Discover life outside your plane window with new app

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Have you ever been sat aboard a long haul flight, gazing out of the window at the landscape below and think “I wonder what we’re flying over”? American student Shane Loeffler thought the very same thing.

While returning home to Minnesota from the UK, as he passed over the glaciers of Newfoundland and Quebec the geology student at the University of Minnesota at Duluth had a brainwave. What if you could create a guide which tells people exactly what they are seeing? A sort of roadmap covering every lake or river, hill or mountain and the towns and cities they pass over.

This idea gave birth to Flyover Country. The app, available in the Apple app store now although it is still being developed, highlights any points of interest as users fly over and even finds relevant Wikipedia articles to provide a better understanding for users.

Speaking to the Smithsonian, Mr Loeffler said: “I was looking down from an airplane window and seeing this huge landscape and these geological features, and [wondering about] the landscape I was flying over.”

Flyover Country uses geological and palaeontology maps and data to provide points of interest below. It also uses the resources of the National Science Foundation, of which Mr Loeffler was able to secure a grant from in order to make the app, and interactive maps from Macrostrat.org to find interesting pathways across the landscape below. It is currently only available for North America but will soon be rolled out to include worldwide locations.

Amy Myrbo, a geologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, explained to the news provider that this initial version is just the beginning of what Flyover Country.

Ms Myrbo added: “We have maybe a dozen more data sources that we’re going to be working with in the coming months. Things like the chemistry of rocks, core samples from the oceans, information about earthquakes…[scientists] are pretty excited to have their data get out there in a way that’s appealing, exciting and easy.”

“I hope that people will get an idea of the connectedness of geology and weather and humans and see the scales of things.”

The app will certainly provide a break from what can be pretty dull long haul flights and that’s what we’re really in favour of.