8 Must have apps for light aircraft pilots

Updated: Aug 2, 2019


With the advent of tablets and smart phones, more and more light aircraft pilots are using apps to navigate, calculate, brief and even train.

The market is not yet crowded though it is getting busy. I think this is a good thing because it creates competition which ultimately results in better products. Large developers such as Garmin and Foreflight are starting to move into the European market after dominating the US market for years.

I recently purchased an aircraft with a dedicated iPad mount in the cockpit. I have tested and recommend the apps below, some of which are free and some are payware.

Please share your favourite gems if you think they are worthwhile in the comments section.

1. Garmin Pilot (Payware)

It may be somewhat controversial, but having tested RunwayHD, SkyDemon, Foreflight and Air Nav Pro, Garmin Pilot has come out as my favourite.

I like the presentation. It has a slick, intuitive and professional interface which has lots of customisation options. It's easy to read and get used to the standard charts that come with it, but like many other apps, it comes with the option to add official CAA charts.

The weather information is particularly good, with rainfall radar, cloud radar. You can also press on an airport to get decoded METAR and TAFS. If the airport does not have published weather, it will provide information from the nearest airport that does. You can also set personal minimums and it will notify you if the conditions at your chosen airport deteriorate below them.

The app is also capable of synthetic vision which looks very cool though it has limited use without the GDL 39 3D unit which provides AHRS information. Like other AHRS units, it is pricey at £714.

The app can also interface with Garmin avionics if you have them fitted to your aircraft

The app does everything that the others do, but it seems a bit more composed and solid.


2. Aeroweather (Freeware and Payware)

This app has been around for a number of years and is well known. In its simplest form, it is a METAR/TAF provider. It can also decode them into plain english.

You can view any airport around the world. The pro version also allows you to arrange them by nearby airports so you can judge the conditions around you as you fly and view images that other pilots have taken at the aerodromes to see for yourself, though I rarely see this used in practice.

Aeroweather has an Apple Watch app which I particularly like because I can check the latest METAR of my home airfield just by taking a glance at my watch whilst flying.

3. VFRCalculator (Payware)

This simple app is the best one that I could find for calculating triangle of velocities (ie heading, crosswind etc).

4. Goboko (Freeware)

Goboko is an aircraft booking system which works for syndicates or flying schools. It is completely free and comes with a desktop site as well an iPad and iPhone app. I find it great for taking bookings on the go.

Another useful feature of this app is the ability to enter your licence expiry dates to get handy reminders in good time.

5. Windy (Freeware)

Windy is a weather app that has a beautiful interface. It depicts world wide weather and has many overlays, such as METARS, TAFS, cloud, rain and wind. I think this is a must have for pilots. You can also view it at windy.com


6. EVFR Basic (Freeware)

As far as free apps go, you can't go wrong with EasyVFR Basic. This free navigation app has flight following with GPS on a well presented and highly customisable map. It is also able to provide NOTAM information and connect to PilotAware for traffic input. The app does not include flight planning facilities, though this is available with EasyVFR (Payware).

7. SkyDemon Light (Freeware)

Skydemon Light is a slimmed down version of the popular payware app. It does not offer flight following via GPS though it does allow you to plan routes simply and intuitively. It is able to give you a full PLOG and brief of NOTAMS. When combined with EasyVFR above, you have everything you need for free! Skydemon Light is also available directly on your browser at www.skydemonlight.com

8. NATS Airspace Explorer

I believe this app will soon take over FlightRadar24 as the most popular live traffic program. My understanding is that it takes data directly from NATS internal systems to depict live air traffic across the UK and the world. It is currently only available for iPad. The 3D view is superb and well worth a look.


What do you recommend?

Please share your favourite apps in the comments.

Are you a student pilot working towards your microlight licence? Take a look at our online ground school, audio courses and practice exams. We also have products for light aircraft, helicopter and sailplane students. Click here for more information.

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