Technology and VRF Cross Country Flying
Technology and Cross country flying
I just completed a flight in an R44 from Canada to Mexico! What a beautiful flight. I wanted to share with you some of the technology that I used to assist with my decision making and to make the trip easier. Technology is a great tool when you learn to use it correctly. At the same time, I want to caution you from using it at the wrong time. With the increase in screens in the cockpit, there is an increase in distractions. Keep your head up and manage your distractions appropriately.
As for most things in life the 6 P’s apply. Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Using these apps ahead of time to plan and execute the flight made the flight much more enjoyable.
Weather is always one of the most important parts of a cross-country flight. It will be the difference between a good flight and a bad one. Fortunately for us, we were able to time our flight with multiple High-Pressure systems on our route, for a smooth flight.
To look for Highs I used the “Imagery” section of the Foreflight app to look at Canada and the USA.
Many times when doing local flights I will check the METAR and TAF for the closest airport and make a quick decision.
When flying across the country over several days, you need to zoom out and look at the overall picture. I use the “Weather Network” app to check the long-term forecast and set up weather alerts. The Alerts function proved helpful a few times lately.
Prior to flying, I put the airports that I will be stopping at on “Aeroweather” as a route. I erase the airports that I have passed along the way and then I can quickly get a look at what is ahead. I steal the altimeter setting for the next stop, and the sun up and sun down times. Note: Keep in mind when crossing time zones that the times given are in local.
Another App that I found quite beneficial is “Windy”. I use this app to check the winds and they have a useful overlay where you can look at various webcameras along your route, definitely a handy app.
I use “Foreflight” to plan the route (200-225 nm legs), check the weather, plan overnights and file the ICAO flight plan. It has been an invaluable app for me and it is one that I will not go without. I also have set up my e-logbook with Foreflight to quickly fill in after each flight.
Crossing the border:
For Filing an ICAO flight plan I used “Foreflight” which works very well. You can file it, activate it, amend or close it right from the app. What a fantastic setup. I love it.
I use “Flashpass” to file EAPIS when crossing the border. It is a breeze compared to using the government website and well worth the money.
I like to use the “Gyronimo App” for the helicopter that I am flying. You can check your weight and balance and see the performance of your helicopter. This app was created by Robinson Helicopter Company’s instructor and safety pilot Tim Tucker.
When arriving at a new airport:
I use “Foreflight” to look up the location of the FBO when en route. Many times they don’t answer the radio so I pair my phone with my Bose Bluetooth headphones to give them a heads up with our ETA and fuel requirements. If they don’t have fuel, I want to know before we get there!
We used two different devices to track the flight. I use a Spot and many of our clients use Spidertracks. We could share our locations with apps even when out of cell phone reception. Spot has its own app but with Spot buddy I can track multiple spot devices.
Once on the ground:
WEB BROWSER (Chrome/Safari)
Once you land it is nice to call for a ride with UBER (if it is available) and look up a place to stay with a web browser. Many times the local FBO will get rates with a hotel but many times we had to look them up ourselves.
Cross-country flights are such amazing adventures but can be stressful with new airports and weather challenges. When you use the 6 P’s with great technology, it makes the flight easier, safer and more enjoyable.
I wish you many great cross-country flights and would be happy to chat with you if you are planning your next trip and need some assistance.
Here are the apps that I use regularly when doing a cross-country flight.
– Luke Yanik