Which apps for pilots?

Which apps for pilots?

Flying over Tanzania FIR (Flight Information Region), enroute to Kamuzu International Airport, I got a question. A crew called me via the inter-phone and asked what the name of the water body on the left was. It must have been a question from a passenger trying to get his or her money’s worth. I was clueless, it looked like an artificial water feature so Jeppesen maps didn’t have it.

We often assume that pilots know everything matters geography. The truth is they don’t, but they have resources and training that can make it easier to find out. Some will often use notes, others learn from experience. A lot has changed in the industry especially matters tech.

Pilots Atlas by absolute zero

Notebooks, atlases , maps are slowly being replaced by mobile/tablet based apps. There is a wide selection, but I recently got this one pictured above.

Pilots Atlas, by absolute zero. Like the name suggests, it’s absolutely free, but there is a catch, you have to buy the maps. Maps retail at about 3000 KSH, just under 30 USD.

So thanks to this beautiful software, the next time I’m over this route, just after Dodoma, I will have a correct answer. It’s actually a water reservoir west of Morogoro and North of Iringa. It is fed by the Ruaha river and it is called the Mtera reservoir.

Mtera Reservoir, between DO NDB, and EPMAB enroute to Kamuzu international airport, FWKI.

What I like about it is that it still works offline, as tablets are to be used in flight mode, if at all allowed in the cockpit.

Here are some apps I use. Feel free to share what you use from time to time and what you like about them. You could save a pilot the embarrassment of guesswork about some feature enroute.

Some of my apps, for the IPad.

Airline Roster By Ron Wendell
eTechPubs By EMBRAER S.A
LogTen Pro X: The Pilot Logbook By Coradine Aviation Systems
Pilots Atlas By absolutezero multimedia GmbH
Aerosim Checkride E190 By Aerosim
CPaT mobile By CPaT Global LLC
Jeppesen Mobile FD By Jeppesen
GoodReader – PDF Reader, Annotator and File Manager By Good.iWare



After a flight from somewhere in Africa, exhausted from either shouting on a HF frequency, or struggling to decipher what the controllers are saying from a frequency serving 600nm radius with no repeater, I finally tune frequency 125.300. Nairobi area south, home sweet home.

“Airplane: Nairobi Area south, Rafiki 771 flight level 390 position LOSIN hello?”

“Controller: Rafiki 771 identified on mode Sierra 2 Miles south of position LOSIN Squawk 1776 route direct IBRAT when ready descend FL200.”

The volume of airline traffic has greatly increased through the years. Kenya’s economy is booming and the airport has also been renovated to reflect this. The new terminal, even for a frequent flier, does tell our Kenyan story so well.

JKIA has undergone a major overhaul. It is a hub served by major airlines including Kenya Airways, Emirates, Qatar, KLM and also friends of flight Virtual (Virtually)

Area south hands you over to approach radar, depending on the traffic flows, expect expedited approaches or vectors to land about number 8 in sequence. These are the gurus of pushing tin. They handle multiple arrivals and departures; ensuring safe separation from other airplanes as well as terrain. Nairobi does somehow sit between very high mountains and mountain ranges. Mount Kenya to the North at about 17000ft, Aberdares ranges at 15000ft to the west, Lukenya to the east and Ngong hills almost 9000ft are to the South. Very tricky especially during the cloudy mornings when all these dangerous mountains and hills are obscured. There is also Wilson airport – the busiest airport in East and Central Africa very close to JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta international Airport).

A view of JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) tower 118.700

After approach, the controller will hand you over to tower 118.700 who will monitor you until you land and exit the runway. The airplane will continue on ground for some minutes and you will be handed over to ground frequency.

Oh boy! This is where it gets real. After being under the watchful eye of controllers who seem to love what they do, and have been trained to some international standard, unfortunately this is where their jurisdiction ends.

“Airplane: Apron control Rafiki 771 taxiing on golf, 5Y-FOO, 134 passengers 6 crew inbound from Luanda, request parking.”

After about half a minute…………………..

“Airplane: Apron Control Rafiki 771”

“Ground: Rafiki 771 continue GOLF, call approaching taxiway HOTEL. Request Registration, passengers crew, point of departure and bay company requested.”

Ok, wait a minute, when we first called I gave all this info, and of course this is where the FOX MIKE CHARLIE song starts. Let me first explain all this aviation jargon. Fox Mike Charlie is short for (Follow me Car, FMC) using the Phonetic alphabet that aviators borrowed from the navy. The correct terminology is actually Foxtrot Mike Charlie, but trust these apron controllers to abbreviate an abbreviation.

Image from http://www.hamradioschool.com/t2c03-standard-phonetic-alphabet
“Ground: FOX MIKE CHARLIE one Position?….
FOX MIKE CHARLIE one: outside the airport!
Airplane: Ground Confirm vacant bay at Mike parking.
Ground: Weka hiyo ndege ya Musa huko Mike yoyote”
They are responsible for marshalling the airplanes till they are fully parked, ensuring planes don’t collide or clip wings when parking close together. They drive these yellow Toyota cars at break neck speeds from one parking spot to the next and are in constant communication on the same frequency with ground control and pilots alike.
In finishing, I do appreciate the job the marshallers do, but the manner in which they go about doing it, especially the radio operators on frequency 121.600, is totally unprofessional. KAA does have its mandate, but I believe they should either train as Air traffic controllers or handover this critical part of a beautiful orchestra to KCAA.
KCAA should be responsible and have proven more than capable to expedite and maintain flow of traffic in a professional, safe and efficient manner. Let them have control from the FIR to the parking bays.
Just let it go FOX MIKE CHARLIE