Foreflight is recent technology which has bettered my flight planning. Foreflight is a flight planning and in-flight tracking app for iPad or iPhone. This app has cut my trip preparation time by well over half when using its intuitive flight planning tools. And flight plans/routes I build can be saved to re-use repeatedly over-n-over. A few weeks ago I planned an expedition to King Salmon to check our property and equipment, and to see if the truck still runs. Winds prevented the trip during two of my available four days, but the planning was good practice. A few of the planning tools I use are shown below.
I built and saved routes for flights, such as: to moose camp; to Tok to visit in-laws and our property; and to our King Salmon property for fishing. Once the route is built, I generally start planning a flight with an overall review of the complete route. Primarily looking for evil spirits which may impact my trip: high winds aloft; TFRs; altimeters settings; etc. I do my overall review on a scaled screen shown in pictures 1 & 2.
Flying to Tok consumes less stress and navigation brain cells, as the road is adjacent along the entire route. Once West of Willow on the way to King Salmon, there are no roads to use as a safety runway or as a navigation crutch. As everything is a trade-off, flying to King Salmon is funner because of the mind-blowing Rainbow and salmon fishing.
Reviewing the day’s winds along the King Salmon route, I did not make this trip – neither on the 8th nor 9th. Noting the winds at nearby reporting stations, appears the winds are funneling straight down the gullet of Lake Clark Pass. Practical application of the saying, “It’s better to be down here wishing you were up there, than to be up there wishing you were down here”.
The navigation log shown in screen shot 3) details the last four legs between checkpoints on the route near King Salmon (PAKN). Scrolling up and down in the app shows details of previous legs. Winds aloft from DUATS* are included in the estimated time enroute (ETE) and estimated speed. I have 85 mph entered as default cruise speed for the cub.
The navigation log is very handy reference. Foreflight’s log format is the same as the paper logs I learned on. I’ve printed this log for manual use with a sectional chart and watch. I need to practice the manual method more often to keep muh navigation skillz fresh…well…maybe stale, but usable.
Winds are a potential hazard I like to know before even putting on my flying scarf. Winds near my route at Palmer airport had winds of 36 to 47 mph. Flight Service Station at King Salmon (see pic 5) reported winds of 18-25 – winds at that speed are safe, but unpleasant. When you see winds of 23 – 31 at Iliamna airport (near Lake Clark Pass), turbulence comes to mind and is the deciding factor to wait for a calmer day. Clicking on the feather symbol brings up the METAR providing cloud levels, altimeter setting, dew point, and additional info on other tabs.
Isolating, or breaking out, interesting segments of a route is an easy feature to use with saved routes. Isolating a particular segment can give exact time estimates. For instance if I arrive at the East end of Lake Clark Pass and discover its clogged with fog – but clearing – then I know how long I can loiter before landing somewhere and fuel up from the fuel bags in the cargo pod. Plus as Iliamna is 1.2 hrs (and 120 air miles, 12.8 gals AvGas) from the East mouth of the pass, the time estimate determines how much fuel I have to loiter while waiting for weather to clear and fly to Iliamna (or Port Alsworth along the way), or fly to Kenai for more fuel. I carry ten gallons of AvGas in the bags, so I can fly one additional hour past my 42 gallons of usable fuel.
First move is to save the route under another name, then isolate the segment desired by deleting checkpoints. For instance, I saved the King Salmon route with the new name “Lake Clark Pass”, and deleted all but Lake Clark Pass checkpoints. That gives me a nav log and data from the East end of the pass at Big River Lakes to the West end where Tlikakila River dumps into Lake Clark. Now should a passenger ask (or I need to know) how long thru the pass, I can proclaim the segment should take bout 46 minutes with an average 6 mph tailwind, burn a splash over seven and a half gallons of avgas, and the total distance is 70 miles. My default distance units are statute miles, not nautical miles (1 sm = .87 nm, those suffering dyslexia would see 1 nm = 1.15 sm). In Foreflight, our cub’s default planning speed is 85 mph.
The Lake Clark Pass segment 6) is graphically shown, with the nav log detailing legs between checkpoints. Only the last four legs are displayed above. Scrolling up or down in the app shows remaining legs.
TFRs are restricted zones that I don’t want to mess with. Pilot license threatening juju for the fella who flies into one a these. Almost all TFRs are in place for legitimate (in my view) reasons, such as the president’s trips thru Alaska, military exercises, forest fires, or search and rescue areas. The TFR shown near Fairbanks on Feb 8 is for a rocket launch. TFR knowledge is important in other ways, as a TFR may close one pass, which will detour that traffic through adjacent passes. So if you’re flying an adjacent pass, anticipate more frequent traffic than normal. Clicking on the individual TFRs provides additional details.
These same routes are loaded in my GPS in case weather drops too low and I need to land on a gravel bar to wait it out – quickly notifying muh ex-girlfriend via sat phone of course. For these two routes, and most I fly, I don’t need Foreflight or a GPS for in-flight navigation because I’ve flown em previously. I do follow the GPS when flying outside my AO (cool lingo for Area of Operations). But the GPS is a handy method to keep track of time flown thus far for fuel purposes. We derive a conservative fuel estimate by inputting the time estimates along with our cub’s 10 gph fuel burn into elementary school math equations. 10 gph is the planning burn for our cub, actual burn is 9 to 9 ½ gph when leaned. Included in that estimated total fuel usage, is fuel used during the compulsory and fun circling around sumptin cool to watch or photograph. Although I do not use Foreflight for in-flight use, I do keep flight routes loaded on my iPhone’s Foreflight app just in case my GPS spews satanic symbols mid-flight.
*Foreflight uses my DUATS account to access winds for flight time estimating. DUATS and DUAT are two contractor run flight services overseen by the FAA. The service is the same, just run by two different contractors using two different methods to deliver weather briefings, plan flights, and file flight plans. Being a federal government service, DUATS/DUAT are useful and appreciated, but very cumbersome and unsociable in that government way, so not used by me anymore. Professionals, such as airline dispatchers, possibly still use DUATS/DUAT.