There have been numerous changes in aviation since I got my pilots licence. Although the same can be said about pretty much anything over time, for me general aviation of the early 1990s seems like the stone age more so than anything else.
In 1992, when Transport Canada issued me a licence, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was in the works but not yet operational or available to the general public. ILS was around but only at the major airports in Canada and there was talk of replacing it with MLS (microwave landing system). And back then, except for the major airlines, navigation was mostly done with VOR and NDB navaids or local landmarks, and your flight planning was all done on paper maps using an E6B.
But now, in 2009, we have desktop computers, the Internet and wireless devices that fit into your pocket. And with those advances in technology means that the potential exists for flight planning that doesn't involve marking up your maps with a HB pencil.
A new web-based flight planning application called World Flight Planner was recently released. This app allows you to create flight plans online using any computer connected to the Internet or any web-enabled wireless device, such as an iPhone or Blackberry. And unlike a lot of websites, this one has specially designed version just for mobile devices that contains as many features as is possible over mobile Internet. In addition to all the standard flight planning features, you can also view all the airspace and navaids near your chosen route and view an elevation profile of your route. The system is also able to calculate the MOCA for your flight on or off of the airways, which is a handy safety feature. In general, the web application is clean, simple to use and fast, thanks to use of AJAX where appropriate.
The application also has a sight collaborative aspect to it in that you can search for aircraft or flight plans shared by other users so you don't have to set new ones up from scratch. This is especially helpful if you are visiting a place for the first time or doing a one-off flight somewhere.
Right now the site is in private beta but they are accepting requests for beta invites so check it out and sign up.
Blatant disclaimer: I'm one of the developers of the World Flight Planner application -- probably should have mentioned that earlier. But then, what fun would that have been to spoil the surprise? If you're a reader of this blog and interested in trying out the application, please mention this blog, along with your experience, when signing up for the beta and I'll try and fast track your request.
So with the secret out of the way, Blake (the other developer and writer of the Fly with Blake blog) and I would appreciate as much feedback as possible once you receive your beta invite.