• QuickPlan for iPad and QuickPlan for Windows


    Gaiiden

    QuickPlan for iPad is a visual touch enabled flight planner that makes it easy to generate flight plans in native FSX, FS2004 or X-Plane formats. QuickPlan for Windows is a visual point and click flight planner that makes it easy to generate flight plans in native FSX, FS2004 or X-Plane formats.

    So obviously the only difference between the two is touch vs. click. Wrong, really wrong. I want to convey to you how quick and easy it is to make a flight plan using QuickPlan using either method or maybe both but also to show you the differences between the two as well as several other really neat features.

    This is one of those simple but well-designed programs that almost everyone will say ‘Why didn’t we have something like this years ago’, or ‘What took so long for someone to bring this to market?’

    ‘Visual’ is the operative word throughout this review, and of course quick and easy. As a matter of fact, building a flight plan could not possibly be any easier than what I’m about to show you.

    What’s a Widget, you ask.

    Noun: 1 A small gadget or mechanical device. 2 An application, or component of an interface that enables a user to perform a function or access a service. I like the number 2 definition better, and add FS in front for Flight Simulator and you have FSWidgets.

    This is the brain child one of those long time developer teams located down under, meaning Australia. Before we had FSWidgets, we had a roomful of Utilities from none other than TweakFS. These are some of the most innovative and useful utilities for FSX that you can imagine - those little things that just make life so much easier when messing around with FSX but not actually flying. (See About FSWidgets at the end of the review)

    Ahead of our Time

    One of the advantages of doing business on the internet and working in Australia is that they are always a day ahead of us flight simmers living in the US. It is easy for FSWidgets to come up with all these nifty programs because they are always working in the future. Simple. If you want to know what will be happening tomorrow, email one of your flight sim friends in Australia, it is tomorrow there already.

    Tell me more . .

    When you finally think that all the really neat stuff is behind us, along comes a few of these knock your socks off kinds of programs. Simple, straight forward, only does a couple of things, but does them the way you would like to do them.

    Many of us flight simmers have no idea where our next flight will originate, where we will land or what we will see along the way. What we need is a nice big map or let’s say maps staring us in the face and asking the question: See anything interesting? Where would you like to explore this beautiful world today?

    After panning around a bit and finding a likely place to start a flight, one click in the upper left will get you started building a flight plan. This is very visual, so you will be looking at your route and waypoints as you are building the flight plan.

    One of the first neat features is a freeform mode and an advanced mode. You can use either or a combination of both. Remember, only a touch or tap on the map adds a departure airport or place (more about this later), another tap for or two for waypoints and a touch or tap for the destination airport or place. For the windows folks, just think of click instead of touch or tap.

    During plan creation you also have the opportunity to add or remove any of the intermediate waypoints right up to the minute you save the plan in your preferred format.
    The second neat feature is that you do not need any nav aids, airports, or any identified location to build a flight plan in the Freeform mode - nary a one. This is intended mostly for all us low and slow, seat of the pants guys and gals and all those backcountry flyers with those big ole oversized tires or floats, but can be used by anyone at any time.

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    Simply tap anywhere on the map and QuickPlan will allow you to add that place as a generic waypoint. VFR pilots often use towns, lakes, bends in a river and other unique geographic features and with QuickPlan you can add any spot on the base map. Plans created this way label the waypoints automatically with generic names (e.g. DEP, WP1, WP2, ARR). This is the freeform mode.

    Let me explain the difference between an airport and a ‘place’. Let’s say you want to start you flight from your back yard or a river or lake, the freeform mode would simply assign the precise coordinates and name it DEP for departure. Same goes for your arrival. It does not have to be an airport or some designated landing area, it just needs to be a ‘place’, and QuickPlan will record the coordinates and name it your ARR for arrival.

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    Flight plans are saved to the app Documents folder and can be exported using the iTunes File Sharing feature. For a more convenient file export solution you can use the built-in Dropbox support to easily transfer flight plans to your Mac or PC.

