny fraction of the EFB programs now available. Unless otherwise specified, they run on Apple iOS devices.


This Boeing subsidiary’s EFB was one of the first to reach the market. Almost 230 updates later, it offers more functions than we can list here – much less explain.

ForeFlight comes in 3 varieties. The entry-level Basic Plus, offers all the usual charts for the US, Canada, and Europe; global aeronautical maps that can zoom from the entire continent down to airport maps; terminal area charts, VFR flyways, and helicopter route charts. “Breadcrumbs” can track your flightpath on the charts. Jeppesen VFR procedures are available as an add-on.

Add daily and hourly weather forecasts anywhere in the world; graphical AIR/SIGMETs and center weather advisories; and in-flight weather for those with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) or the SiriusXM satellite weather service; Internet-based global air traffic via FlightAware for pilots without ADS-B. ForeFlight offers its own Sentry ADS-B receiver with GPS to upgrade the experience.

The Pro Plus upgrade adds synthetic vision; dynamic winds and temperatures; previews of weather in 3D and in profile view, which displays Internet-based icing and turbulence forecasts at various altitudes; and a terrain profile view that highlights potential hazards.

Performance Plus provides all those features. In addition, there are 3D previews of your planned route and airport environments that can be viewed from any angle; optimized autorouting; improved time and fuel calculations based on the airframer’s data; digital automatic terminal information service (ATIS); and enroute fuel prices and FBO fuel orders at planned stops.

Cost for the 3 tiers is $10, $20, and $30 per month, respectively, and it’s billed annually.


The oldest maker of EFB software, and still one of the most popular, offers 2 products – the Jeppesen Aviator EFB and the special-purpose FliteDeck Advisor. They both remain airline-oriented, but can assist any pilot or operator.

In Jeppesen Aviator, operators can mix and match the following modules to fit their needs:

• Aviator Briefings streamlines the production and distribution of flight plans and provides live weather in text and graphic formats. The Journey Log lets pilots capture a wide range of information about the flight for later analysis.

• Aviator Dashboard provides the most up-to-date weather data, a graphical route overview, and 1-touch access to origin and arrival charts. Its workflow can be tailored with 23 dashboard tiles.

• Aviator Documents handles all the stuff that used to be paper – airplane documents, flight deck manuals, and all the other dead trees your back doesn’t need to carry anymore.

• Aviator Navlog provides meteorological and waypoint information, an interactive weather map, and time and fuel trends. Weather items include global IR satellite and radar composites, satellite imagery, winds and temperatures aloft, radar echo tops, turbulence, icing, pireps, AIRMET/SIGMET… The list goes on.

• Aviator Tools includes a comprehensive flight computer, a measurement converter, and a de-icing holdover timer, among other functions.

Meanwhile, Jeppesen FliteDeck Advisor uses OEM data and the original flight plan to provide aircraft-specific in-flight advisories designed to improve the flight schedule and reduce fuel burn by 1 to 2%.

Garmin Pilot 6.2 can share Garmin avionics flight data.


Introduced in 2012, Garmin Pilot is available for both iOS and Android devices. Its flight planning facility offers all the usual charts, comprehensive weather data,  NOTAMs, and even fuel prices. Built-in calculators estimate fuel burn, enroute legs, arrival times and other key data. It can file VFR flight plans globally and IFR flight plans in the US, Canada, and Europe. It can also import flight plans from FltPlan.com.

This app also provides full enroute navigation on a moving map or VFR/IFR charts. It can use either your device’s built-in GPS or a separate device. A unique radial menu provides access to airport and airspace data, navaids, weather, TFRs, SiriusXM weather, and more. With a compatible ADS-B receiver, the patented TargetTrend traffic display offers a quick way to judge aircraft trajectories and closure rates.

Comprehensive flight logging is synced with the cloud for access from other devices. Uniquely, in aircraft equipped with Garmin hardware, avionics can share traffic and weather information, GPS position, altitude, and even engine data with the EFB.

Garmin offers a host of specific plans for the US and the Caribbean, Canada, Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Standard plans ($110/year) offer navigation and terrain and obstacle data, interactive maps, comprehensive aviation weather, VFR flight planning, checklist, document viewer, logbook, and more. Adding the Premium upgrade ($185 total; $210 in the US) brings synthetic vision, terrain and obstacle alerts, graphical weight and balance, and – with a separate subscription – Jeppesen charts.

For Europe, add-ons include continent-wide IFR charts ($150), full European VFR charts ($225), and country-specific VFR charts, and for the Continent, the UK, and Ireland (variously priced from $25–$100).

A world-wide subscription also is available for $600.

Stratus Insight offers all the usual features plus unique ATC radio transcription and playback; comprehensive weather planning, including NOAA radiosonde data; and a profile of likely en-route conditions up to 8 days ahead.

