What if you took something like Google Earth, then ramped it up and installed it as an app you can use on planes — giving passengers a virtual view from the cockpit and side windows, as well as locational data with restaurants, hotels, popular spots and even history? Then you'd have FlightPath 3D.
FlightPath 3D, customized for Norwegian Airlines
At the Airline Passenger Experience Expo in Anaheim, California this week, I got a hands-on demo of the coolest inflight mapping program I've ever seen, called FlightPath 3D. Maybe "cool" doesn't really do it justice. Incredible, or amazing would be more appropriate. The FlightPath developers have thought of everything.
FlightPath's 3D globe, with selectable country information
Flight Path 3D has not only a highly-detailed, customizable moving map, it has a complete touchscreen 3D globe, selectable map views, point of interest displays, portal screens, and multi language support. To start off, airlines can customize the plane in the program to their exact livery, right down to the registration number of the plane you're actually on!
Virtual cockpit view of FlightPath 3D
Passengers can watch the world go by, even without a window seat. There are even virtual views from the cockpit and both sides of the plane as you fly over. Imagine being able to know what landmarks or mountains you're flying over. FlightPath 3D shows you all of that. Airlines don't even need a WiFi connection to provide this information. By linking to the avionics system on the plane, FlightPath 3D can show you the altitude, location, speed and heading.
FlightPath 3D Destination Guide for New York City
The system is available on any form of inflight entertainment — whether it's the old-school retractable TVs, seat back monitors or even as an app on tablet devices. FlightPath hasn't pigeon-holed themselves into being only for iOS or Android. They say it can work in any aircraft and operating environment. I'd say they're really well-equipped for the future. I flew to the convention on Southwest, which offered a map, but I found it clunky — by only showing the cities Southwest serves, and you couldn't zoom in to find anything of detail or personal interest. A program like FlightPath 3D would be a huge leap for an airline like Southwest.
FlightPath 3D's points of interest around Paris, France
I spoke with FlightPath 3D's David Dyrnaes, who works on their business development side. David pointed out that the average smartphone cycle runs about 12 to 18 months, while the inflight entertainment system on planes is expected to last 10-15 years. He said that airlines with Wifi connectivity could potentially link FlightPath 3D, to help users discover local hotels and restaurants and make reservations via sites like TripAdvisor or OpenTable, while on the plane through the app.
FlightPath's current customers include Air France and Norwegian, who won the 2014 APEX Avion Award this week for Best Achievement in Passenger Experience, for their implementation of FlightPath 3D. Virgin Atlantic and KLM will be added this fall, and FlightPath also has discussions ongoing with several other potential customers. We can all hope to see this program on more airlines soon.