    Dropbox is free at this time with an initial free 2GB of personal storage. Dropbox is expanding and offering free additional storage space for simple things like sharing photos to add another 1GB of storage.

    Should you own the FSWidgets Cloud Based World Nav Data you can create more advanced flight plans by tapping on any of the icons displayed on the map to add them as waypoints - airports, VOR's, NDB's and intersections. Plans created this way label the waypoints automatically with airport and navigational aid identifiers taken from the Nav Data (e.g. KSFO, OSI, LV, FABLA). No typing required in either iPad or Windows. This is the Advanced Mode, and yes, you can mix up the plan with some unmarked checkpoints. You can have a little Advanced and a little Freeform in the same flight plan.

    Will it work this easy on my PC?

    FSWidgets would like for all customers to download a full working demo of their products. These demos either have an active time limit or a geographical limit for the maps and such. The idea is that you will know how the program will perform for you on your system, what it really looks like, what it feels like, and not rely on guess work.

    The QuickPlan demo includes the greater San Francisco Bay Area with all the bells and whistles.

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    The bells and whistles in this case is the use of the World Nav Data for the bay area. This is exactly the same data as the full version, just restricted to the demo area. You can build and save flight plans and get the feel for the simplicity and speed on your PC with no time limit.

    The full add on product for the World Nav Data (cloud based) is $9.95. This is one of those items that can be used with almost all the FSWidget map applications. Full world coverage, 33,000 airports/seaports, 6,900 heliports, 3,600 VOR, 7,200 NDB, and 112,000 intersections. You use these to overlay whichever map you choose to use.

    You click or touch to reveal detailed data, like name, ID, frequencies, runways, etc. anywhere, anyplace, anytime. This is a seamless addition and is loaded on-the-fly as you need it. You control how much or how little you want to see with a touch or click.

    The base map is powered by CloudMade Leaflet API (using OpenStreetMap data), a Google look-a-like world map.

    Whoa. What is this Cloud Based stuff

    ‘Cloud Based’ is a new buzz phrase we haven't heard much about in the flight simulator world, but I was surprised how popular it is, especially with the smart phones and IOS community.

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    I was introduced to ‘the cloud’ just last week when I did the Avsim review of SimPlates X Ultra. This is 80,000 approach chart pages available for flight simmers. Their server based data exceeds 100 GB. How would you like to download and maintain that file?

    The principle is simple. All the charts and nav data is housed on a central server. The FSWidgets data is located in a new high speed server complex in Irvine, CA just down the road from John Wayne airport in Orange County.

    In simple terms it means you purchase access to a data server. The primary benefit is the user does not have to download, install, geo-reference or configure any of the chart files like in the old days.

    With Cloud Based data, the user has access to all that data without the overheads. The map is smart and only loads what is needed to cover the viewable display. All the data you see on the map is being delivered "over the air" to your device or PC, nothing much is on the hard drive (aside from perhaps a few small cached files).

    T_Pg_4_Server.jpg

    Not only is it simpler for the user but, for example, in the case of the "US Sectionals" data it avoids the need to download and install 3.68GB of chart images. If you have the full set you could be up over 20GB.

    With these web-based mapping systems you purchase the Cloud Based products, enter your email and keycode and the system recognizes them and adds the products to the app menu. Should you buy more charts the system automatically recognizes your Cloud credentials and adds the newly purchased data. Smart, smart.

    So what does it look like?

    The iPad edition and the Windows edition are very similar with only the touch controls looking a little different. Because the free downloadable demo has the San Francisco Bay area included in both editions, we will look at that area first. Both screens load with the Google clone map.

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    Google clone map
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    QuickPlan for iPad start screen

    The small green airport boxes are from the OpenStreetMap data and are visible in the zoomed view throughout the world. This base map covers the earth and is easily zoomed or panned.

