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Because of its simplicity, coupled with seemingly endless amounts of data at your fingertips, ForeFlight is the perfect tool to use when you decide it's time to divert off of your flight plan. But you'll need to know what you're doing to make it all work.
Whether you're diverting for weather, emergencies, or even just to explore, learning how interpret the vast amount of information ForeFlight offers is an important skill for any pilot. The basics of "how to use ForeFlight" won't be covered here. Instead, if you're a current ForFlight user, you'll learn a little more about the best ways to choose how and when to divert. Let's get started...
You're flying near the Rocky Mountains having a great time, but that towering cumulus cloud ahead of you sure doesn't look like the little green speck shown on your radar. That's an all too common problem faced while flying, especially in more dry regions of the country. The XM or ADS-B weather you get inside the cockpit is slightly delayed, or the radar just isn't picking up the full scale of what you're about to fly through.
Use your eyes for this. Don't get in the mindset of "green means go!" If it's large and towering, it'll be best to go around the clouds. You might find some nasty turbulence and precipitation inside. So how do you pick your route? "10 degrees right" doesn't always give ATC a good measurement for when you plan to get back on your original course again, especially if you need to venture far off course. So instead of asking ATC for "10 degrees right," consider giving them some waypoints for your amended route around the weather.
It's so easy to do on ForeFlight. Press and hold on part of your route, and drag it on the map towards where you want to fly, to get around the weather. Let go over the desired spot and there you have it: a full list of waypoints nearby (with distances). Click on the waypoint you wish to use and ForeFlight will add it right into your flight plan. You can add as many as you need to get around the weather. Then call ATC back and request the new route.
They're some of the best words ATC can say to you... "Proceed Direct To ____." But if you have an extensive flight plan entered into ForeFlight, you might be worried about having to re-type out all of your waypoints. There's an easy way to get around that problem. From the flight plan menu, just click on the waypoint you'd like to go to next and select "direct to."
The rest of your flight plan won't be altered. ForeFlight automatically takes your current location, draws the direct course on the map to that waypoint, and keeps the rest of your flight plan loaded. Gone are the days of re-entering flight plans for simple "direct to" instructions. This is especially useful when diverting around weather.
There are plenty of reasons you should divert to a new airport, from poor weather conditions and emergencies, to passenger requests or even just for fun. But before you load in the new route and turn on course, there are a few things you should take into consideration.
Before you can pick a route, you'll obviously need a destination. Tap and hold anywhere on the map to bring up a box of nearby waypoints. Tap "airports" at the bottom of the box and you'll find a list of airports nearby. The distance information given is in relation to where you tapped on the map, NOT your current location.
As you choose airports, you'll want to consider: airport services, runway lengths, fuel required to get there, instrument approach procedures, NOTAMs, FBO options, weather, and what populated areas are nearby. Fortunately, all of the above is available to you within the app, even detailing many FBO options with photos and reviews.
Terrain and obstacles are something you'll want to be very aware of if you divert, especially if you're in IMC. Fortunately, once you've entered the route into your flight plan, click "Profile" to bring up the profile view of your route with altitudes compared to surrounding terrain. A green, yellow, and red color system shows the terrain and obstacles that might interfere with your new route.
Once again, don't forget to make a feasible route structure with waypoints that you can give to ATC if the routing is not direct. Along the way, check for TFRs that you weren't expecting. The last thing you'll want to do as you divert to a new destination is put yourself into even more trouble by violating airspace.
ForeFlight is a great tool for making quick decisions in the airplane. Make sure you know how to interpret the information in the app, and your next diversion will be a whole lot easier.
When was the last time you had to divert? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, commercially licensed pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings, and a commercial aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. Swayne's experience ranges from international flights in a King Air F90 to ferrying a 1943 Grumman Widgeon across the country. You can reach Swayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.