The mobile expansion of real time information continues to increase as today’s pilot boards their aircraft with an electronic tablet loaded with the most useful navigation and weather apps — and may include a flight simulation game.
Flight schools and airport terminals world wide rely on the glass screens of their smart technology, including syncing with their digital watch, as the app updates software available through specialized servers.
In our research, over 400 apps exist on both the iTunes and Android stores offering pilots, airport personnel, or an aviation journalist the ability to file flight plans, view cloud tops and winds aloft information, and to view airport closures in an instant.
Here are 10 great apps that we love:
Ten: Instagram Yes, the social media site has taken off and is the top place to receive updates and media from aviation’s top military and civilian pilots or airshow teams. 2017 has seen a strong increase in the way military, commercial, and private pilots have put their in-flight short videos, images, and while including updated information.
Sites such as the Navy’s Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds, commercial airlines, and the aerobatic pilots, such as GEICO Skytypers, allow avgeeks the ability to stay connected in real time. Aviation news feeds such as Military_Flight, AVGeekery, or AirshowNewsbriefs are a few of the Instagram accounts which distribute real time news updates, and allow the public to communicate on current topics.
Nine: My Radar Weather Radar is likely the most used live radar we’ve seen by pilots and airport personnel across the United States, Europe, and Japan. My Radar displays animated weather, and its pinch and swipe display allows app owners the ability to zoom in on a two mile stretch of weather.
The app uses your phone’s gyros and GPS to accurately pinpoint your location first with a blue dot. My Radar is free, however My Radar Pro is a small fee, and are available on both iTunes and Android devices.
Eight: Periscope Want to watch Live video from the flight line of your favorite airshow or airport? This free app offers the user the ability to tune in to live events in the air or on the ground based on your search preference. Both civilian and military sides of aviation are “scoping” the airfields providing live video feeds.
“Periscope gives us the ability to share activities that people may not otherwise see,” explained Skytypers and airshow spokesperson Brenda Little. “We have shared what an air show looks like from the announcer’s stand and quick interviews with the maintenance team or pilots prior to takeoff.”
Seven: Flight Pilot Simulator 3D has been rated the top flight sim app for Android and iTunes. Colorful HD graphics highlight the feel of this game as you use easy to learn controls to maneuver your aircraft from take-off to landing. The app takes one to flight school as you learn the ease of the on screen controls, such as the throttle and brakes — including what angle to hold the device. Past players call it addictive. We call it a fun way to pass an hour at the terminal.
Free to install, there are in game fees based on your performance level.
Six: Flight Aware is likely the best application to keep an eye on your upcoming commercial flight. Simply input your airline name and flight number at the top of the screen, and FA will update with any changes to the flight time and gate number. Click on the brief flight details to open up a full page for in flight data and route map synced via GPS.
“Whether I’m flying my Beech Debonair at home or my A300 at work, I think my favorite app of the 8 or so that I use regularly is FlightAware,” said John Bowen, A300 Captain and active General Aviation instructor. “It allows me to preview my route with my expected ATC clearance, my friends and family can track my flights, and I can view my flight performance after I land.”
Five: Cloud Ahoy is the pilot in training’s debrief logbook. This app excels as it tracks your flight profile from takeoff through landing. For many pilots, the question of how nominal their approach and landing was is answered as the app offers an updated 3D model of the glide slope. Speed calculations and altitude is given with time stamps in GMT and local.
Today’s top aerobatic pilots love this app as they use Cloud Ahoy to review their airshow performance track, and learn just how they did that afternoon. This app is only available in iTunes.
Four: LiveATC is the only online application offering the most air traffic control feeds across America and the globe. Live audio (delayed forty seconds due to Internet routing) from the headset of pilots and controllers, LiveATC can help future pilots learn the right and wrong ways to deliver quick departure information to the tower. The average aviation geek interested in tuning in need not know the airport code, just the country; state; city.
LiveATC will draw you in with the ability to listen-in to most air shows and the conversation between the air boss and the aerobatic aircraft pilot.
This app even comes with a sleep timer to allow LiveATC to close after 60 minutes. One note, from time to time, a popular tower feed may be off line. Available on both iTunes and Android.
Three: Flight Radar 24 is one of the most popular air traffic radars on the planet. This app provides aircraft flight information with pinpoint accuracy across the globe. Tap on any aircraft to learn its flight details, or tap on an airport icon for arrival and departure boards, delays, and flight status plus weather conditions.
Flight Radar 24 is available free on both Android and iTunes. There are a few in app purchases, however the majority of the app is free.
Two: ForeFlight 9. It’s pricey for the individual but again, you get what you pay for, and this app is tops. ForeFlight takes flight planning to a new level. And, this app is not just targeted to civilian and commercial pilots. ForeFlight’s Military Flight Bag offers military pilots secured access to DoD flight publications.
“We use ForeFlight daily for just about everything,” noted pilot Steve Kapur of the GEICO Skytypers Airshow Team. “We get information about the local area, routing, and weather – both current and forecast. I use it daily to prepare information for our morning briefing and others use it to develop our cross country plans.”
ForeFlight is only available in the iTunes app store.
One: Garmin Pilot is the top GPS app for the open skies. File your flight plan, navigate around storms, and keep an accurate log book with this app. Pilots can view real time VFR/IFR charts and read new METARs, TAFs, Winds Aloft, PIREPs, AIRMETs, SIGMETs, Area Forecasts, and NOTAM’s.
According to Garmin Pilot officials, “Turn your iPad or iPhone into the ideal cockpit companion. Garmin Pilot puts full-featured navigation — including our decades of experience with rich, interactive mapping, 3D Vision, aviation weather, global flight plan filing, electronic flight bag capabilities, optional traffic/weather, pilot logbook and more — right at your fingertips.”
A drop down icon at top left will allow pilots many options to navigate in flight. GPS-based course direction and altitude readings along with the real time map motion as the flight progresses is a top highlight of the Garmin app. Select Airport Info for local traffic patterns and elevation as you prepare for landing.