ForeFlight Release Lets Pilots Multitask

The latest version of ForeFlight also brings Internet Traffic from FlightAware to the app.
The latest version of ForeFlight also brings Internet Traffic from FlightAware to the app. (ForeFlight/)

ForeFlight released its 12.4 version of the multifunctional flight planning app on May 26, 2020, with a selection of new features that bring feedback from customers into reality. Among the updates: multitasking for iPad, and global traffic (via internet) from FlightAware.

New iOS multitasking allows users to run apps side by side on the display, in a splitscreen mode—but it is only supported on the iPad, not the iPhone version. To view two apps side by side, both must support multitasking—such as Safari. While running the another app, the user swipes up about an inch to open the iOS dock, which is normally seen on the home screen. By tapping and holding the ForeFlight icon, then dragging it to the side of the screen the user wishes to view it on, the user will open the app in splitscreen mode. If the app doesn’t open this way, the underlying app doesn’t support multitasking. Though it may seem like a small thing, the mode took a lot of effort on the team’s part to get it in play—and it makes a big difference when looked at from the viewpoint of cockpit logistics. One projected use? To run the timer on the clock app side by side with ForeFlight. A demo video from ForeFlight demonstrates this and other new functionality.

Other new features include the availability of Internet Traffic from FlightAware to stream live global air traffic, allowing the pilot to analyze airport activity and check on flight status. According to ForeFlight, Internet Traffic is tied to the same Traffic map layer used to display ADS-B traffic, and that layer is now accessible any time the user has an internet connection on the ground. The layer will automatically switch to showing only ADS-B traffic when it’s connected to an external ADS-B In device.

The team also applied a layer of simplification to a number of commonly (and infrequently) used features on the app, including the development of a compact menu that can be accessed via the More tab, and which keeps you on the page you’re currently viewing. Other, less-frequently-used tabs now appear as “modals” the pilot can quickly dismiss by swiping down from the top—such as Downloads and Settings. Checklist and Logbook tabs now open into a full-screen, double-column layout to better utilize the screen real estate. The Frequencies, Services, A/FD, and More tabs have been combined into a single Info tab, and the Forecast Discussion is now nested under the TAF section.

All updates noted are for both the non-European and European versions. For more information, visit ForeFlight.

Piper and Garmin Certify Autoland on Halo M600SLS

The Piper M600SLS is the first certification platform for Autoland, with other airplanes to follow.
The Piper M600SLS is the first certification platform for Autoland, with other airplanes to follow. (Garmin/)

Piper Aircraft and Garmin International announced on Monday, May 18, 2020, the final FAA certification on the Halo-equipped Piper M600SLS, which uses Garmin’s Autoland feature to land the airplane without human intervention in the event of a pilot-incapacitating emergency. The last push to finish flight tests on the innovative system consisted of validation and coordination with air traffic control, among other scenario-based events. Piper conducted the final series of tests in M600 in Vero Beach, Florida, and Garden City, Kansas, concluded on May 5.

Garmin’s Autoland system forms the basis for the Piper’s version of the automated system, which also incorporates several recent updates to the aircraft, including an autothrottle, and rounding out the Autonomí suite of safety protocols, including emergency descent management (EDM), and electronic stability and protection (ESP).

Unique among those systems, however, Autoland takes the airplane all the way to the conclusion of landing on a runway. How it does this combines an intricate ballet of GPS-based situational “awareness” on the part of the Garmin G3000 flight deck, voice and data communication with air traffic control, and mechanical functions normally operated by the pilot but automated within the airplane once the system is activated.

Autoland features a unique passenger-centric interface to communicate what the system is doing at all times.
Autoland features a unique passenger-centric interface to communicate what the system is doing at all times. (Garmin/)

Autoland, as executed in the Halo system, can be initiated by an occupant of the airplane—typically a passenger—so its interface was designed to be transparent and straightforward to non-pilots. Once the passenger presses the activation button (a guarded installation on the instrument panel), the system calculates through a wide range of performance, operational, and weather data and criteria to conclude the nearest safe airport at which to land the airplane. Autoland communicates with ATC over standard frequencies so that not only are controllers alerted but also other pilots flying in the area. The autothrottle is used to control speed, and manage engine performance and power, allowing the M600 to climb, descend, or stay at a given altitude as appropriate as Autoland guides the airplane to the chosen airport.

The full report on Autoland was published in the January/February 2020 issue of Flying. Garmin expects certification of the system on board the Cirrus Vision Jet and the Daher TBM 940 to follow.

Garmin Debuts Portable aera 760 GPS

Garmin’s new aera 760 intends to be more durable in the cockpit than other portable navigation solutions.
Garmin’s new aera 760 intends to be more durable in the cockpit than other portable navigation solutions. (Garmin/)

With a rugged housing and a display that’s readable in bright sunlight—and having been tested to meet strict temperature and vibration requirements that should leave it more resistant to environmental fluctuations than an iPad—Garmin’s new aera 760 aspires to be the single device pilots can take anywhere they fly. Garmin announced the new portable GPS on Wednesday, April 29.

