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Show HN: Our new iPad app for pilots - totally free for now (gaiagps.com)
34 points by andrewljohnson on April 18, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

Very cool. Posting this on TechCrunch (with artmageddon's concerns below noted).

If you're interested in this app also take a look at Garmin Pilot My-Cast.

I work on that app along with a small team here at Garmin and were are really proud of what we've done. We are passionate about making great apps and I think Pilot My-Cast really shows that.


What's your advantage over ForeFlight or WingX?

You know, I was at the Sun 'n Fun airshow at the end of March (I was helping man the GlobalNavSource booth). Those other apps were also in attendance, and I answered that question a lot :)

WingX and FF are both great apps, but one main thing is we really tried to tailor the app to in-flight use, as opposed to preflight planning. You can see this in how we did the UI to give the pilot fast access to the plates (swiping and sets of favorites), and also in how we do the search features (autocompleting searches, nearby and recent airports).

We also have really great maps, and part of this is a legacy from approaching the same problems in both the marine and hiking apps we have worked on. For example, we can compose any base map with any overlay in our app (i.e. VFRs + METAR data, and in the next version of the app, VFRs + METAR + radar). EFB also nicely does a course-up view of the map, which lots of people at the airshow appreciated.

Ah, aren't you the guy who admitted to the ForeFlight founder at the show that you copied their app? I hear you're in for some courtroom time . Why don't you post some screenshots of your airport page and their airport page side by side so everyone here can see your "original" work.

You should study this link:


The type appears quite small. Do you know if this is a problem for pilots?

Private pilot here(I don't fly jets but I've have been trained in instrument flight rules so I can talk about the chart). It simply depends on how well the various approach plates(i.e. the diagram shown) or other things are shown on the map, and if multi-touch zoom is supported.

If they are, then this would be awesome. It would beat the crap out of having to flip through a book to try to find that one specific approach plate. Typing a few alphanumerics and having all the frequencies show up is so much nicer than flipping through Airport Facility/Directories.

In addition, you can look at plates or airplane sectionals and see that there are a number of items printed in small type and multiple colors that pilots have to contend with. If you want an example, try http://skyvector.com . Someone with flight knowledge can tell you what each of the symbols and colors represent, but that's exactly what we deal with up there(even single-propeller folk like me).

I highly doubt the iPad will be much of a hindrance to that. What I fear the most is:

1) Pilots who rely solely on an iPad[1] and forget to charge it, leaving them without the information needed when the battery goes(assuming they also don't have an alternate power source to charge the iPad).

2). The brightness(adjustable, of course) interfering with night vision. Lit items(instrument panel) are kept to a minimum in the flight deck because of the constant need to be able to keep a watch on other airplanes. Of course, pilots do need to turn on a light to read the plates when it comes time to land, but wise pilots will carry a soft light for reading the plates. Not sure how the iPad light affects it.

If I owned an iPad, I would definitely be interested in this app.

[1] Pilots who do this, without having any alternative source available in the flight deck are heavily frowned upon.

Alas, the minimum brightness on the current ipads is a no-go for night flight use, IMHO -- it's still too bright.

Thanks for your insight-I wonder if a tinted film on the screen would help matters in that regard? I get the feeling though that might just cause eye strain...

Good point! I guess this app should have a night mode, like navigation systems usually have (my free iPhone app has a night mode!)

On #1, I've heard talk of having a sort of dock + external GPS feeding into the iPad, I doubt dead batteries are going to be a huge problem. I've flown primarily with a handheld, battery powered radio and that's never been a problem, though the batteries last longer.

And for what it's worth, the type can be really small on paper charts. A resizable view is a giant win, there.

Re: #2 - I wonder if a red transparent film could be produced that doesn't interfere with the touch controls but preserves night vision.

Another solution might be to simply dim the display and enable a "red only mode" in the app, similar to Star Walk. There might still be some white light bleeding through the LCD, but it should be quite small.

Yeah, these charts and plates are detailed documents, and we did some work to make make them most accessible. Couple of notes on this:

1) You can pinch zoom the approach plates, and rotate the iPad for the best screen fit.

2) You can hide the top bar on the Plates screen to make the plate bigger.

3) You can pinch zoom all of the charts, and we provide a magnified "overzoom" that is closer in (but fuzzier) than the native resolution of the chart.

1) No risk to "lose north" with that? Is there a one click solution to get north again fast?

Yes, it's one click back to "north-up."

It bodes well for this app to still have a few problems to address that are inherent in the current platform - its indicative of any real technological advance. I'm reading a huge success here.

This app is a blatant ripoff of ForeFlight (http://www.foreflight.com/ipad).

TechCrunch caught the ripoff:


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