iOS Bluetooth Fix
Anyone who's used FFM with the Dual XGPS150 has undoubtedly run into the dreaded iOS6 bluetooth bug: The GPS connects but basically doesn't function. This is supposedly fixed in the yet-to-be-released iOS7, but when you run into this bug it's a huge drag. You have to jump through hoops to get it reset (the gory details can be found here) and it's a process you most certainly do not want to do while taxiing.
FFM 5.3 provides a way to directly connect to the Dual bluetooth GPS, but you'll probably need to update your Dual firmware to version 1.2.6. The only way to do this is with Windows. If you're a MacOS user, you'll need Windows running in a virtualization environment like Parallels or VMWare Fusion or access to a Windows computer. I used a Dell Mini that I keep solely for updating Garmin GPS databases. Yes, Jeppesen still doesn't provide a MacOS version of JSUM ... don't get me started. There's a specific sequence to doing the firmware update and you'll likely need to download a USB-to-serial device driver. Dual's instructions are detailed and well-written, but claim this is a "a simple and short process." Seriously? Another case of "The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away ..." if you ask me.
After 15 minutes of screwing around, installing the needed device driver, switching the white toggle switch to non-Apple mode, turning the GPS on, connecting the GPS to the Dell Mini, turning the GPS off, laying chicken bones around the device, and launching the installer I finally got the ball rolling. It was worth the trouble. I find my XGPS150 connects reliably to FFM. Sweet relief! Don't forget to put the little white switch back into Apple mode.
Approach and Taxiway Chart Overlay
FFM 5.3 lets you overlay an approach or taxiway chart on the map view. The effect is triply, but undeniably a huge aid to situational awareness. You access chart overlays using the Procedure button which is accessed through the NavLog edit function. It's a logical, but slightly cumbersome sequence.
|Step 1, Tap on Procedure|
|Step 2, Tap on the desired airport|
|Step 3, Select the desired procedure|
I've been using FlightAware to get email and text notifications of expected IFR routings for some time now. It is especially handy in Northern California where there aren't any published preferred tower-en-route routings and you seldom get "cleared as filed" unless you know (based on experience) what Norcal/Oakland Center is likely to assign. The problem with FlightAware is that you can only have a few aircraft set up for notifications and I fly a bunch of different aircraft. With FFM 5.3, this is no longer a problem.
Enter your desired routing or just enter a departure and destination. Tap on File & Brief, complete all the required fields, then file an IFR flight plan. After a while, you'll get a notification on all your iOS devices when the expected routing has been received. With one tap, FFM will enter the expected route into your navlog. Obviously, you'll need a network connection for this to work so don't expect this to necessarily work while sitting in the aircraft.
This is huge time saver, but it presents some issues in a teaching environment. Namely, instrument students should be able to read and evaluate obstacle departures procedures, SIDs, and en route charts to come up with their own routing. For instrument-rated pilots who are already proficient with interpreting charts, this really saves time.
Bang for the Buck
ForeFlight offers a continually expanding number of features, generally well-designed interfaces, and a lot of value for a reasonable subscription cost. There are other iPad EFBs out there, but it's not hard to see why FFM continues to be a big hit. And with regular, major updates, the hits just keep coming. Check it out!