Follow the terrain when flying commercial with WindowSeat App

A privileged viewpoint

A privileged viewpoint

One of the things I enjoy the most of traveling by air is that possibility of looking through the window at the landscape below. I often try to figure out what is it that we are flying over, and as a geography and history enthusiast, it is inevitable to let my imagination fly (in this case, quite literally!).

I have to confess that I even entertained for a while the idea of starting up something along the lines of the app I am presenting today, a tool that would tell you stories and facts about the places you fly over.

This is the concept underlying WindowSeat App, a simple way to expand you knowledge while you visualize the country underneath you. For now it only works in the US, so I have not able to test it for real yet, but I got in touch with the WindowSeat App team and its developer, Phil Tseng, to get a few more details about how it works:

 Q: How would you define WindowSeat in your own words?

A: It is an app that expands your sense of place when you're flying.  We do our best to tell you about where you are and how much time is left until you land. All of this is done without connectivity, and according to our users it is surprisingly accurate. 

Q: How did the project start?

As a frequent flyer, I often enjoy looking out the window at the incredible views as you fly over majestic landscapes.  It was during one of those moments that started this app.

Q: Your app does not need internet or GPS connection. How you know where planes are?

A: That was the original idea, but not anymore.  WindowSeat downloads the IFR flight plan that is specific to the flight that is about to depart. Once in the air, it estimates your location based on elapsed time, average speed and estimated flight duration that accounts for head/tail wind variations.  The results fairly accurate.

Sometimes a flight may be diverted.  In those cases you can accessorize the app by buying a external GPS receiver. Once WindowSeat detects that you are going over 100MPH, it will switch to use the external GPS. You can then get an exact location.

Q: Would the increasingly widespread use of in-flight connectivity change the way passengers interact with apps like yours?

A: While WindowSeat does not require connectivity in-flight, it is enhanced by the ability to have access to resources like Google Earth and Wikipedia while you are exploring the landscape below you.

Q: At present you offer coverage in the US. Any plans to add other regions?

A: There are no current plans. Access to the flight plans outside the United States is restricted.

Although this last point was a bit disheartening, I am glad to see there is a market for this type of app and my not-materialized business idea was actually not that weird! A belief that has been strengthened after coming across this 1929-version of the WindowSeat app...!

Terrain-tracking technology c. 1929.   Picture: fragment of "Illustrated Map of the Route of Transcontinental Air Transport," Rand McNally for TAT, 1929.  David Rumsey Map Collection .

Terrain-tracking technology c. 1929.

Picture: fragment of "Illustrated Map of the Route of Transcontinental Air Transport," Rand McNally for TAT, 1929. David Rumsey Map Collection.