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WEATHER - Your aviation resource

A growing number of general aviation pilots traded in their dedicated handheld aviation GPS units for iPads paired with a variety of apps and accessories – providing even more features than before at a lower cost. The FAA gave its official nod, allowing iPads to be used in lieu of paper charts in commercial airline cockpits, and American Airlines started issuing the devices to its pilots. For the GA crowd, iPad apps like ForeFlight and WingX matured as they combined pre-flight planning features, checklists, charts, approach plates, moving maps, weather and traffic into one device. The release of Garmin Pilot, that company’s app entry, was one of its biggest announcements this year. Accessories brought even more features: Uncertified receivers that once cost thousands of dollars are now several hundred dollars. The units, some using Wifi or Bluetooth, sit atop the glareshield and bring near-realtime weather information and ADS-B-derived traffic data to the iPad’s screen.

It’s no secret that the Great Recession was a serious blow to many general aviation manufacturers. After several years of sluggish sales and thousands of layoffs in the industry, there were signs of recovery in 2012. Piper found specialized contract engineering work to keep some of its workers busy and renegotiated the terms of economic incentives from state and local governments in Florida to avoid having to pay back $10 million in grants. Cessna rolled out upgrades to two of its most popular business jets, announced plans for expanded production in China for new customers there, and unveiled a diesel-powered Skylane, for which fuel is less expensive and easier to find compared to avgas. Through the first 9 months of the year, overall GA deliveries were only slightly higher than the same period in 2012. But a particularly bright spot was deliveries of new turboprop aircraft, up 10 percent compared with a year ago. And buyers are picking up used aircraft at a more brisk pace than before, though the glut of used planes for sale means prices remain relatively low.