Sunday, November 18, 2012

FlyQ - YAEFB


Borrowing an idea from Hamish's YAFB (Yet Another Flying Blog), it's time to test drive Yet Another Electronic Flight Bag - FlyQ. FlyQ is the result of a partnership between Seattle Avionics and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and while the app does pretty much what many other EFBs do, this marketing partnership has created some controversy (more on that later). FlyQ is available for both iOS and Android, but I'll only be reviewing the iOS version (with so few people clicking on this blog's "donate" button, I can only afford one tablet device). The app provides five main features accessed by the buttons on the bottom of the screen: Airports, Weather, Plans, Maps, and Procedures. Along the top of the screen are buttons allowing you to toggle a split screen view, search for airports, lock the current view, adjust screen brightness, control chart downloads, and control app settings. The arrangement of functions is fairly logical and generally will let you access information quickly and with a minimum of taps.

Airports, but no Fuel

One of FlyQ's claims to fame is that it lets you access the AOPA airport directory. The search feature works very well, allowing you to enter any part of an airport's name and get relevant results. Still, AOPA's airport information doesn't contain one piece of information that virtually all aircraft owners desire - Up-to-date fuel prices. While ferrying an aircraft across the US, I found out the hard way that ForeFlight's fuel information is often lacking. We needed Jet-A without Prist and ForeFlight gave us several bum steers, but at least they were trying. Below is a list of nearby airports. I always get a kick out of seeing the Little Hands airport being shown (halfway down the list). I've flown over Bollinger Canyon many times and have searched Google Earth, too. Near as I can tell, there's no runway at that location.

Nearby Airports
Weather Where you Are

The weather interface is easy to use and helps you get a quick overview of the local conditions and forecasts. The winds aloft interface is confusing, or maybe it's just me? The gallery lets you access NWS graphics for freezing levels, icing potential, and radar for virtually all of the US. A serious oversight is no PIREP interface.



Flight Planing

The flight planning interface lets you enter the departure, destination, and a desired routing, but why no alternate airport? You can enter your own waypoints or let FlyQ do the work for you. Information on multiple pilots and aircraft can be stored. Finally an app that appears to account for fuel- and time-to-climb/descend! FlyQ also attempts to determine which altitude is more cost effective using forecast winds aloft.

Note the "Begin Cruise" and "Begin Descent" waypoints? Cool!

One problem is that if you define an aircraft that uses Jet-A, the app assumes you want all fuel calculations to be in pounds rather than gallons. Oh, contraire! With many Diamond aircraft using Jet-A and more manufacturers sure to follow, there should be an option for using the gallon measure for diesel-engine aircraft. Another problem is that you when you tap on File button to submit flight plan to the FAA, there's no confirmation dialog. If you tapped by mistake, well bummer about that ...


En Route Charts

As you'd expect, FlyQ provides electronic VFR and IFR charts. And it offers something ForeFlight currently doesn't - track-up display. Yes, there are folks who prefer track-up, even if the labels and printing on the chart are upside down. To their credit, Jeppesen is able to provide true track-up support with their data-driven charts while keeping all the writing right-side-up. That's easier to do when you control the chart data.



FlyQ lets you select various overlays on en route charts provided you have a network connection, but I couldn't find a way to animate the weather radar overlay on en route chart. The radar representation is not as smooth or professional-looking as ForeFlight's.



The TFR overlay is pretty good and should keep more than one pilot from coming to grief. The winds aloft overlay is a bit amateurish, with big, garish arrows that look like they belong with circus clowns.



Procedures

Seattle Avionics' claim to fame is geo-referencing on most FAA charts (yes, there are a few FAA charts that were not laid out to scale and cannot be geo-referenced). There is no way to create groupings of frequently used charts nor is there a way to quickly access charts for the current planned trip (departure, destination and alternate). So if you want a different terminal procedure, you'll have to search for the airport and access the procedures from the airport tab.




Subscription Costs

Download FlyQ from the iTunes store and you'll discover that you can test drive the app for free for 30 days. After that, you'll need to pony-up some cash. How much depends on what sort of flying you do. Non-instrument rated pilots will need to shell out $99 a year, which gets you geo-referenced VFR charts. If you want IFR en route charts and terminal procedures, you'll need to cough up $149.99 a year. The VFR subscription is less than what a Jeppesen Mobile FD subscription would cost, but more than a basic ForeFlight subscription. ForeFlight gives you geo-referenced VFR and IFR charts for $25 less per year, but you have to pay extra for geo-referenced approach charts. And ForeFlight doesn't  really offer a full-featured EFB for Android users. Bottom line: The FlyQ subscription may be attractive for Android users where there are few EFB options. For iOS users with access to ForeFlight, not so much.



One could argue that the justification for the additional cost of a FlyQ subscription is the synthetic vision feature, but frankly it seems a bit half-baked. Without AHRS input the PFD-like display seems more like a cockpit distraction, but I'll reserve judgment on this nascent technology.

Without AHRS input, the climb pitch attitude isn't shown.
Another nice feature (reminiscent of WingX) is a split screen view. Not so usable on an iPad mini, but very useful on a full-size iPad.



AOPA's Thirst for Revenue

Others have pointed out and I'll second the observation that it's odd to see a pilot and aircraft owner advocacy group marketing an EFB app. This isn't too surprising given AOPA's odd choices in the past (the short-lived and ill-fated wine of the month club). Since Phil Boyer's departure, AOPA seems to be on a never ending quest for "mo' money, mo' money, mo' money." This PR-driven approach has many pilots re-thinking whether or not they should continue their AOPA membership. Still, this marketing arrangement should not detract from FlyQ as an EFB app. It's a thoughtfully designed product with cross-platform support and the tablet marketplace needs more hardware competition. iPad owners who are happy with their EFB app of choice probably won't be jumping ship anytime soon, but FlyQ may be just what the doctor ordered for those pilots who prefer Android over iOS. Check it out!

3 comments:

Paul Tomblin said...

According to the FAA, the Little Hands STOLport has a 1325x50 runway but it isn't obvious on Google Maps.

John Ewing said...

I get the feeling there is a lot of out-of-date information in the various government databases.

Using ForeFlight, look up the weather for KOAK, then tap on "Near" (on the iPhone version) or "Nearby" (on the iPad). The first weather reporting station that appears is Alameda Naval Air Station - "Observation not available for ..."

Duh! Alameda NAS has been closed for over 15 years.

CG said...

I wish you a happy thanksgiving. I'm thankful for your thoughtful articles.