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Using Foreflight offshore in the GOM


Darren Hughes
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So I just recently decided to get myself a backup GPS for the days that my panel GPS decides to takes a dump and I'm out in the middle of the Gulf bouncing around between platforms.

 

I looked into handheld GPS devices that ranged between $100 and $2500. I was looking at around $1000 for something decent with a color moving map. I had heard good things about Foreflight for the iPad and heard that a few guys were using that as their backup in the GOM.

 

I went ahead and bought one of the new 32Gb Wifi only iPads(3rd gen) which set me back about $650 including tax. A XGPS 150 Bluetooth receiver was another $100. Finally Foreflight requires a $70/year subscription. Total coming to just under $850. Not a bad deal considering I was kinda wanting an iPad for a while now anyway.

 

Foreflight is awesome. You have your moving map for navigation and all that. But more importantly, you have a great preflight planning platform as long as you have a wifi internet connection at your base in the mornings, which isnt a problem in the company that I work for, otherwise you'd need the 4G model with a Verizon or AT&T supscription.

 

There is one problem though. The Gulf Of Mexico VFR chart is NOT supported on Forelfight yet. You do get some of the Gulf on the VFR charts from the States adjoining the Gulf. The screen is just grey as you go out deeper(I'll attach a picture so you can see). On the area that is covered, there are no lease blocks illustrated, but if you hold your finger on a point over the Gulf you'll get a popup telling you what lease block you're on. This won't work over the grey areas not covered by the "Land VFR charts", Kind of inefficient for us Gomers. You can input your own user waypoints using the coordinates of the platform or lease block you're going to(just as in the attached pic), so over time you'll have a nice little collection of points to chose from for fast efficient operation. Those user waypoints will even work in the grey areas and you can still get ETA, distance, heading, and leg fuel burn info for your chosen altitude.

 

Overall, I'm happy enough for now and I think my setup will still do in a bind, but it would be nice to have full coverage of the GOM. I've emailed the Foreflight people about it. They got back to me but refused to give any information as to when they might get around to supporting this one last chart.

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The MMS website (or whatever it's being called now) has a file with the lat/lon of every platform in the GOM, available for free download. It should be possible to put those on the ipad. I put them on my Palm and GPS back when I was using them out there.

 

There are much cheaper solutions. You can get a bluetooth GPS receiver off ebay for ~$15 that works fine, and any Android phone or tablet will connect to it. There are lots of GPS programs available, many for free, that will show the platforms if you put in the waypoints. Foreflight doesn't seem to do much for that area, so paying a monthly subscription seems like a waste of money, but it's your money to spend as you like.

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I went with the $100 GPS receiver because that's what Foreflight recommended. I didn't know they didn't have the GOM VFR chart until I paid the yearly subscription of $70. I just assumed it was there. I had used Foreflight once before on a friends iPad when I was flying in the Northeast and it really is a great tool, if only they'd extend their service into our area. I have it for a year now anyway so we'll see what updates come out for it. As ever, i'm the eternal optimist!!

 

I forgot to attach the screenshots, so here they are.

photo.png

photo1.png

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I bought a Garmin hiking GPS for $50 from a friend that accidentally was sent two when he bought a new Bose headset. It is all you will ever need. It gives you almost everything the one in the aircraft does (distance, direction, GS and ETA, etc.). No weather, but most of the light ships don't even have it in the aircraft anyway (mine does, it's handy). I have been in the Gulf for 5 years and IMO you wasted $600, but as Gomer said, you can spend your money however you want. When you move on to a larger aircraft, it will be $650 laying in the back of your closet! Edit: I see you wanted an ipad anyway, so you actually got quite a bit for the extra $200. I hate carrying around a lot a crap, so my one ounce hiking GPS works better for me (I would not take an ipad with me in every flight for "just in case").

Edited by helonorth
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The iPad is useful by itself, for other uses. I personally prefer Android, but that's just a matter of personal preference.