The new portable 760 can run up to four hours on a charge, and it features a microSD card slot to upload terrain or street maps or for transferring waypoints. Bluetooth and wireless capabilities allow the pilot to use Garmin Connext wifi both in and out of the airplane. This functionality means downloading software and nav data updates can be done without a hard connection.

The user interface mirrors that of other current Garmin products, including the GTN Xi series, G3X Touch and Garmin Pilot to make the transition between those platforms easier to learn. When a procedure is loaded into the 760, a pilot can look at the chart itself or overlay it on top of the moving map. An assortment of map options are available, all geo-referenced, including IFR and VFR charts, Garmin FliteCharts—plus the ability to use Jeppesen electronic charts and thereby access approach plates worldwide.

For further preflight situational awareness, pilots can look at worldwide weather information when the 760 is connected to wifi—and access data through the GTX 345 or GDL 52 while in the cockpit. Traffic information can also be viewed on dedicated pages on the unit. If a user can hardwire the 760’s power, audio, and dual RS-232 connections, the portable can link to navigators such as the GTN 650Xi/750Xi, GTN 650/750, or the GNS 430W/530W—and the products will stay synced throughout the flight. It can even connect to selected autopilots, enabling the capability to fly a VNAV profile (while in visual conditions).

With a long list of other features, the unit packs a lot into a single device. Garmin’s list price on the aera 760 is $1,599.

Sky Kings: The March of Avionics Technology

When change happens in increments, you might not notice it as much.
When change happens in increments, you might not notice it as much. (iStock/Iboter/)

My instructor was in the seat behind me. He was always yelling at me. This time, he was yelling that I needed more rudder when I used aileron. I was a teenager. I thought he was mad at me. I know now he was just trying to be heard over the ambient airplane noise. The airplane was an Aeronca 7AC Champion. It had no electrical or intercom systems, and we had no headsets.

I didn’t think of the airplane as missing anything. The other airplanes on the field were similar. I just thought that was the way airplanes were made. I had no idea of the march of avionics technology I was to witness in my flying future.

Of course, we also had no electronic navigation. We used pilotage, comparing the chart to landmarks, and dead reckoning, holding a heading and speed and keeping track of time. In ground school, we learned to draw our proposed ground track on a chart. We drew another line to the destination representing wind direction and speed. We used the lines to plan our heading and time for the trip.

In the early ’50s, things became more complicated when the FAA mandated that pilots demonstrate emergency instrument skills for a private pilot certificate. This required airplanes with electrical systems for the turn indicator, as well as vacuum systems for the attitude and heading indicators.

I didn’t participate personally in this particular technological advance. The airplanes with instruments cost more to fly. I was saving up to go to college. The $8 per hour I was paying for airplane and instructor was all I felt I could afford. After I soloed the Aeronca on my 16th birthday, I decided to stop this outrageous expenditure and quit flying.

Years later, I resumed my flying in companionship with Martha. We bought a Piper Cherokee 140. It, of course, had an electrical system. It was also decked out with dual nav/com radios. I was introduced to radio communications and navigation. It was a big step up from my days of pilotage and dead reckoning.

When we got our private pilot certificates, we got the lust for something faster. We bought a Piper Comanche and set out to explore the rest of North America. On our way to Barrow, on the North Slope of Alaska, we discovered in Fairbanks we needed more than VOR navigation. We needed an automatic direction finder to navigate our way any farther north. By now, I apparently had lost my pre-college frugality. Martha and I laid out the money on the spot to have an ADF installed in our Comanche. The ADF had been around a long time and was not really an advance in technology. But to us, an ADF was new technology that allowed us to go farther north.

As we continued to fly the Comanche, we flew more and more IFR. Because we were equally hooked on flying, we had no financially responsible partner when it came to spending for avionics. When Martha and I wanted distance-measurement equipment to support our IFR flying, we immediately laid out the funds to put DME in our Comanche.

However, when you look at an instrument panel from a new aircraft, it shows the change clearly.
However, when you look at an instrument panel from a new aircraft, it shows the change clearly. (Garmin/)

When the technology became available in 1978, we sprang to install a King KNS-80 in the Cessna 340 we owned by then. The KNS-80 was referred to as a course-line computer. It would electronically move a vortac to a new location, using the signal from the vortac as if it were actually in the new position. It was our first experience at being able to navigate using VHF signals in a straight line as far as 199 miles, without having to go from navaid to navaid. The capability was referred to as area navigation. The KNS-80 could store four preset waypoints, so you could quickly switch from one waypoint to the next.

In 1990, Narco Avionics came out with a product for general aviation called StarNav. It took navigation to the next level. StarNav was a multisensor navigation system containing VOR, localizer and glideslope receivers. It had a database allowing it to automatically tune nearby navaids to provide a continuous navigation solution. We installed StarNav in the old Cessna Citation that we had then. As friends of Ed Zimmer, the owner of Narco Avionics, we were beta testers. It was Martha who suggested the name “StarNav.”

