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Plane Flying Over Clouds | © Public Domain/Pexels
Plane Flying Over Clouds | © Public Domain/Pexels
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A New App Lets You Know What's Outside Your Airplane Window

Picture of Alexia Wulff
Updated: 19 October 2016
The window seat is always the prime spot for frequent travelers, but as you look out at 30,000 ft, have you ever wondered what’s below you? A new app, created by geologist and researcher at the University of Minnesota Amy Myrbo allows passengers to learn about geological formations seen during a flight.

Myrbo, inspired by ‘the view from her airplane window,’ began thinking how to get people engaged with science. In the past, travelers could study the ground using air photos; now, with the introduction of Google Earth, technology allows for more advanced ways of learning. Flyover Country, funded by the National Science Foundation, allows travelers to choose their departure and destination and load their ‘path’. The map, which can be saved for later use without WiFi, allows users to choose multiple destinations for things like hiking or road trips. Using geoscience databases, the app saves a strip of a couple of hundred miles around the path, and while in flight, it uses GPS to find your current destination along the path (GPS is still valid during airplane mode).

Screenshot of Flyover Country App
Screenshot of Flyover Country App

Travelers can use the app to spot various formations and learn information about them through Wikipedia, such as the reason the Great Lakes region exists (it was created by glacier activity). Although varying in quality, the articles, according to Myrbo, tend to be quite good, including physiographic and geological features for formations across the globe along with scientific literature and its history.

Screenshot of Flyover Country App
Screenshot of Flyover Country App

Users can also click on the ‘What is that?’ tab, which describes the different river types, lakes, valleys, volcanos, and human-made features. Happen to be flying while it’s cloudy? Not to worry – the app still works despite weather conditions, though Myrbo hopes to eventually include information about clouds and turbulence for flights with less availability. Flyover Country is available on both iOS and Android.