    T_Pg_5d_greenboxes.jpg

    I have mine set to use the mouse scroll wheel for zooming and sometimes I get a little zealous.

    It is probably smarter to use the zoom keys until you get a feel for the redraw time.

    Without the optional World Navdata pack this is mostly used for getting familiar with the detailed world map. With the addition of nav data it becomes a very useful flight planning product.

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    Using the dropdown box for Navaids, we can now click on Airports, seaports, heliports; the VOR and NDB beacons; and if you need them, lots of intersections and fixes. This is where QuickPlan starts to shine.

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    Intersections everywhere

    Weather is included.

    For you simmers that like real time weather, this is for you. World-wide Metar and TAF Data icons are added with a touch or click. When you touch or click the WX Station icon the current Metar and TAF along with date and time is visible.

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    One touch or click on the US Nexrad (Next-Gen Radar) Data icon and the map is populated with the current weather in color no less.

    The weather presentation is a little boxy when zoomed in, but effective. This is the real weather for that location at that time.

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    Building a flight plan for FSX
    .

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    Both editions have the free Cuba/Puerto Rico WAC Cloud Based Chart included. A real time saver is the ‘Search for Airport’ worldwide by ICAO identifier with a go-to feature.

    Flight plan waypoint icons can also be clicked on to display the waypoint ident, lat/long, heading and distance information.

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    If you own any FSWidgets Cloud Based Aero charts, enter your details in the Registration panel (see Preferences icon, then Registration button) and your products will be automatically loaded into the list.

    The chart data is displayed as an overlay on top of the base map and you can toggle the data on/off as desired, or if you fly outside of the coverage area you can simply continue flying with the base map. Being Cloud Based means there are no big files to download, the data is stored on servers and delivered as requested by the map and your selected Navaid Data options.

    To add an airport to the flight plan simply touch or click on that option at the bottom of the popup (only visible when the QuickPlan mode is active while creating a new flight plan).

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    The airport info window can contain a lot of information, especially at large airports with many runways and the data is split into sections (Runways, ILS/Localizer and Frequencies). Click on the green down arrow or anywhere along the line (e.g. Runways) to expand or fold that section.

    The Zoom Out and Zoom In buttons are fairly self-explanatory, but you can also zoom using your mouse scroll wheel, and zoom into an area by pressing Shift and dragging on the map (see Preferences section below).

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    The Resulting Flight Plan file

    The auto generated flight plan file can be FSX, FS9 or X-Plane. You simply choose when you point or touch the Save icon at the upper left of the window or screen. Prior to saving you can revise the plan by simply clicking or touching a waypoint and then selecting to delete it or not. A click or touch will pop up the information box if you just want to know more details.

    Almost everyone is aware that Reality XP GNS units will not import or read default file plan files. This does not preclude you from grabbing a screenshot or printing out the relevant waypoints and adding them to your favorite flight plans folder for manual input to your Reality XP units at some later date or on the fly.

    Using Freeform to Navigate through Mountain Passes

    Here’s an example of a building a flight plan using the combination of Freeform and Advanced to climb and follow a mountain or valley when taking off from a high elevation airport North of Lake Tahoe. Just a simple touch or click to zig and zag to avoid plowing into the rocks on those early morning flights.

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    The World and the Moving Maps

    The Base Map with the 12 variations is a welcomed feature. This is the entire round world on a flat screen that is fully zoom-able and easily pan-able. Both QuickPlan packages include the free Cuba/Puerto Rico WAC chart pack. There is nothing quite like sitting down and exploring a new country or the back country or just sightseeing at random. A click or touch or two will add the navaids for anyplace you happen to be, provided you did purchase the almost necessary Navdata, and a few clicks or touches later you will have a saved flight plan ready for your next flight.

    Of course you can stay in the Bay Area for some time and explore that beautiful area and use the demo without a time limit.

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    Screenshots using QuickPlan with some optional U.S. map packs.