Stratus Insight

Offered by Appareo, an electronics engineering and manufacturing company based in Fargo ND, Stratus Insight puts a full EFB on your iPad, iPhone, or even your Apple Watch. It includes all the standard flight planning tools and a bit more. Vertical weather profile, radar forecast, and a unique ATC radio transcription and playback with a custom aviation speech recognition system make for a powerful package. Data is updated automatically, even when the app is closed.

Pre-flight weather planning tools are comprehensive. This EFB offers icing and turbulence layers, convective outlooks, SkewT plots of radiosonde data from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, color-coded satellite imagery, airport forecasts, and radar simulations up to 3 days out. Weather data feeds into a vertical weather profile of probable conditions along your flight route up to 8 days in advance.

You can add the usual sectionals and charts, approach plates, terrain avoidance and warning system (TAWS) alerts and advisories, checklists, and more, including attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) with synthetic vision.

The company offers its own ADS-B and WAAS GPS device for weather and traffic information and an electronic attitude indicator. A subscription is $10 per month or $100
per year.

AvSoft Australia

AvPlan is the only EFB we have found that specifically targets the needs of corporate aviation. It was born in Melbourne, and its website is clearly aimed at pilots down under, although the company offers plans for the US, Europe, the Middle East, and New Zealand, plus a worldwide option. Versions are available for both iOS and Android. Tablets with GPS and cell service are recommended.

In the US, AvPlan EFB Standard ($59) is intended for day VFR pilots. It offers full flight planning, sectional and IFR charts and A/FD, AvPlan Live flight tracking, FSS support, cloud data storage, and ADS-B In.

The Premium version ($149) is designed for IFR ops. It adds instrument procedures, advanced worldwide flight planning, a minimum enroute altitude (MEA) calculator, glide planner, geo-referenced airport diagrams and procedures, and the Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro interface.

The company intends AvPlan EFB Enterprise for flight departments. Its primary addition is mobile device management. This provides enhanced security, enables bulk enrollment of devices for larger fleets, streamlined device configuration for IT managers, remote troubleshooting and support, centralized data management, and other organization-oriented functions.

Air Navigation

This Swiss-based company got its start in 2008, when the CEO developed Air Navigation Pro for his own use. It has been adopted by about 350,000 pilots around the world.

Air Navigation comes in 3 flavors. Smart Lite (€120) includes the Smartchart utility, with interactive vector maps of worldwide terrain, waypoints, airspaces, and more. In the US, it provides sectionals, an FAA procedures chart, and world raster charts for the US. Official ICAO charts are available for most European countries, as well as topographic charts. Third-party aeronautical charts are available for Canada, South America, Russia, Australia, and other countries.

SafeSky shows live traffic on your chart. Add worldwide obstacles, interactive NOTAMs, and basic weather. Flight planning gives access to critical aeronautical and meteorological data. Users can create a route in seconds, either directly on the chart or by entering ICAO identifiers. Once the nav plan and weight and balance are finished, Air Navigation Pro can submit the flight plan to ATC.

Smart Classic (€150) adds synthetic vision. And Smart Advanced (€180) provides satellite imagery and advanced weather, with animated winds, precipitation forecasts, rain radar, and more.

For pilots in Canada, the company offers 10 regional and topographic maps at €20 to €25 each.

On your wrist

Apple’s App Store carries dozens of aviation apps for the Apple Watch. Here are a few examples. The ForeFlight Watch app provides NOTAMs, airport details, and local weather. It even translates weather data to plain English – and synthetic vision on your watch is astonishing. It is installed when your iPhone app is updated.

MiraCheck CoPilot is a voice-controlled checklist app for the iPhone and iPad with an accessory watch interface. MyRadar delivers weather radar imagery, current weather, and a 5-day forecast to your wrist. And Sporty’s E6B Flight Computer packs most of a wiz wheel into your Watch.

In sum

This has been only the briefest look at the electronic aids that can streamline flight deck procedures and make sure that any resource pilots need is only a couple of clicks – or taps – away. At least a dozen more EFB options are probably worth considering.

A number of companies also provide add-ons for EFB software. For example, Collins Aerospace offers FlightHub – an electronic flight folder accessible from many EFBs. It collates information into a single stream, from flight plans and weather info to post-flight summaries. The company’s Flight Profile Optimization provides up-to-the-minute flight plan information from other aircraft and ground sources to save fuel by fine-tuning the flightpath. A host of other 3rd-party programs are available to add to or streamline full-featured EFBs.

Note that this account is sure to be obsolete within 6 months. EFB makers revise their software frequently, adding features that improve their cockpit utility. This probably is the fastest-moving corner of aviation.

OwenOwen Davies is a veteran freelance writer specializing in technology. He has been a futurist at Forecasting International and TechCast Global.