Updated: Oct 19, 2020
I briefly used Air Navigation Pro around six years ago, though I stopped using it as I found it to be poorly designed and frustrating to use. I recently found that I was able to renew my subscription at the old price so I decided to revisit the software to see if it has improved.
Air Navigation Pro is a VFR navigation and flight planning app by a Swiss company called Xample. It has always been priced at the lower end of the market and it is hated by some but others swear by it. The software is available for both iOS and Android, though the latter has reduced features. This review concentrates on the iOS version tested on an iPad Mini 3, used in UK Airspace.
The core feature of Air Navigation Pro is the in-flight moving map which is provided with the use of free charts and official charts. The free charts are OS maps and satellite imagery. The UK official charts are included in the subscription but official charts for other countries can be purchased in-app.
ANP also offers synthetic vision which provides a 3D view ahead with terrain warnings and satellite imagery of the ground. Unlike other apps with synthetic vision, ANP is one of the few apps that can provide attitude information via the gyroscopic sensors in the iPad rather than relying on third party devices.
ANP has comprehensive flight planning features including a printable PLOG, weight, balance and timing calculations, en-route weather and NOTAMS.
Other features include flight tracking and broadcasting, traffic input support, approach charts overlay on the map and airspace warnings.
One purpose of VFR Navigation apps is to make flight planning easier. On previous versions of ANP, I found the user interface to be so complicated that flight planning was a nightmare, but the most recent version (126.96.36.199 at the time of writing) is much improved and I found planning a flight could be done in less than five minutes. Similar to other apps, a route can be created simply by pressing on waypoints and rubber-banding the pink line around any areas you wish to avoid. Once the route is chosen you can receive a full route briefing simply by pressing the Briefing button.
This is a huge improvement over previous versions, though a word of warning - some of the frequencies in ANP are out of date. It is worth checking the frequencies before you set off as some have not received an update after we switched to 8.33KHz. I have raised this with Xample and hopefully they will update them soon.
Another useful feature is the ability to submit flight plans to ATC directly from the app, though there is a small charge for doing so.
The moving map tracks your flight en-route and provides airspace warnings ahead of you. It also provides groundspeed, ETE, ETA and all of the other features you'd expect. I have found these to be very accurate. It also includes a nearest airport function where it will automatically change your flight plan to the nearest airport if you need to divert or land urgently.
Changing your flight plan en-route requires a bit of practice. Moving your waypoints around requires a steady hand which can be difficult in turbulence but once you know the routine, it is not too bad.
The lack of airfields in the database lets ANP down. Lots of UK airfields have limited detail or no entries at all. Without the use of the official charts, you would not see them at all. For larger airports, the information is comprehensive with phone numbers, runway information, fuel information etc. However, it is possible to add your own waypoints with information such as runways and frequencies. You can also share these with other users. I also noticed that it includes some aerodromes which are disused or long gone, such as Ayton Castle and Brunton (GB-0025 and GB-0075). Considering the majority of users are light aircraft pilots, I think this should be improved as a matter of urgency if the app wants to compete with favourites such as SkyDemon and RunwayHD.
What I Like
I particularly like the ability to record all of your flights and upload them to the web in real-time. As a flying instructor, this means that my colleagues can see where I am at any given time and estimate when I will be back on the ground from a flying lesson. It also allows my students to view their flight tracks online after their flight. It is highly accurate meaning students can see how accurately they have flown a circuit with reference to the ground features. They can also see their groundspeed and altitude.
Another feature that I found useful is the one-touch weather. Whilst flying cross-country, all airports with a METAR and TAF appear colour coded with red, amber or green and a simple press on them will provide the current weather conditions in a decoded format. Although simple, I love the way Air Navigation Pro does this. I have found that other apps can make it unnecessarily convoluted to get this information in flight when it is of primary importance.
Air Navigation Pro works with traffic detection devices such as FLARM and PilotAware. ANP also depicts other users on the moving-map and shares their traffic data with you. This means that ANP users will see other users and all of the traffic that the other user is detecting through third party devices. This feature is called Collaborative Traffic Sharing and I think it is a fantastic idea as it is greatly improves the overall traffic awareness for all users.
