7 Best Apps for Aviation Geeks
Aviation geeks are a special breed. They're the kind of people who will go out of their way to see a particular plane up close or even take a flight just for the aircraft rather than to reach a specific destination. Whether or not you're able to take your #AvGeek hobby on the road, these mobile apps let you get close to the action.
FlightRadar24 is an excellent app for the nerdiest of the bunch, and was the most recommended download when I asked fellow #AvGeeks about their favorites via Twitter. Within FlightRadar24, you can look at the flights arriving and departing from almost any airport in near-real time. Once you have an overview of the airport, each plane displays the airline to which it belongs, as well as its registration number, altitude, speed, heading and coordinates. FlightRadar24 can even send you push notifications letting you know when a plane is in an emergency situation, known as a Squawk 7700. I've followed a few flights in this situation, and it's honestly a pretty helpless feeling, hoping they make it to the airport. I'm not saying that's a fun thing, but it's a remarkable capability for a smartphone app.
2. Live ATC
Live ATC lets you listen to the communication channels between air traffic control (ATC) and planes, which can be especially exciting and useful when you're at an airport plane spotting, or if you're remotely located and you hear about an emergency situation occurring. You can just tune in to that airport and listen, but note that sometimes the communication between planes and ATC can get pretty colorful. The amount of communication going on is mind-boggling, especially when you consider that the big airports have several channels — JFK has 24 channels of its own! The app also lets you see a diagram of the airport's runway layout and check the weather for the region.
TripIt is an organizational app that's best for those who travel often and hold multiple reservations, or anyone who might be taking a trip with multiple segments. For example, I have seven flights booked for the upcoming Paris Air Show; four going over, and three returning. (I know, I'm a glutton for punishment, but anyway...) In addition to organizing your flights, TripIt lets you add in your hotel reservations, ground transportation as well as local activities and dining plans. This all happens on a convenient timeline.
SkyGuru is the most interactive app you can use throughout your flight— I wrote about it after meeting the creator at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg back in April. The app proclaims that it can predict turbulence based on weather forecasts along the route of your flight. It also uses your phone's gyroscope and accelerometer to detect each stage of flight and explain each noise and bump you're feeling, so if you or anyone you know is a nervous flyer, this is a must-download.
Windy predicts the duration and intensity of the wind using real-time information collected at local weather stations. While it was technically developed for surfers, several pilots told me they use it as well. Within the app, you can ask locals if it's a good time to go to the spot you're thinking about and click on your nearest weather station, to get a 10-day forecast with the expected wind speed and direction, temperature and even the time of day that it may rain.
6. WingX Pro7
The WingX Pro7 app is dedicated to pilots, providing route planning, navigational charts, weather maps and FAA flight restrictions. Several features are beyond my understanding, to be honest, because I'm not a pilot, but it seems to be a one-stop shop for the tools pilots would need to plan their flights. It has an annual subscription of $74.99, but you can use it free for 30 days.
7. Infinite Flight
Just for fun, I'm including what, in my opinion, is the best flight simulator out there; because what airplane geek doesn't enjoy pretending to fly planes? Within the Infinite Flight app, you can choose from several photo-realistic commercial or military aircraft and practice your take-offs, routings, approaches and landings. It can be very challenging! Note that while there are in-app purchases available for additional planes, many are free.
Do you have any favorites not listed here? Share them with us in the comments, below.