 

I remember using a Magellan Pioneer, one of the first handheld GPS units available, and I thought it was wonderful. We were using LORAN for navigation back then, including for IFR. Many of the small ships had nothing. I spent many hours crossing the Gulf with nothing but my watch, the wet compass, and a desktop advertising map that had the blocks on it. A sectional was too big to unwrap in the cockpit, so I didn't bother. I knew where I was from seeing the platforms in the distance, and most of us knew almost all of them by sight from 30 miles away. The LORAN would give up and die when there was a thunderstorm anywhere in the Gulf, and never worked when you really needed it. Onshore, the station geometry made it useless in Texas and much of Louisiana. That little GPS, with no moving map at all, just a bearing, distance, track, and speed, was worth ever penny I paid. K-Mart probably sold a hundred of them to Gomers in the early 90s. We got the sheet metal guys to make mounts for us, so we could hang them on the glareshield where we could see them. All the waypoints had to be entered manually, because there was no PC connection, and not many PCs around anyway. I eventually upgraded to a Garmin eTrex Legend, with moving map and a PC connection, so I could send it all the platforms and onshore bases, and I still have it as a backup. It does all I need it to do for that, and takes up very little space in my bag. Times change, always. Back then, paying almost a hundred dollars for that Magellan was a huge investment for me, and the Garmin was almost as expensive, although a couple of years later. Now you can get a handheld for the equivalent of about $20 back then, and it works as well. But new electronics keep being introduced, and they keep getting proportionally cheaper, so why not make use of them.

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I hate carrying around a lot a crap, so my one ounce hiking GPS works better for me (I would not take an ipad with me in every flight for "just in case").

 

I was carrying a 13" Macbook Pro and a Kindle with me every time anyway. So I've dumped them on the shore and carry only the iPad offshore. I'm now 3.6 pounds lighter!

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Ive been out of town a few days and missed the thread.... You fly out of rockport? PHI or Westwind? Here's the good thing about fore flight, if you type in VE200, it has the offshore database already and will take you to Vermillion200. Main pass 41 = MP4, etc. etc. . I've emailed fore flight for a list of the abbreviations they used for the different fields, no luck. Recently I inquired with the developers of fore flight and also garmin for their new app. Both said they'd look at implementing the chart. Foreflight is still the best option because of the database. Again, it's tricky to figure out what abbreviation they use.

 

Email the developers and request charts!!!!

 

Let's start a list for al the fields we figure out in foreflight.

 

VK - vioska knoll

Mp- main pass

Mc - Mississippi canyon

Lr - Lloyd ridge

Gc - green canyon

Gb - garden banks

Ss - ship shoal

St - south tim

Wd - west delta

Wr - walker ridge

Ec - east cam

Wc - west cam

Ga - galveston

 

All are as expected. Although I woulda thought vermillion to be VR, not VE.

 

The west side ones are more tricky. I don't fly over there much anyway, but I'd like to know what they are if you figure them out.

 

 

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If they gave you a coordinates book, all the proper abbreviations are in it. Double check with the chart as you could be going the wrong way. If you are going to South Pelto 10, don't look under SP, (that's South Pass) it's PL. Also, High Island Alpha is totally different than High Island. Not only will you get lost, your flight following would be looking for you in the wrong place.

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I've been lost in High Island before. The original High Island blocks only go up to 200-something, IIRC, and the addition goes up to past 500. I was flying pax I didn't know, and they wanted to go to High Island 180-something. I specifically asked if it was A-whatever or just HI-whatever, and they told me the wrong one. It was their platform,, but they didn't know the difference. Fortunately it was only 10 miles or so difference that time, but it can be worse. The block numbering system is flaky at best. Years ago, before the MMS put the blocks online, I wrote a computer program to get the center-of-block coordinates for every block. Some of it had to be done by hand, because the numbers in some areas didn't follow the same rules, they just seemed to be randomly numbered.

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Good plan Clay,

 

I'm a pool pilot for PHI so they have me bouncing around a load of different bases. Just happen to be covering a job in Rockport this week. It's a sweet gig!

 

MA is what they use for Mustang Island Alpha blocks. I figured that much out the other day.

 

 

That's all I've got to add so far! More to come though.

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Garmin just put out an update. I like it. Unfortunately still no GOM maps or database. If they will implement it, id probably switch to them and pay happily.

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The MMS website (or whatever it's being called now) has a file with the lat/lon of every platform in the GOM, available for free download. It should be possible to put those on the ipad. I put them on my Palm and GPS back when I was using them out there.

 

There are much cheaper solutions. You can get a bluetooth GPS receiver off ebay for ~$15 that works fine, and any Android phone or tablet will connect to it. There are lots of GPS programs available, many for free, that will show the platforms if you put in the waypoints. Foreflight doesn't seem to do much for that area, so paying a monthly subscription seems like a waste of money, but it's your money to spend as you like.

 

what are some of those free apps you use with your android device? what is the set up you are running.

 

i would love to have something with a moving map to add to flight on my phone.

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