So you’ve played with your aviation toys, and got your aviation reading for those cold winter nights by the fireplace. The next logical step of course is to get something a little more techy. I don’t know what exactly is logical about that, but that is the next area of Avgeek Christmas that we will be looking at.
Honestly, I don’t know nearly as much about aviation apps as I probably should. That may come as a result of the fact that almost all of my flying is military related and we aren’t allowed to rely on apps for our data. I have used some for weather and stuff like that, but not as extensively as others. But, there are a handful of apps that I have heard raved reviews about.
The app I probably hear the most about is ForeFlight. It was one of the first truly blockbuster apps for aviation, and has remained the premier Electronic Flight Bag for most people. This app includes flight planning, weather, aeronautical charts, and a whole lot more.
The major downside I see is that it is only available for iOS devices, but since they are the most popular devices for pilots it likely is not an issue for most. The other thing to keep in mind is that there is a subscription involved depending on the level of service that you desire. But with all they have to offer, their annual subscriptions of $75 or $150 are quite reasonable.
Some of the other EFBs that are available out there are WingX, Garmin Pilot, AOPA FlyQ, Jeppesen FliteDeck, Bendix King MyWingman, FltPlan Go, Avare, and AvPlan EFB. As you can see there are a fair number, and they each have their plusses and minuses.
One of the greatest parts of aviation is the social aspect involved. Whether it be airshows, pancake breakfasts, or fly-ins, the only thing most pilots like as much as flying is hanging out with other people who love to fly. One of the best websites for learning about all of these types of events is SocialFlight.com.
They provide an expansive offering of events going on all over the place, and all of it can be accessed from their mobile app. The app includes maps of local events and listings that can be structured to help you find exactly what kind of event you are looking for. The app is available for both iOS and Android systems.
You could spend weeks talking about all the different apps out there so I will leave you to simple searches on iTunes and Google Play to find what you are looking for. There are lots of good reviews and articles out there, including this one from AOPA, about the best apps, and when all else fails you can always ask another pilot or avgeek.
The next best thing to flying a real plane is flying a simulator. In some cases it is probably the only way that most of us will ever get to captain a 747 or F-15. What’s awesome about modern simulators is that they have gotten so good they can even help with your abilities flying a real plane.
The simulator that I have spent the most time playing is Microsoft Flight Simulator X. It provides excellent graphics and flight controls. I just bought a new laptop and was able to bump all of the graphics to their max level and it is so incredible some of the details they have included. There is also an online option where you can fly in the same airspace as other people including people acting as air traffic controllers. Some people have even created their own FlightSim airlines which is a unique aspect that I wouldn’t have even imagined not that long ago.
The simulator comes with a pretty substantial number of aircraft but there are quite a few others you can purchase including a lot more military aircraft. Like so many other sims before it, it is a great chance to “fly” aircraft that most of us will never touch the controls of in real life.
The other incredibly popular simulator that has begun to dominate the market is X-Plane. Unlike the Microsoft offering, X-Plane is available for your computer, tablet, or even smartphone for which there is a free offering on Android. Many people have their personal preference, but in my opinion X-Plane has a better offering of aircraft as well as an interface that allows for flying that is a little closer to realistic.
X-Plane also comes with a fair number of aircraft with the ability to download new aircraft, and they are developing new offerings all of the time. You can even fly the Space Shuttle, which the engineer on my crew did during a recent flight. Flying a flight sim while flying may just be too much fun for one person. It does take a little getting use to controlling the plane by tilting and turning your phone or tablet, but it is not very difficult, and most people will get the hang of it in a matter of minutes.
They also offer a world flying edition as well as regional offerings for different airport offerings.
There are also quite a few fun little games available for smartphones that are great for killing time in between flights, or other less pleasant events. Many of these are available with reduced abilities for free, or at a small cost for the full version. The beautiful thing about us avgeeks is that we love everything about planes, so even the most simple simulator or app will bring us joy.
Have other recommendations of great aviation apps or software? Please share in the comments section below.
12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:
Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane