Men don’t like to ask for directions. We’ll do just about anything to avoid looking lost, including spending billions on an array of satellites and creating a global positioning network just so we never have to admit to some gas pump jockey that we have no idea where we are.
Flight simmers are no different. I’ve got aeronautical charts on my desk, I use the built-in GPS frequently in flight, and yet I’m always on the lookout for new tools that will help me navigate. That’s why I was immediately intrigued when I heard about iGmap, a new application for the Apple iPhone/iPod Touch, from FSWidgets. It combines paper maps (for the US, anyway) with a moving-map functionality, all of which fits into the palm of your hand.
The software has two parts; a server that runs on your FSX PC, and an application that runs on your iPhone or iPod Touch. The iPhone can display 10 different styles of map, including what looks sort of like Google’s maps, shaded terrain (like the FSX GPS), and even sectional charts or terminal area charts for the US. Once fully connected to FS, it shows an airplane icon that indicates where you are in the virtual world, which is centered on-screen.
To use it, you run the FSWidgets Network Pack (the server) which is free of charge. This is the software that communicates with FSX or X-Plane to get your current position and heading. You start your flight, then click “Start Server” on the Network Pack. Now your computer is broadcasting your position over your home WiFi network.
Then you start up your iPhone/iPod and launch the iGmap app. Enter the IP address of the server and port (as listed on the Network Pack screen) and click the little aircraft button to connect to FS. And just like that, you’ve got a little moving map in the palm of your hand.
Why is this so cool? After all, we’ve already got the built-in GPS, right? Well for one thing, it provides the sectional chart view, which is rich with all sorts of valuable information like navaid frequencies, airport elevations and so forth. And I have to admit, I just think it’s fun that all this tech fits into something I can hold in my hand and reference during flight.
The setup on the software was incredibly simple and doesn’t seem to have any impact on frame rates. The iPhone app sells for $9.99, which is more than fair given the functionality offered. Even though it looks good and is very legible on the small screen, I can see how it’d be dynamite on a larger iPad screen. Hmm… oh god, my wife is gonna kill me.
I’ve only used iGmap for one evening’s flying, so I haven’t had a chance to try out all its features yet. Looking at the screenshot of the Network Pack, I see there’s a tick box for “send traffic data”, so it’s possible you can see the traffic on the hand-held as well. Now that is an interesting prospect…
Bottom line, I like this thing. Sure, you have to already have an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad for it to be of any use to you. If you do have one of these lying around, I’d highly recommend looking into this app. It’s the best ten bucks you’ll spend all week.