Gadgets: Flight simulator apps

  • Updated: July 26, 2014 - 2:00 PM

The cockpit from the flight simulator game “X Plane 9” on an iPad.

circle the skies,

by phone or tablet

Flight simulators are one of the most enduring types of computer games. For years, they were primarily played on traditional PCs, but many smartphones and tablets are now powerful enough to give simulator apps the realistic look and feel of swooping and soaring through the sky.

Infinite Flight, which is $5 on iOS and Android, is easily the most impressive flight simulator for mobile devices. The app has realistic graphics and sophisticated controls that simulate many aspects of flying real aircraft. It also comes with a number of aircraft, and locations to fly around.

To start, select an aircraft type, like a small Cessna or the powerful F-18 fighter. Next choose a location and some basic weather options.

Then you’re immediately transported to the cockpit, with a beautiful view of the sky and ground, and a display of the important aircraft controls.

Once you’ve learned how to control the speed, fly safely without stalling, and navigate — a trickier task than you may imagine, because you must tilt your phone to maneuver the plane — then take some time to enjoy the view. The ground is shown in pretty persuasive detail, as are mountains and seas. With a few taps, you can change the camera view to look at the aircraft from the outside.

X Plane 9, which is $5 on iPhone and free on Android, is a well-known brand of flight simulator, and in many ways, it’s comparable to Infinite Flight. The app emphasizes realism and is packed with technical details for handling and navigation. Users can even change the weather and time of day to alter the look and feel of the flying environment.

X Plane is a little more daunting for beginners than Infinite Flight, and it has less step-by-step instruction, but it is extraordinarily convincing in many ways thanks to its complexity.

For a slightly more gamelike app, try Flight Unlimited Las Vegas, which is $3 on iOS and Android. It offers staged missions for zipping around the Las Vegas landscape. The game has some great-looking 3-D graphics of famous landmarks, and you can choose different planes to fly, including a Learjet or A10 tank buster.

None of these games is going to let you get into the cockpit of a real aircraft and fly it. But they do capture a tiny bit of the delight of flight.


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