Cross-country flights introduce a new level of planning and flight preparation during your training and beyond. I remember the many hours of careful sectional plotter and E6B work to calculate the precise course, heading, groundspeed and distance for every waypoint.
While technology and the availability of flight planning and charting apps have replaced sectional charts and highlighters for most students, there is more information to be gained regarding your destination than what the NOTAMs and weather forecasts will provide.
Here are my favorite three non-aviation apps that are a must before every long flight.
While Foreflight, Garmin Pilot, WingX apps are great for aviation weather, there are a couple areas lacking. While the weather forecast isn’t very accurate a week out, the weather channel app will at least give you an idea of what to expect. You wouldn’t make final plans with the information, but you may decide to research hotel accommodations and ground transportation options at an alternate. The most insightful piece of information from the app is the hourly forecast. It does a good job of forecasting the wind speed and direction, and when the rain will start or stop. I altered my plans several of times to make sure my arrivals and departures were during good weather windows.
A great flight instructor once told to never fly someplace that I already haven’t viewed in Google Maps. This has really helped me with situational awareness approaching the airport and when on the ground. Know precisely the location of the FBO and how the building looks so you won’t be “that guy” surprised the surroundings and asking for progressive taxi instructions. If you plan on getting a car, this is the perfect opportunity to examine the driving directions to your final destination. Often times the most difficult part is trying to figure out how to get to and from the FBO in a car.
As pilots, we love to get PIREPs. The largest collection of reviews on everything from attractions to restaurants will be found on TripAdvisor. This is where you’ll find the hidden gems for where to visit once you are on the ground. You could find a local diner with amazing tenderloins, a massive waterfall on a side road, or a remote beach with the best sunsets. These are easy to find when you have PIREPs. TripAdvisor will enable many more “remember that time” stories.
What apps do you find yourself frequenting before blasting off on big adventures?