Another useful feature is the ability to publish Advisory Activity to other users who may be in the area. This is a bit like publishing a NOTAM for other users. For example, you may post an advisory if you are hosting a fly-in or expect increased activity in the area. This will appear to other users during their pre-flight briefing and when they fly in the area.
I prefer to fly with official CAA charts as it makes me more comfortable to know that nothing is missed off and it is easy to cross-check my position with the real chart in my hand. Air Navigation Pro allows me to do this.
I like the synthetic vision. It works well with the terrain warnings, though I have had mixed success with the attitude indicator using the iPads built-in gyroscopes. Sometimes it works well and sometimes it drifts very easily. This is no reflection on ANP as the iPad's gyroscopes are not designed to be used for aviation. The ability to play back a recorded flight in synthetic vision is brilliant. I would like to see the terrain imagery depicted in higher resolution.
What I Don't Like
As mentioned earlier, it is a big let-down to have the wrong frequencies in the app, and the lack of small airfield coverage can be frustrating. I think Xample should improve this in order to compete with the more well-known apps.
In the past, I would have also said that the user-interface is not intuitive and can be difficult to use, but I can't say that now as it is much improved. I had no problems using it without the manual. It is also worth pointing out that although the manual is available online, it is for the older version and the latest version has not yet been translated into English. This is a minor issue in my opinion.
I do not like the way ANP depicts traffic. It shows an arrow head which changes colour depending on whether or not the app believes the traffic is a potential conflict. Next to the arrow is a small box which includes the information about the traffic such as the altitude, groundspeed and callsign. Unfortunately the box is very small and the text is difficult to read in flight. In fact, on most occasions, the information does not fit in the box which means you can't see the full callsign. This is frustrating as if I could see the full callsign I could see whether it is one of our club aircraft or whether I recognise it. I asked Xample about this, but their answer was to change the text size on my iPad which did not change it at all.
The app also depicts bearingless traffic as a small box next to your own aircraft with the aircraft's altitude and callsign. It also shows a groundspeed of 0kts which of course is incorrect. I realise that the groundspeed cannot be determined for bearingless traffic, but I think it is dangerous to show 0kts as this implies the aircraft is on the ground somewhere.
The altitude of traffic is reported as a flight level (for example FL20). This is of little use to a pilot who is not flying on 1013hPa as they cannot quickly determine if they are at the same altitude to the aircraft. However, I have come to realise that although the app says FL20, it actually means 2,000ft based on the QNH. This is mis-leading and should be fixed.
If you wish, you can change the traffic depiction to the style found on a TCAS. It will depict the aircraft as a diamond and the relative altitude below it. Although this is more clear for determining relative height between your aircraft and the traffic, it provides no information such as callsign or groundspeed.
Finally, I would say that sometimes the app's updates are frustrating. Xample recently released a version of the app which crashed for nearly all users when the briefing button was pressed. Although they fixed it with an update, it required a full re-install. It seems to me that it was not properly tested before release and this could cause major problems for somebody who is already down-route and suddenly can‘t use the app.
Subscriptions vary depending on the country you select. For the UK, the standard subscription is cheaper than many of the competitors at £75.99 per year. The premium version is £116.99 per year and includes 50K maps for England and Wales, access to the obstacle database plus streets and places search.
As the software has improved, the cost has increased significantly over the years. Initially when the app was released, it was available for a one-off payment. When I purchased it, the subscription was only £26.99 per year. Luckily, I am able to renew at that price so the software represents a bargain for me. At the current prices, I would say that it is still reasonably priced as it includes the UK official charts (though Scotland is not included and must be purchased separately if required).
It has always seemed to me that Air Navigation Pro is the underdog. I think the app still has a way to go to compete with the dominant apps such as SkyDemon and RunwayHD. It does everything the other apps do, just not as well, though it has a lot of unique ideas which I like and I hope it continues to develop on it's current trajectory.
If you are looking for a budget VFR app that allows you to fly on official charts, then I can recommend Air Navigation Pro.
QuizAero Rating: 3.5/5.
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