Information displayed

The following is a short description of the information provided and functions accessible on screen while paragliding.

Altitudes Settings and Elevations

Depending on the vario app you are using, different altitudes can be displayed and toggled through by touching the altitude field. The default altitude is the GNSS mean sea level altitude. A blinking altitude field upon startup means your phone is trying to obtain a GNSS Fix. This will take just a few seconds if any at all.

GNSS Altitudes

WGS84 altitude as well as mean sea level altitude are taken from any of the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) including GPS. as they are both relevant for paragliding. While WGS84 altitudes are easily available, they are not used or displayed during flight but rather logged according to the FAI guidelines for IGC loggers.

As a standard altitude theFlightVario vario app will try to provide altitudes with regard to mean sea level where possible fusing GNSS and barometric readings from the smartphone’s internal pressure sensor.

Barometric Altitudes

Barometric altitudes are calculated from pressure readings of the built-in pressure sensor. Within the settings you can choose to set:

  • QFE - this is the pressure showing an altitude of zero when on ground of the aerodrome. QFE pressures can or rather should be fetched from the relevant aerodrome. To make that more easy we included a METAR lookup feature within the altitude settings. Simply select the four letter ICAO code to look it up.

  • QNH - this is the virtual mean sea level pressure (MSL) showing aerodrome elevation when on ground of aerodrome. Just as with the QFE pressure QNH can be looked up using the METAR feature.

You can also set these barometric altitudes as well as a manual one directly on the main screen. Touch to toggle the altitude field. Long touch on the altitude field to set the altitude.

Flight Level (FL) is a special barometric altitude that is calculated with respect to a mean sea level pressure of 1013.25 hpa and reported in hundreds of feet. For example:

FL125: 125 x 100 = 12500 feet

Note: Please bear in mind that the accuracy for barometric altitudes depends on the exact phone barometer and its installation within the phone. Some smartphone barometer combination might have a bigger systematic offset than others. We have very good experience regarding Googles Nexus and Pixel Phones.


Digital elevation models are used to provide an above ground level (AGL) information for the current location and a terrain profile for the direction of flight.


different types of distances are shown and calculated during the flight depending on the actual distance flown.

distance to start: this is the current distance to the start of your flight or where ever you started flying and logging with theFlightVario. the distance to start is being recalculated every second.

free distance: this is the longest one way distance between two logged GNSS positions of your current flight. The free distance is being recalculated roughly every 1000 meters from the last position it was calculated.

free 3TP distance: this is the 'longest distance' defined and calculated from a start and finish position and one to three turnpoints selected from logged GNSS positions. With no turnpoints specified beforehands, this distance is being recalculated on the fly roughly every 1000 meters from the last position it was calculated. To keep a balance of computing resources, free 3TP distance is being displayed as being greater or equal meaning some flight tracks may end up with an even bigger distance.

triangle distance: this is the closed course distance defined by a start and finish position and 2 or 3 turnpoints from logged GNSS positions. With no turnpoints specified beforehands, this distance is being recalculated on the fly roughly every 1000 meters from the last position it was calculated.

Triangles are calculated for closing distances less than 20% of the triangle distance. For shortest leg distances greater or equal to 28% of the closing distance FAI triangle otherwise Free triangle is being displayed. For closing distances less than 5% of the triangle distance these are closed triangles otherwise open. For more information on distances you can check the FÉDÉRATION AÉRONAUTIQUE INTERNATIONALE website.

Note: the loss of height distance correction is currently not implemented.


climb rate: the climb rate in meter per second is being calculated from pressure readings of the internal barometer or received from external devices connected via either USB or Bluetooth.

speed over ground: is being provided from the GNSS information and denotes the speed over ground into the direction your glider is moving to which is not necessarily the direction your gliders nose is pointing to.

speed of the wind: speed of the wind is being calculated. This is beta, meaning we’re not yet happy with the results or better the approach taken, so expect to have further updates on this!


