Saturday 28 May 2011

Pilots...don't get caught out of the cloud !

The cloud is the hottest thing in computing...and it makes perfect sense: outsource the messy business of hardware and network infrastructure (which is a specialization most of us are not very good at), so we can focus on developing and consuming software-based services. The recent explosion in cloud services has come about with the convergence of virtualization technology (whereby many different servers at the software level can cleverly share the same hardware without getting tangled up) and  multi-core processors (where multiple CPU cores -- which do the heavy-lifting inside a computer -- can share the same physical ancillary services such as memory, network connectivity, storage, power supplies, cooling fans, rack-space, etc).  With the result, we now have, in essence, the commoditization of computing infrastructure: it no longer really matters where the servers sit.  From our perspective as developers and consumers of services, the computers are somewhere out there in the clouds, accessible via the URL (the detail is of course a bit more complex, but the concept is essentially that simple).

For pilots, like anyone else, we can expect the cloud to have an ever-increasing impact on our lives in terms of the rapid expansion of cloud-based services. For example, an obvious and natural "fit" for a cloud-based pilot app is the virtual (web-based) logbook. As such there is a proliferation of offerings in this area.

As a "pet project" (during the long winter months here in the UK), I decided to embrace the cloud by creating iNavCalc (and iMetBrief), web- and email-based apps for VFR pre-flight planning. On the principles that (i) humans shouldn't do what computers can do better; and (ii) you should never do twice what you can teach a computer to do once, I have outsourced to the cloud the considerable and repetitive grunt-work of pre-flight VFR nav planning. I find that these apps save me hours compared with the old way of doing things. I use them every time I fly. It now takes me seconds or minutes rather than hours to pre-plan a flight. Because I find them so handy, I thought other pilots would, too. So, I've recently launched them as a free service for the global flying community. The apps are platform-independent: all you require is a smartphone/tablet/desktop that supports email, web-browsing, and can display PDF files. I'll talk more about the details in later postings. For now, give them a go (they are free)... and do please let me know what you think.

Fly Meister

Sunday 22 May 2011

Fly the famous Isle of Man TT Mountain Course

The world-renowned TT motorcycle road-racing season is kicking-off on the Isle of Man. Over the next few weeks (30th May to 12th June 2011), this erstwhile tranquil & sleepy island in the middle of the Irish Sea transforms itself into petrol-head heaven. Mostly of the two-wheeled variety, but no need to get left out if you prefer two wings to two wheels. You can fly the TT course (above 3000 feet, you need to comply with air traffic at EGNS -- they operate TT airspace restrictions during the races, details by NOTAM). In a typical light aircraft you'll have little chance of beating the times achieved by the bikes. They complete a lap of the circuit in 15 minutes, reaching 200 mph or so on the straights. I've tried it in my Bulldog. Best I could achieve was little over 20 minutes... Click here to open the TT route in iNavCalc (requires registration).

Friday 20 May 2011

Announcing iNavCalc and iMetBrief

Update: iNavCalc V3.0 mobile app now released

Update: all described functionality now available via mobile app...

Flying season is upon us, so we'll cut to the chase: check out our brand new, free-to-use, flying apps designed by pilots, for pilots. First up is iNavCalc, our mega-powerful feature-packed email and web-based route navigation planning tool, complete with AutoMETic wind and weather calculations. To get started, send a blank email to and check the email response for further instructions. Check the documentation for detailed instructions.

Next up is iMetBrief, our simple but massively convenient TAF and METAR app which basically does what it says on the tin. Send a blank email to to get started.

(Our apps are freshly-minted, so don't expect perfection: simply use them if you find them useful, don't if you don't. Follow us on Twitter to keep in touch.)

Toes clear...
Fly Meister