East End Tech: Airplane Apps – Fun on the Fly This Holiday Season

The Obamacare launch has everyone talking—and much of the dialogue involves four-letter words that rhyme with “duck” and “spit.” Politics has no place in this column, but from a sheer technology perspective, it’s pretty amazing that the government spent many months and many millions to build a website that crashes with 2,000 users. Did they use an old Atari Space Invaders game for their server?

Anyway, I’m not here to dump on Obamacare. There are plenty of pundits to do that. I’m here to talk about an incredibly POSITIVE government decision that has citizens jumping in the aisles—literally.

This week the FAA finally relented and lifted its personal electronics ban on airplanes. Apparently, after much debate and testing, the government realized what most of us already suspected: the atmosphere is awash in a sea of microwaves and electronic airwaves, so a few more apps and videos don’t really make a difference to a sophisticated plane.

It only took 50 years!

In honor of this momentous occasion in our nation’s great and hallowed history, I present three great phone apps…about flying…that you can now enjoy while flying.

Flight Control

Flight Control

Flight Control
This is one of my all-time favorites. It checks all the boxes for a great game: free to install, simple to use and highly addictive. In the game, you are looking down at different terrain, showing landing strips and airports. For example, one level takes place on an aircraft carrier; another is set in the Australian outback. A series of planes and helicopters enter the screen from various angles.  Some are faster, some slower. Your objective is to use your finger to trace a correct flight path, lining up the aircraft and guiding them to the appropriate location.

Seems simple enough, and it is, until more and more planes start crowding the airspace. The fun lies in sorting out patterns and reacting to changing aircraft and conditions. This was one of the first phone games I ever bought, and I still come back to it from time to time.

The U-2 Dragon Lady in X-Plane

The U-2 Dragon Lady in X-Plane

X-Plane Airliner
If Flight Control is the Cessna of airplane games, then X-Plane Airliner is the 747. Wow, is this a sophisticated app. It puts you inside the cockpit of almost every commercial airliner available, from the Boeing 737 up to the Airbus A380. Your mission is to successfully take off and land from multiple major airports, which is not easy to do. Once airborne, your phone becomes a virtual yoke; tilt up and down, left and right to maneuver the plane.

The beauty of this game lies in its details and complexity. The approach and takeoff from LaGuardia and JFK are pretty darn close to the real thing. There are airports from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and even Alaska. All of them feature different conditions and challenges.

Then there are the planes themselves. Your cockpit has every major function right there, on your phone. Throttle, brakes, flaps, compass and things I’ve never heard of. Even the dashboard and dials are realistic.

You can change views from cockpit to multiple exterior layouts, showing your plane flying upside down if you want. And yes, when you crash there’s a fairly spectacular fireball. Just make sure any nervous passengers aren’t looking over your shoulder.

This is not the easiest game to play, and it’s not cheap. I paid $5.99 the iPhone version and the iPad game is $9.99. But if you’ve got the urge to fly, it’s worth the price.

Skydiver Drop Zone

Skydiver Drop Zone

Skydiver Drop Zone
If you prefer to jump out of planes instead of fly them, there are several games to give you a decent skydiving experience. Drop Zone is my favorite. A plane circles above the ground, revealing different jump targets. Tap the phone to jump out of the plane, then tilt your phone to guide it toward the target.

The mechanics are slightly unsophisticated.But hey, it’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

What are your favorite “airplane apps?”

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