The best pilots thrive on data; they learn to take in multiple data streams all at once, from instrument readings to ATC communications to their own eyes and ears, to help them make better decisions in the moment and to prepare for what’s ahead. So it’s no surprise that a medium that also thrives on data — mobile applications — offers many, many choices for pilots to add to their data streams when they fly.
You’ll find plenty of other articles about the best mobile apps for pilots, but this blog series is for those of you who are still aspiring to become career pilots. In-air applications aren’t going to be of much use as you prepare for your first aviation training courses. If you’re somewhere between dreaming about enrolling in flight school and preparing for your first day, then what you really need are apps that help to convey what it’s like to fly and give you a little extra boost on the things you’ll start learning very quickly once you begin your pilot classes. Our recommendations are:
Mic fright — the tendency of novice pilots to freeze up in ATC communications — is a real thing, and so this app is always our first recommendation for both domestic and international students to help them improve their phraseology before their first real-live tower communication. The app simulates ATC communication, using voice recognition and speech analysis to put the user through realistic scenarios using FAA phraseology standards.
This is the perfect companion app to PlaneEnglish; after you’ve practiced your phraseology in PlaneEnglish’s simulated scenarios, you’ll be ready to apply what you’ve learned by translating live conversations between pilot and control towers all over the world. The app currently covers a growing roster of 1,200 airports globally, giving you the option to focus in on ATC communications in your own country or region.
OK, we had to include at least on simulator on our list. As much as we know there’s no substitute for getting you into the cockpit on day one of your professional flight training, we also know there are some really good simulators out there. Besides, it’s fun to keep the excitement fueled while you prepare for the real thing. X-Plane features highly detailed, realistic 3-D cockpits and rich flight environments, with detailed renderings of terrain, buildings, and more than 37,000 airports.
You’ve had your fun with the simulator app, and now it’s time to eat your vegetables. This handy app is simply the FAA’s own Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, the essential pilot training manual, optimized for mobile devices. The concepts and principles of flight outlined in the Handbook are a great way to cram for your aviation training courses, and if you’re really ambitious, you can take advantage of the 110 calculators included to run your own scenarios.
The one news app on our list comes from an organization you’ll soon be part of — AOPA, Airplane Owners and Pilots Association. The app consolidates news articles, videos, and event information from AOPA’s publications, AOPA Pilot and Flight Training, in addition to videos and podcasts. It’s a great way to get up to speed on the industry ahead of your training.
The last app on our list is beloved not just by pilots but by road warriors everywhere, who rely on it to get the inside track on flight delays and cancellations as they’re occurring. For aviation enthusiasts (which I assume includes you, future pilot), it’s a fun way to geek out on the astonishing daily global dance of commercial aviation, with 150,000+ flights taking off and landing daily in near-perfect synchronicity.