    T_Pg_12a_Chart3.jpg
    U.S. Terminal Chart 1:250,000 scale 3.43 NM/inch (30 total)
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    U.S. Sectional Chart 1:500,000 scale 6.86 NM/inch (54 total)
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    U.S. WAC Chart 1:1,000,000 scale 13.7 NM/inch (21 total)
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    U.S. Low Enroute IFR Chart scale varies (5 -7 NM/inch typical) - also covers Caribbean islands (8 – 19 NM/inch typical)

    How about some scenery for the area?

    If you are up to it, you can download some of the best scenery available for this area and it is totally free. If you like it as much as I do, you can make a PayPal donation to the Blue Sky team in any amount you like. The entire demo area is available as enhanced photo-real scenery with upgraded airports and some 3D scenery at http://www.blueskyscenery.com/CA.html

    These are generally very large zipped files but the resulting FSX scenery is worth the effort and it’s totally free. Three blocks should cover the demo area quite well and get you started. Most of California is available but be aware that this will take a big chunk of your hard drive storage space. You could just wait for the MegaSceneryEarth v2.0 scenery expected sometime this year.

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    What about us Mac OS users and Android Tablet users?

    Both groups are well represented at the FSWidgets site. I even suspect the original programing was done on the Mac.

    I don’t have a Mac or Android so I can’t tell you any more than what I read at the website, but it appears to be identical to the Windows version. I did pick up this tidbit in the requirements section: a Mac desktop or laptop running Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later is required along with all the requirements listed in the windows box below.

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    A cursory review of the information posted for the QuickPlan for Android and the GMapHD for Android reveals an almost exact list of features as the iPad. One thing that may be of interest is a statement that the optional GMapHD for Android pack requires a minimum Android OS of 2.2 (Froyo). This may leave out some of the earlier tablets. Download the free demo to make sure it runs on your tablet.

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    Conclusions

    Publisher: FSWidgets
    Platform: FSX
    Reviewed By: Ray Marshall
    This is the best flight plan building software that I have seen. It is totally visual. You see, you touch or click and you can build a flightplan for FSX, FS9 or X-Plane with ease. There may be other flight planning software out there with more bells and whistles but nothing even close to the ease of use, simplicity, and speed of implementing a solution.
    Quickplan includes a map of the world that is fully zoom-able, and easily pan-able with 12 color and style variations. Both QuickPlan for iPad and Quickplan for Windows include the free Cuba/Puerto Rico WAC chart pack.

    With the optional World NavData add-on this package can be all you ever need for basic flight planning.

    You can do ‘what ifs’, updates, or changes right up to the minute that you press the ‘Save File’ icon. The flight plans can be read directly into the default Flight Planner so you ready to fly when you start up your flight simulator.

    Recommendation

    Once you have seen enough of the San Francisco Bay Area in the free demo, you can purchase the unlock code and have the world as your playground. Purchase QuikPlan for iPad or QuickPlan for Windows with the NavData World companion pack that works with all the FSWidgets map programs and you can then use the advanced features of QuickPlan.

    Choosing to start with the Windows edition and the optional U.S. Sectional Charts pack would be an outstanding addition to any desktop simulator. See them all here (http://fswidgets.com...ex.php?cPath=22)

    The best value seems to be the QuickPlan for iPad with the optional iGMapHD package that includes the NavData World pack and all the optional map packages that I mentioned in the review. This gives you the whole enchilada. The full list off all that is included would run off the page. Check it out here. (http://fswidgets.com...?products_id=63)

    Then What?

    While using the demo or a recently purchased QuickPlan you will see the ease of using moving maps and how they support your flight simulator desktop. The next step is to expand either your IOS iPad or Windows environment with more detailed flight maps. The United States has the most detailed and most affordable real world flight maps that can be used with our flight simulators. Other counties around the world have flight maps but they are just not nearly as detailed and up-to-date.