magnetic north: If the magnetic compass is activated, this displays the current direction the phone, more precisely the upper end, is pointing to using the magnetic sensors of the phone. Make sure to optimally calibrate your phone’s compass by waving it a few times along the infinity pattern . If the compass is not activated the flight direction will be visualized. theFlightVario smartphone variometer features a worldwide compensation of the geomagnetic declination using the World Magnetic Model.

flight direction: The bearing is being provided from the GNSS information and denotes the direction you and your glider are moving to. Please note, that while not moving the GNSS cannot calculate a bearing which is why the GNSS compass will jump around in this case.

wind direction: Make half a turn to get a rough wind direction and speed calculated. Make a full turn to get accurate readings. Accurate and precise while thermaling and soaring but degrading when flying straight. This is beta, meaning we’re not yet happy with the results for flying straight or better the approach taken, so expect to have further updates on this!

Geographic Locations

theFlightVario currently supports two types of geo location information with text representations being displayed (alternating) in the upper left corner.

mountains: for selected countries mountains are visualized as symbols and the name of the closest mountain is displayed together with the current distance. This information is recalculated every couple of seconds

locations: depending on the network connection state of your smartphone the vario app tries to come up with a description of the location beneath you. This can be the name of the city or village you are currently approaching, the name of the broader area your flying over or the name of the road you see in front of you.

google map: with google maps activated a google map will be provided in the background. you can choose between a classic google terrain map and a customized energy saving flatland map highlighting roads, rivers, lakes and mountain areas as whole.

flight trace: a flight trace connecting the last positions that have been logged is being displayed.

Quick Buttons

Quick Buttons are located on the main screen within the climb rate indication bars for easy access during flight. Long touch the Quick Buttons to change the orientation of the screen, the flight map, turn on/off the Live Tracking or simply turn off the vario.


Glide Ratio: Tells you how many units (e. g. meters) you are flying horizontal for one unit of flying vertically. The Glide Ratio is calculated with a regression approach and color coded

Heat Maps: Thermalling spots will be visualized using heatmaps.

Duration: The current duration of the flight.

Getting Started

Before you get started with the XC Vario or any other of theFligthVario vario apps, you will need to

calibrate the sensors of your phone

Open the menu by either touching the hamburger icon on the lower left (touch the screen once to have it appear) or swipe from left to right. Under Device choose Calibration and perform the steps as indicated.

Calibrating the sensors of your smartphone

Calibrating the sensors of your phone is the most important things to enable your phone as a vario for paragliding. Since no phone and combination of sensors is exactly identical to another, it is crucial to measure sensor characteristics first. Calibration looks at the accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and barometer also referred to as pressure sensor. Depending on the precision, latency and drift characteristics of these built in sensors, the instant vario feature might be used.

xc vario calibrating sensors

Please note, that calibration has no effect outside theFlightVario apps. What happens in theFlightVario stays in theFlightVario.

Activate the Instant Vario - Optional

Activating the instant vario feature can only be done after successfully calibrating first. Depending on the grade of the integrated sensors, especially the built in barometer, different vario modes can be selected:

  1. AI Sense

  2. Fusion Boost

  3. Barometric Only

From the Menu choose Settings -> Instant Vario - Instant Vario Type:

AI Sense is the most sophisticated algorithm suite and works with phones that have nice combinations of sensors such as the Pixel 4a, Pixel 6 or comparable phones from other manufacturers. For some phones like the Pixel 6 this will be preset out of the box. We also made a short video to somewhat have a comparison of AI Sense phone vario performance vs. high end varios from SKYTRAXX, Flytec, Skydrop and XC Tracer

Fusion Boost is the predecessor of AI Sense and works also with mid level combinations of sensors where AI Sense might not work as expected. This mode is left for compatibility reasons and is expected to be removed long term.

Barometric Only is left for old or cheap phones where the sensors do not meet specifications. In this case, the AI Sense and Fusion Boost mode will simply "run off" meaning the absolute climb rate will get bigger and bigger. While one should not expect an old smartphone to magically include state of the art sensors, these phones still can perform quite good as a vario using barometric readings only .

Set the responsiveness of the variometer

Once you've got the sensors calibrated, you can set the responsiveness. The responsiveness defines how fast your vario will indicate a change in altitude / pressure. Initially this is set to be balanced, meaning there is a decent tradeoff between noise and true changes in altitude.

