The solo flight gets closer, finally I will have to get a navigation program for the iPad – I really do not want to get lost in the traffic pattern during very first solo flight.
Originally, I had already decided on Sky Demon, but there was one problem: while I considered Sky Demon to be the best program, available right now, it costs more than 200 € a year, which is rather expensive. In addition, it is one a subscription-basis that has to be renewed after a year.
By chance I meet a fellow pilot who has installed both, Sky Demon and AirNav Pro. He is using the latter program for flight planning, which makes me wonder if I should take a close look at it.
AirNav Pro is available at less than €50 in the Professional Edition. They also offer a cheaper Light edition at around 15 €. There are downloadable maps available for all of Europe. For an additional 60 € you can install the latest ICAO charts for Germany, which I need to use being a student pilot.
In comparison to Sky Demon, AirNav Pro has another advantage: it is compatible with Microsoft Flight Simulator, Prepar3D and X-Plane. This way, I can practice operating it at home on my desk. This is a major benefit because as plane’s cockpit is a really bad place to get acquainted with a new navigation software.
AirNav Pro seamlessly works together with the flight simulation programs as well as the Garmin GPS module designed for the iPad. Once the Garmin is coupled via Bluetooth, it acts as an internal GPS sensor. If you want to, you may even use the GPS sensor of an iPhone for the iPad.
Per se, the two programs are very similar. Sky Demon has the advantage of vector graphics, which can be zoomed as desired, while Air Nav is based on an image file of the ICAO map which can be a little pixelated depending on the zoom level. But it is not really bad.
As with Sky Demon, you get the current METAR data and TAFF predictions with AirNav Pro. When you plan a flight, however Sky Demon is superior: Although you can easily add waypoint using your finger in both programs, SkyDemon will show you a list of possible problem areas, such as mountains or restricted air spaces. AirNav Pro also misses a list of current relevant NOTAMS, hopefully that will be fixed in the upgrade.
An important advantage of both programs in relation to paper maps is that you can tap onto an airspace or aerodrome and all relevant details will be displayed, such as the length and direction of the runway.
It is also good that all reporting points are displayed on the map – the paper map shows many of the compulsory reporting points, but not all of them. Each item can be defined as the destination, or you can assign it to the HSI, which similar to a VOR indicator, showing the direction and the corresponding radial.
You can purchase additional approach charts, not as an in-app purchase, but via an external subscription management system.
I really like that there is a feature that allows you to note take off and landing times with a single click. Individual flights are recorded in a log book, but be careful that you don’t mix up your real world flights with your virtual ones.
Last but not least there is a HUD view showing the terrain in front of the plane, which requires you to buy an additional data package for 60 €. This is properly a good option when you fly in the mountains, here in the open country however, it is an expensive option and not really necessary.
Overall, AirNav Pro appears to be a useful app at reasonable cost.