Aviation Weather on the iPhone:
Tired of Waiting, I'm Moving On

11:33 PM

For the last two years, I have been using Digital Cyclone's Pilot My-Cast on my stupid little Samsung U740 phone. While the phone was kind of a joke, the program was just what I needed. Pilot My-Cast served me well, never crashed, and at $10 a month, was a pretty decent deal. I was really glad on many, many trips to have real aviation weather in my pocket.

But on 11.04.09, my Verizon contract was going to expire, and it was time to reconsider my options for pocket aviation weather intelligence. See, my wife Julie was the iPhone user in the family, and had given me signals that she wanted to move up to a new 3Gs phone. That meant, her first-gen iPhone was up for adoption. And since I have been craving the whiz and bang of that stellar product, a deal was struck to get us on an AT&T Family Plan, moving her into the new 3Gs and me into her legacy iPhone. Only one thing was left to sort out:
Back at Oshkosh in late July, I had a long list of things to see and people to talk to. One of the first things on that list was to stop at the Pilot My-Cast booth and get the real story of when their app would be ready for the iPhone. While the rep at the booth was very gracious and even gave me a pretty cool free hat, they were as vague as can be about a release date. "Get on the email notification list" was about all I could get out of anyone there. So as my Verizon contract came to a close, I noticed on the My-Cast site that their iPhone release has been pushed from "fall" to "later this quarter". So I did what I had to do, got the iPhone and immediately installed Foreflight Mobile, version 2.4.1.
This decision is not at all based on the My-Cast app itself. I am sure that when it finally hits the Apple Store, it will be a polished, mature app just like their other versions are for various other phones. But I simply got tired of waiting, and man, am I glad I did:
Foreflight Mobile is about as sweet as you get. It has been designed from the ground up by aviators, actual pilots who use aviation weather every day. Because Tyson Weihs and the rest of the Foreflight team are pilots, they understand how this kind of app needs to work. This is not a bunch of guys laid off from Circuit City slopping together some crap in a basement, no, this is a nearly perfect and very functional app that delivers everything a pilot needs to get the "pre-flight intelligence" required to make better weather decisions.
Of course, I always recommend getting a phone weather briefing if you plan to fly IFR in actual IMC. And, there is a grand amount of WX products available on the Internets. But when you are out there on the ramp about to depart, Foreflight allows one last quick look at everything from the big picture to the intimate details about your destination FBO. After a couple of weeks using the app, I still cannot find anything deficient in its operation. Sure, people can get all nit picky with anything, but I challenge anyone who gives Foreflight a serious workout to find an area in which it still needs massive improvement.

Maybe this quick admiration for Foreflight comes from my quick admiration for the iPhone in general. Yes, I KNOW I'm coming late to this party, but, damn, this little sucker does everything you need a communications device to do. The ability to handle email, send and receive Tweets, surf the web, pull down accurate NOAA aviation weather and locate the nearest Geocaches is only upstaged by this:
Not going to mince words here, the very dependable Toyota pick-up that I drive is sadly either "Plain Jane" or "box stock", take your pick. For some reason, I have never upgraded the old school cassette deck, and so I usually drive around listening to NPR. But this weekend I bought the little adapter that allows the use of 3.5mm earphone jacks in the iPhone's ridiculous odd-sized earphone jack. On the way home from 'The Shack, I dug my old cassette adapter out of my glove box, slipped the faux cassette into the deck, and plugged this into the iPhone. I cranked up the built-in iPod on the phone, and discovered that the sound quality and power of the iPhone's iPod is way WAY better than my old iPod, which sounded tinny and crappy when played through the old deck. No, this phone was driving my speakers so well, I cruised home slowly, smiling as I wondered just what the hell this phone could NOT do.
So before you do anything else to get aviation weather on your iPhone, pony up the seventy five clams and get Foreflight. I promise you will love it, I know I do. And if the $74.99 price seems high for an iPhone app, consider that price against the $120/year subscription that one must pay for Pilot My-Cast. Next year, it's another $120, and the year after that, yep, $120. This makes the one-time-only price for Foreflight seem like an exceptional value.

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