Look for the icon in the App Store.
Look for the icon in the App Store.

Flyover Country
Cost: Free
Seller: Shane Loeffler
Devices: iOS and Android
Rating: E for Everyone

Pros: Free. Does not require Wi-Fi on the plane. Easy to use.
Cons: Saving paths will take up storage space. You’ll want to go on vacation immediately.

First impressions

When you’re 30,000 feet up in the air, hopefully in a plane, and you happen to look through the window, what do you see? Sometimes there will be banks of clouds for miles, or mountains, lakes and plains.

If you’ve ever flown into Las Vegas at night, there is nothing to see for ages, and then suddenly, in the distance, a pin of light becomes a landscape of dazzling colors with the peak of the Luxor sending a powerful beam into the sky.

Unless there is a very recognizable landmark down below, however, trying to figure out exactly where you are over the planet is a bit of a guessing game.

Now, thanks to the Flyover Country app, you need wonder no longer about what is beneath you. You can plot your flight path in advance; download all the information about the geography in that path; and then read it at your leisure while you are on the plane. No Wi-Fi connection necessary.

Just a quick trip to New York from Miami.
Just a quick trip to New York from Miami.

Many’s the time I’ve hung on the pilot’s every word, describing cities and bodies of water thousands of feet down, so it didn’t take much to sell me on this app. When I say “sell,” I mean give away for free. Yup, it’s informative and it costs nada. Two pluses from the git-go.

How it works

When you first open the app it will ask if it can use your current location. It doesn’t really matter either way, but if you’re flying out from your home country, it probably makes sense.

A map of the world appears before you with a blue dot marking your spot. Before you begin mapping out your journey, take a look at the different views the app offers. Tap the double square icon in the top right hand corner, and a drop-down menu appears with Toner, Street, Satellite and Terrain options. You can also toggle the “My POI (Point Of Origin)” setting to on or off.

The default view of the map is in Toner mode, but switch to Street mode and you’ll see, unsurprisingly, all the roadways. Pinch out or zoom in for a closer look, or you can use the +/- icons in the left hand corner.

Start with the default Toner mode map and mark your position.
Start with the default Toner mode map and mark your position.

Satellite mode gives you images of the ground through the lens of a satellite, showing different elevations, all the way down to picking out individual buildings and bushes, whereas Terrain shows cities, some roads, and overall topography.

In the very top left hand corner of your screen is a set of three lines, which when tapped reveal another menu. This covers everything from frequently asked questions to the journeys you’ve saved, and gives you the option of setting a trip by either plane or car/foot.

Anyway, to plot whatever journey it is, tap your starting point on the map, and then tap your end point. If you have a stop along the way, you simply tap on your starting point, then your stop, and then your final destination. You’ll notice that it will take into account the proper flight path. For example, if you’re flying from Miami to London, it will take you almost parallel with the east coast of the U.S. before hopping over the pond.

Should you make a mistake, tap on the “X”in the right hand corner and it will delete it all so you can start again.

Once you’ve plotted your trip, it’s time to load your path. Go to the top right hand corner and choose … Load Path. No translation necessary.

Once you've plotted your path, you can save all the information about the places over which you'll be flying.
Once you’ve plotted your path, you can save all the information about the places over which you’ll be flying.

Now, you have a number of choices to consider. You can either load all the information the app offers (Toner, Street, Satellite, Terrain), including points of interest from Wikipedia and fossil localities from NeotomaDB and PaleobioDB, and save it to your device, or just pick and choose a la carte style.

One of the main reasons you may want to cut down the wealth of data it can potentially give you, is space on your smartphone or tablet. It’s terrific that it doesn’t need Wi-Fi in the air, but that also means you have to save everything in advance.

When I tried it

I plotted a trip from Miami to New York, and in order to download everything, it was going to use up 83.8 mb of storage. Not really much in the great scheme of things, but if, like me, you have thousands of photos stored along with apps you barely use and movies you never get around to seeing, it could be a tight fit. Just bear that in mind.

When you’re ready to save, give your map a name and then let it do its thing. By the time you board the plane, you’ll have all you could possibly want to know about the countries you’re flying over at your fingertips.

Plot a journey with multiple stops.
Plot a journey with multiple stops.

I did find that the moment I’d plotted a trip, I wanted to actually take it. Don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing.

Final thoughts

The Flyover Country app should appeal to anyone eager to learn more about the world and curious about what lies 30,000+ feet below. This would probably be a great app for children as well – not a bad idea to get them away from mindless games.

I did find it a bit slow at times, but that could be down to the Internet connection I had. Overall, it seems to be an interesting tool and well worth a look, particularly as it costs nothing to try it.