    Choosing to fly in U.S. airspace you will have available the entire sectional chart series, the terminal chart series, the WAC series, low enroute IFR, and high enroute IFR series for the lower 48 states. Alaska has its own Sectional and WAC coverage. Either QuickPlan package includes the free Cuba/Puerto Rico WAC map pack. These are all Cloud Based so practically any PC will display them with ease. They are seamless, colorful and readily available with free GMap viewers.

    Displaying your QuickPlan flight plans on a 2nd widescreen monitor with the free Gmap browser edition or on your iPad with the optional moving maps that show your flight position and progress is a major step forward.

    Other parts of the world have the ONC or Aero Charts. There are specific packages for Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South America.
    The IOS iPad has a dedicated award winning new Cloud Based map package for the flight simulators. iGMapHD actually includes all of these optional map packages along with the worldwide Nav Data in a new updated version 3.0 for one low price. This is the most feature packed add-on you can find. Should you add an iPad to your flight simulator environment you can truly have the world at your fingertips. This has to be the most outstanding value available. Check it out here. (http://fswidgets.com...&products_id=52)

    FSWidgets also has an EFB (electronic Flight Bag) for iPad, for X-Plane and for FSX. This virtually does away with the need for paper charts and other physical copies of documents such as aircraft operating manuals, performance data, approach charts and checklists. It is designed to minimize a pilot's workload and head-down time, delivering a virtually paperless cockpit environment. This is the subject of a future Avsim review. All the optional map packages can be used with the EFBs.

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    QuickPlan for iPad images

    The features for QuickPlan taken from the website link.

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    About FSWidgets (taken from online blog)

    FSWidgets is a software development team based in Australia, specializing in add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator and Laminar Research X-Plane. Both of its founding members have extensive experience in creating award-winning add-ons for Flight Simulator and have been active in the flight simulation community for well over a decade.

    FSWidgets is a two-man team - John Hnidec and Fermin Fernandez. They operate from separate offices, 1,000 miles apart – Fermin in Melbourne and John in Brisbane.

    The website title states "Innovative Gadgets for Flight Simulator and X-Plane" so their focus is on creating new, perhaps never-before seen technologies as applied to desktop flight simulation - or at least a new take on an existing idea. Their 15 or so years of experience in the industry have created a very large body of work and they share two AVSIM Bravo Zulu awards between them (2002 and 2011).

    John has brought many firsts to the FS genre like Moving Map for FS98, FSFlightMax and FSGarmin for FS2000/FS2002, including the first known SimConnect-enabled application called SlewAssist (just three weeks after FSX was released). Most recently he produced two Android map apps and the terrain awareness app for iPhone called SimTAWS.

    Fermin (creator of the TweakFS utilities and ATC Adventures) joined forces with John in 2004 and added the first Electronic Flight Bag (plus GMap) for FS2004, FSX and X-Plane. Lately he also added moving map apps for the iPad, iPhone and Mac OS X to their product line, as well as Cloud Based aero data for GMap and their other supported mapping applications.

    The goal of FSWidgets is to continue to produce great products, give first-class support and via their work provide some extra enjoyment for flight simulation enthusiasts.

    Credits:
    http://fswidgets.com...roducts_new.php and Fermin Fernandez for providing the evaluation software and answering all my questions.

    Bush wheel artwork – Alaskan Bushwheels – www.akbushwheel.com for artwork for big wheeled Cessna image.

    Wipaire, Inc. for photo of Cessna Skylane on floats showing off Wipline 3000 Floats General media use of sales info from website www.wipaire.com Lots of great links for those interested in floatplanes found at this site.

    San Francisco Bay Trail Project map at Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

    Panoramic view from Coit Tower in San Francisco, showing Bay Bridge, the piers and Downtown This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike. Armin Hornung Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

    http://www.blueskyscenery.com/CA.html Freeware high resolution scenery available for download for FSX and FS9. California ChiliView Series shown.


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