Friday, October 08, 2010

AvCharts for iPad

It was only a matter of time before a variety of EFB apps for the iPad became available, and that time is upon us! With different apps offering a variety features and performance, there are a lot of options out there. At $2.99US, AvCharts is nicely-designed and remarkably inexpensive app for displaying terminal procedures on the iPad. You read that correctly, that's a one-time expense of $2.99US. That is a less than the price of a single Aeronav terminal procedures booklet. While AvCharts does not display VFR or IFR en route charts, it has a clean, intuitive interface. And it does do something that other chart apps don't. Let's take a look at the features.

Terminal Procedures

To access charts for an airport, ensure you have a network connection and then tap on Airports/Charts. Enter an airport ID or any portion of the airport's name  in the search field and you'll see a list of matching airports.

Tap on the desired airport and you get a list of available procedures. Note that the list is divided into two categories: Saved Charts and Online Charts.  You can display a single chart by tapping on the title of the procedure or you can download all the procedures. If you previously downloaded one or more charts, you can delete them if you so desire.

Once you select a procedure to view, you can scroll and zoom using the usual gestures. The charts are crisp and clear, even when zoomed in.

Drawing on Charts

A feature unique to AvCharts is the ability to draw and take notes on any chart. Simply tap on the pen button in the upper right edge of the screen and you can draw or write with your finger tip. This feature has some limitations, the first being that there is no erase or undo-last function. The only way to undo what you've written or drawn is to tap the pen icon a second time, which erases everything you drew or wrote.

Nevertheless, this feature is great for highlighting important or peculiar portions of an instrument approach procedure, such as a NOTAMed change in minima. Here I've noted a change in the missed approach procedure due to the Oakland VORTAC being out of service. Unfortunately, there currently isn't a way to save notations on a chart: The next time you display a chart, any previously added notes will be gone.

Limitations and Enhancements

The obvious limitation with AvCharts is that accessing and downloading (caching) charts currently has to be done airport by airport. The developer recognizes that this is a serious limitation and is working on a download-by-state feature which should make this app much more user-friendly. The ability to save notations is also in the works. The drawing feature needs some enhancements like undo, erase, and highlight. Still, at $2.99US AvCharts is a good value. As the developer continues to enhance and upgrade this app, it should become even more useful. Check it out!

1 comment:

David said...

Very well done application. I love the simplicity. However, there is a bug that none of the reviewers have caught: after caching certain charts that are shared by various airports, like some departure process, or takeoff mins, it will display them for the airport you downloaded them for, but if a nearby airport uses those same charts, they won't show in the new airport's cached list.

For example, if I cache the entire chart list for OAK, which includes several arrival procs, the cached list for HWD wont show the ones that are shared. Another problem is the HOT SPOT list which includes several bay area airports, but it only appears in the OAK cached list.

That was the only serious bug in the app. I love how simple and intuitive it is, as well as how good the charts look when zoomed in--not like I'd need to, the ipad has a large enough screen for viewing the whole chart. The annotation feature could use some improvement, but all in all a great app with good potential.