In addition to utilizing its self-contained sensors, StarNav interfaced with other receivers including DME and loran. Loran referred to long-range navigation. It was originally developed for marine navigation. Loran allowed continued navigation even when we were out of range of VHF signals. Eventually, we replaced the loran in our Citation with GPS, which gave us improved position accuracy. StarNav was our first experience with the combination of a database and area navigation for nationwide automatic navigation. Today, GPS systems combine that capability with a map to routinely provide simple, intuitive navigation.

In its early days, GPS wasn’t as useful as it could have been because the military dithered the signal for civilian users. This dithering deliberately added 50 meters of error horizontally and 100 meters vertically to GPS signals. This was referred to as “selective availability.” In May 2000, selective availability was removed, making GPS vastly more precise and practical for civilian use.

Read More from John King: Sky Kings

On July 10, 2003, the Wide Area Augmentation System was activated for general aviation, covering 95 percent of the United States and portions of Alaska. This even further improved the precision of GPS. WAAS works by having ground stations with known positions receive the GPS signal. They then correct any errors and send the correction for the area back to satellites, which then send out the corrected signal. WAAS allows a position fix within 10 feet, 95 percent of the time.

A WAAS receiver is required for ADS-B Out. With ADS-B, every airplane reports its very precise position to all the other aircraft and ground stations in the vicinity. With WAAS, we can now see the accurate location of every nearby airplane on our screen. This has already proven to greatly reduce the collision rate and save lives. A safety analysis conducted by the Regulus Group for the FAA on the accident rate of ADS-B-In-equipped aircraft between 2013 and 2017 is available: For the continental US, the average rate reduction across four types of accidents (midair, controlled flight into terrain, weather-related and CFIT-plus-weather accidents) was approximately 50 percent, with a cut in the fatal-accident rate of about 90 percent.

It is hard to imagine how far avionics has come. Navigation and situational awareness in the cockpit is vastly more precise and easier, and information is incredibly plentiful. Plus, it’s all a lot more fun. Our Garmin GTN 725 displays our position, weather and traffic information on the same screen. It is wirelessly connected to our iPads, which serve as additional multifunction displays, providing the information available from the panel navigator and displaying it very intuitively. At home, our preflight preparation supplies us with more current information with more immediacy and better detail than was available even to flight-service-station operators in our early days of flying.

It has been a great journey. Even though I am no longer a 16-year-old kid, I still have no idea what the future holds. But with the accidental wisdom of experience, I can tell you that change will continue in increments, and in a few decades, we will have arrived in a marvelous new place. I am looking forward to it.

This story appeared in the March 2020 issue of Flying Magazine

Appareo Stratus Insight Debuts Voice Recognition Technology

The Stratus Insight app combines regular EFB features with tools such as alternate planning and Vertical Weather Profile.
The Stratus Insight app combines regular EFB features with tools such as alternate planning and Vertical Weather Profile. (Appareo Aviation/)

The Appareo Stratus Insight EFB has debuted, with voice recognition to capture and display ATC transmissions and other cockpit audio in flight, in addition to a host of other features. The Insight EFB app integrates with all generations of Stratus receivers, which provide FIS-B weather and ADS-B traffic information along with WAAS GPS data to the app during a flight.

“Think of it as a digital co-pilot to be with you when you’re flying,” said Appareo Aviation president Kris Garberg, in a press conference live-streamed on Facebook on March 31. Garberg listed the features normally found on EFBs that the Insight has as well, including VFR sectional maps, IFR low and high enroute charts, geo-referenced approach plates, TAWS, and AHRS with synthetic vision. Garberg also discussed the Vertical Weather Profile feature to help pilots visualize the conditions ahead, and Smart Flight Plan routing tools which enable quick selection of alternates, among other capabilities. He mentioned the app’s new automatic downloads feature, which allows for downloading in the background while on a WiFi connection for users who have the function selected.

Josh Gelinske, director of artificial intelligence systems for Appareo Aviation, was also on hand to answer questions and talk about how the company utilizes AI and machine learning to improve its features and customer experience. Gelinske was primary in developing the ATC Radio Transcription and Playback feature on the new app. Gelinske said, “It’s a good story how technology is kind of at the right time. We can get in front of things for pilots and give them better situational awareness and really reduce their workload.”

The Stratus Insight app features AI-enabled voice recognition technology to transcribe radio transmissions in flight.
The Stratus Insight app features AI-enabled voice recognition technology to transcribe radio transmissions in flight. (Appareo Aviation/)

Whether you’re a student pilot or experienced, Gelinske said, it’s a stressful to keep up with ATC and other communications. The Insight “listens” to transmissions and uses AI to decipher those and present them like visual voice mail on the display for the pilot to reference. “For ATC speech, there’s not a lot of datasets in the world,” so they had to build their own app and collect their own data to parse for the feature. The functionality lives on the app rather than in the cloud (such as Siri or Alexa), which requires a live internet connection. That’s not possible to have reliably in a light aircraft, for the most part, so it was important to have the ATC Radio Transcription and Playback feature resident on the device in flight.

The Stratus Insight app can be found on Appple’s App Store, and it comes in a monthly ($9.99) or annual ($99.99) subscription, with all features covered by that fee. The Insight requires a $49.99 audio cable available online in order to enable the ATC Radio Transcription and Playback feature. A free 30-day trial is available as well.