From the Menu choose Settings -> Vario -> Responsiveness:

xc vario setting responsiveness

Note: For the AI Sense mode, setting the responsiveness is not needed.

Vario Tone Settings

The acoustic feedback of a vario is by far the most important aspect of any vario used in paragliding as you will listen and depend on it for 90 percent while flying. This is why we dedicated a separate menu to it within the Settings and theFlightVario app itself. This is also why we added support for custom vario tone configurations using a vario tone editor such as the XCTracer Vario Sound & Config File Editor

Most of settings are preconfigured to match a typical standalone variometer. Nevertheless, have a look at what is being activated before your first flight. Also, we highly recommend to have the calibration routine run as this will make the most of your internal sensors for flying.

Vario Tone Curve

Predefined or custom vario tone curves can be selected for different conditions or preferences.

  • straight - this defines a roughly linear increase in tone frequency and decrease in cycle/duration times and a constant beep

  • responsive - this defines a logarithmic curve with a nonlinear increase in tone frequency and decrease in cycle/duration times, thus putting focus on lighter thermals

Configuration files from the afore mentioned Vario Sound Editor can be imported too. In this case choose:

  • custom - select a vario sound config file

The use of vario tone curve is currently limited to the xc vario. Support for the other lines i. e. basic, classic and fusion will follow.

Vario Tone

This one is straight forward and describes the general sound of the vario tones generated. You can choose between different tones from soft to intense in loudness. Once set, the volume will be set as always with the buttons of your phone.

Sink Threshold

You can select a threshold for the vario app to indicate a strong sink. Currently this is set to beeping for basic, classic and fusion and freely customizable for xc vario. Support for custom vario sound configuration for all lines will follow.

Lift Threshold

You can select the threshold for the vario app indicating a lift. Currently his is set to beeping for basic, classic and fusion and freely customizable for xc vario. Support for custom tone configuration for all lines will follow.

Prelift Threshold

You can select the threshold for the vario app to indicate to indicate a prelift zone. This is the zone around or close to a thermal that provides weak but not yet sufficient lift. Which is why we call it the prelift zone. You can choose thresholds between -0.3 m/s to +0.2 m/s. In this case you can choose to be indicated by single beeps or better a buzzer sound. You can also turn it off completely.


Choose the responsivenes here. We recommend to start with smooth or balanced first. This highly depends on the type of internal pressure sensor as some are precise but noisy others are less precise but not noisy. In case an external bluetooth or usb vario is connected, these settings are not relevant as readings are passed through.


Airspaces are supported and downloadable from within the app for most countries. Visualization is done on the map horizontally and/or vertically using the integrated terrain view. For details on alerting, vertical and horizontal distances and more have a look at the Airspaces page.

Terrain and Terrain View

Elevation data can be downloaded for almost any part of the world on a tile basis so phone memory will only be used for the regions you need. This elevation data is used to provide above ground level (AGL) altitude and vertical distances to airspaces with reference to ground level. For details have a look at the Terrain page

Waypoints and Waypoint Editor

Waypoints and navigation with waypoints are supported. In short, routes with waypoints are shown on the map with a dotted line towards the next waypoint. Colors are used to indicate the status of a waypoint.

  • A red waypoint means - not entered and not exited.

  • A yellow waypoint means - entered but not exited yet.

  • A green waypoint means - entered and exited.

You can navigate between waypoints and routes can be imported from .cup files. For details on waypoints and how to use the integrated waypoint editor and route planner have a look at the Waypoints page.

Live Tracking

Instant Live Tracking enables you to continuously share your location while flying with no need for an extra account and credentials. See Live Tracking for more details.

Connecting an external vario

you can connect external bluetooth varios or usb varios. Detailed information can be found on our Bluetooth Vario page.


the usage of external flight and alarm systems FLARMs containing information to alert pilots of potential collisions is coming soon. Support of

  • $PFLAU

  • $PFLAA

sentences is being currently being implemented but needs some more testing.