As a pilot, you rely on a variety of applications and avionics to get the information you need to fly safely and in control. You traditionally depend on approved information that you gathered and researched on the ground, because updates received in the air can be delayed – or worse, not come through at all.
Onboard internet, often perceived to be a largely passenger-focused need, can also significantly benefit pilots. Inflight connectivity allows pilots and flight crews to access more information in flight to supplement and update existing information to better prepare for your destination.
Many flight apps are available that allow you to stay informed of the latest weather and traffic. And, inflight Wi-Fi can enhance your ability to access this data.
Top benefits of connected apps for pilots
When connected to the internet via inflight Wi-Fi, flight apps are capable of complementing your flying experience by providing useful supplemental data. We work with pilots often to understand how they use onboard Wi-Fi, and frequently hear that the benefits fall into three general categories:
- Weather. We all know how quickly weather can change – especially at 10, 20, or 30,000 feet. From unstable weather patterns in the air to unexpected conditions on the ground, the latest weather information can play a key role in finding the best and fastest route around the weather and the smoothest ride. One pilot we spoke with commented that “When weather gets in the way, I sometimes use my Gogo connection to pull up FlightAware to figure out how other pilots are navigating a particular storm.”
- Information. Changeable weather or other factors frequently require navigation changes in flight. The sooner you have this information, the better you can plan your route and arrival. As one pilot told us, “As I’m preparing an approach to my destination, I’ll use my Gogo connection to access the D-ATIS on my iPad for information regarding active runways and directions. This affords me the opportunity for a favorable position in the pattern and saves time and fuel.”
- Ground Services. Diversions don’t only call for navigating to a new place, but accommodating your passengers and crew once you get there. With connected apps, you can adjust your plans on the fly (so to speak): access terminal information, book hotels, order a car, and more. These capabilities make life more convenient in any circumstances, but can be crucial in time-sensitive business or medical situations.
James Elian, President and Chief Operating Officer of AirSprint, Canada’s largest provider of aircraft fractional ownership, shared the following story with the Gogo team when we were interviewing pilots and other airline personnel for our recent eBook, The pilot’s guide to inflight Wi-Fi: 6 considerations for why you should fly connected. It highlights how these benefits come together in a real-world scenario.
“On a recent flight, the passengers were notified via the Internet that there was a medical situation with a family member. They told the crew and asked to reroute. The team used the Wi-Fi to communicate with dispatch, have the office clear customs, gain approval from the flight operations team to land at the new airport, make arrangements for rental cars and hotels, and organize all the logistics for the crew at the new destination – all from the air.
Within 20 minutes, the flight landed with all necessary approvals and the family was in a rental car on the way to the hospital. Without Wi-Fi, we wouldn’t have even known about the issue until we hit the ground. It made the difference of hours or even days in getting our passengers to their loved one’s side.”
How inflight connectivity can supercharge your 4 favorite apps
When we ask pilots which apps they use the most, four names usually come up: ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, FltPlan Go, and MyRadar. Each of these apps is capable of good things without Wi-Fi, but can do so much more when connected.
ForeFlight lets you download a huge variety of detailed maps, charts, plans, checklists, and weather information without onboard internet. But with inflight Wi-Fi, you can access new data as soon as it's issued via an app notification and a single tap. Onboard connectivity also boosts ForeFlight’s map, weather, and flight planning features for more efficient planning and greater control.
Garmin Pilot, like ForeFlight, provides rich weather and navigation information that you can download to your device. But while the unconnected version lets you “preview how changing weather conditions might alter your flight,” onboard Wi-Fi delivers features like the ability to view current weather conditions and airport/navaid information at a glance.
FltPlan Go offers “powerful routing, weather, mapping features, and comprehensive aviation information” off- or online, but with inflight connectivity, can track your flight’s real-time progress, overlay the latest weather, automatically sync flight plans and more.
MyRadar focuses on weather, displaying animated weather radar around your current location. Onboard Wi-Fi enables it to access the latest weather info.
Inflight connectivity gives pilots the information they need, when they need it, to respond to current conditions with enhanced precision and accuracy. The app features that Wi-Fi unlocks are great, but the real advantage comes from what those features facilitate: greater situational awareness; more efficient flights; and pilots who are informed, confident, and in control.
For more information about how onboard internet can benefit pilots, read our eBook, The pilot’s guide to inflight Wi-Fi: 6 considerations for why you should fly connected, or get in touch with a Gogo connectivity consultant to talk about how we can help.