Monday, July 02, 2007

AirNav VFR

Flight hours: 0
Aviation Reading: Aviation Magazines

Over the last few months I have had a few emails from readers asking about the web-based application I designed to help with tracking the aircraft hours and maintenance as well as whether I use flight planning software. This post will be about the flight planning software I use.

This article was written sometime ago, however I never got around to taking screenshots of the software. Seeing as George, a work colleague from Western Australia and fellow pilot, will be in Sydney for a work junket in the next few months, I decided to quickly whip up a flight plan for a possible trip we will take and present some screenshots on the process as well as telling you why I choose this piece of flight planning software (for Australia).

The software I use is AirNav VFR from Sentient Software.

The reason I chose this software is primarily for its point-and-click interface on official Airservices Australia maps. I can essentially plan flights on suitable maps and instantly cross-check them with airspace requirements, PRD type zones and selecting suitable waypoints. Totally cool!

Below is a planned route. I simply opened the three charts to determine the best route (WAC, VNC and VTC), double clicked on Bankstown for takeoff and proceeded to mark my route via easily identify features or points of interest. Click on the picture for a closer look.

In addition, it has a whole swag of features such as adding notes to the flight plan on the actual map, GPS coordinate uploads into my GPSMap 296 (it's in a standard format so it can be used on most GPS's), moving map display options (if you take a laptop/tablet PC with a GPS connection) etc.

Below you can see how useful it is to make thorough notes in the planning stage so as the flight progresses, you have taken some considerable workload off your in-cockpit decision making. Again, click on the picture for a closer look.

You can then print out official Airservices maps (Best to print them out on a colour printer to obatin the full benefit), customised to your flight along with flight plan details, navigation information, radio frequencies etc. Obviously, a safe pilot will also spend a small portion of the planning stages on basic cross checking of the software navigational plans with old fashioned real map work.

A final checklist helps ensure you have covered the major aspects of planning a cross country flight such as fuel requirements, altitudes to fly and even winds aloft so you can have your magnetic tracks already worked out. Goodbye E6B use for flight planning fuel burn, ETA's and wind correction angles.

I fully recommend that pilots (even students doing NAV’s) or hard-core simulation pilots, forget the competition to AirNav and seriously consider putting this piece of software into your digital flight bag. Primarily due to the fact that this is the only software with approved full colour Airservices maps which is one hell of an advantage as well as being generally easier to use than the others on the market.

The thing that blew me away is the cost of the software, starting at $225 for a map pack for instance Western Australian WAC’s, VTC’s, VNC’s, ERC-L and going to $300 for all VFR maps (You can also get IFR map packs).

Now THAT price is very reasonable, even for pilots flying low hours per year. In fact, if you think about the time you will save in planning a flight from fully traditional methods, you have certainly paid for the software many times over in just one or two cross country flights as well as improving your safety in the air by enhancing your ability to plan thoroughly thus reducing your cockpit workload.

The subscription for all maps currently comes to under $60 per year. So if you purchase the software and all the maps you will ever require, Sentient supplies you with all of the Airservices updates at that low price. You just cannot beat that.

Do yourself a favour and obtain a demo of the software (suited for Australia only unless you are a real hardcore overseas simulation pilot looking for reality planning). Email Paul Boxer and tell him OzPilot sent you. Alternatively give Sentient a call on (03) 9646 3331 (+613 9646 3331 for your overseas folk).

Note: I'm not employed by Sentient Software. This is just an unbiased post about how happy I am with the software and their customer service.