Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jepp MobileFD Matures, Slowly

As a company, Jeppesen is an enigma. A division of Boeing with a long history of quality and innovative chart products, they seem to have been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the EFB revolution. Jeppesen was a year late to the iPad EFB app party and while the latest update to MobileFD adds cool features, Jepp is so far behind their competition it's embarrassing. Still, the latest release does add some value to an already pricey app.

No-no, Geo-Ref

The most obvious feature that Jepp users have been waiting for - geo-referenced approach procedures - is still not available. You can get geo-referenced airport diagrams, so it obvious that Jepp knows how to provide this feature, they just haven't. And that makes the situation even more puzzling.

Rubber-Band, Man!

With the latest version you can do route planning with taps on the en route chart. The you can change your route on the same en route chart with rubber-banding - Tap, drag, drop to re-route. A dialog will appear with the available waypoints.

Chart Printing

Jeppesen has done something fairly radical (for them) in this release: Users now have the ability to print approach charts, SIDs and airport diagrams directly from the iPad without having to install and use Jepp's infamously buggy PC software. Printing from the iPad is especially handy if you aren't a PC user (the CD-ROMs that Jepp sent with my MobileFD subscription were never opened). For my printing needs I use Printopia running on my MacBook Pro, which allows me to print from my iPad to my HP LaserJet 2015. It works like a champ.


Other Enhancements

A new screen lock button prevents inadvertent screen input during critical phases of flight. Especially handy to prevent unwanted tap input while flying in turbulence.

Readers may recall my lamenting about the Clear button on the route window deleting everything; The route, origin, and the destination as well as the all the alternates. Jepp developers have done the sensible thing and Clear now just clears the route, which is a big improvement.

There's a new GPS status icon that is always visible near the top of the screen, but the maddening part is you have exit the app and to go to the iPad Settings to enable the GPS. What's more, there isn't just one setting, but two; one for en route position display and one for terminal (though you only get geo-referencing on airport diagrams). It's beyond me why the app can't just recognize when a GPS receiver is available and use it. Perhaps Jeppesen's larger customers don't want their flight crews using unapproved GPS receivers?

Once your GPS receiver is configured, you can proceed direct-to anywhere on the map by tapping, but the interface is quirky: Proceeding direct-to a waypoint actually alters the waypoints contained in the route; waypoints you may have spent a lot of time entering. Bummer about that. And try as I might, I couldn't find a way to activate a leg in the route. Jeppesen implementation of this commonly understood feature borders on the bizarre.

Documents in the Cloud

If you subscribe to Jeppesen's Document Management Service you can upload your documents and have them pushed to authorized devices via a proprietary cloud interface. You need to enable this feature in iPad Settings and then you'll see a login dialog appear in Jeppesen MobileFD. This document feature will be very useful for operators who need to distribute OpSpec manuals and other company documents, though one wonders how much that service costs. At any rate, the document cloud doesn't appear to offer much utility to the average GA pilot.

Uncertain Conclusions

Jepp MobileFD has the dubious distinction of being the priciest iPad EFB solution out there, yet it seems that Jeppesen is more interested in the Big Fish than the average instrument pilot. If you still must have Jeppesen charts, then this is what you have to work with. It ain't all bad, but Jeppesen certainly could and should offer more given the app's price tag.

1 comment:

capnaux said...

Thanks for the great explanation!

I don't have Jepps on my iPad (yet), but thank you for mentioning Printopia. Gotta try that! My HP sprint can be a royal pain....