Don’t look now, but United has been quietly making moves to earn some AvGeek cred. Earlier this year we wrote about the solid flight simulator game on their app. And this month they launched another aviation-related game. “Cleared to Land” is an air traffic control sim where you draw paths for aircraft inbound to an airport, until the airspace gets so crowded that you mess up, planes crash, and the game ends.
You’ll likely notice the resemblance to the original game of this type, Flight Control, which was all the rage in 2010. (And yes, realizing that game is over a decade old made us feel old too.) Flight Control’s developer FireMint was bought up by EA and the game faded away. But there have been a few similar games launched like Planes Control, whose developer RarePixels co-developed Cleared to Land with United’s in-house entertainment team.
Cleared to Land has one main difference from its predecessors: instead of nameless aircraft icons, you’re directing the current and rising stars of United’s fleet. And it’s interesting to see which planes they picked. The only representative of the current fleet is the Boeing 787-9. It makes sense to include the Dreamliner as the most technologically advanced member of the current fleet, though is a bit of a snub for the 777-300ER. The inclusion of the Airbus A321XLR is a nod to how important that long-haul narrowbody will be in replacing the airline’s aging 757s in the years ahead. The rest of the in-game fleet is comprised of the exciting up-and-comers United has invested in: Archer’s electric VTOL project, Heart Aerospace’s electric regional aircraft, and the Boom Overture supersonic aircraft (though American recently stole some of the Boom thunder).
Last week, without any fanfare, United Airlines updated its app. No big deal, right? Well this new update includes a flight simulator game! We played it. And while it’s no Microsoft Flight Simulator, for an app-within-an-app it’s pretty great.
Once you get your app updated, you hit the “More” button on the bottom tab, go to the Game Center at the bottom of the “For your flight” section … and voila there it is, sitting next to Sudoku.
The game puts you in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the skies above San Francisco — the only plane and setting the game offers (for now). But the terrain graphics are solid and the aircraft model itself looks great. The game starts with a set of tutorials, which get you used to the controls. You pitch and roll by tilting and angling your phone. As the tutorials progress you can take control of the throttle, flaps, and landing gear as well.
All of the simulations are landings, but the variety of approaches, times of day, and weather conditions including wind and fog provide some variety. The default view is from inside the cockpit through a HUD, though you can also station yourself outside the plane.
In just a few weeks, because of a lethal invisible enemy, all the world’s airlines and aircraft manufacturers have abruptly gone from the best of times to the worst of times. This devastating free fall is the worst in the history of the industry. The culprit, Covid-19, has not only nearly paralyzed the world’s economy but has bought the industry to its knees with a near shutdown situation. Indeed, airlines were the first to be afflicted so severely.
The words ’œgood news’ and ’œaviation’ now don’t ever appear in the same sentence or even story. But there is good news to report in this Aviation Airpocalypse. In the spirit of the AirlineReporter brand, we’re going to focus on the positive and in many case life-saving efforts airlines and airframers, are making even as they fight for their own very survival.
The worst of times bring out the best in people. And in this dire time, airlines are no exception. Even with much of the country shut down, airline, airport employees, and many from the supporting industries are classified as essential employees in a necessary business, continuing to provide vital air services: Repatriation and humanitarian flights bringing people home to their own coupled with transporting essential cargo.
They do this while putting themselves at risk of becoming infected by the virus. Many consider them second responders, and due to their medical training some flight and cabin crew have become first responders. For that, we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. It’s no exaggeration to call them heroes too, even as they face an uncertain future.
Here’s a roundup of what these companies powered by the human beings who work for them are doing to give back in this global time of war.
And at the end of this story, I let you know how you can also help make a real change!
Most people looking for the stars in SoCal head to Hollywood. But when we were in town recently, we headed the exact opposite direction and made a beeline for LAX. That’s because we were on the hunt for one particular star. The northern star, AKA Polaris. United Airlines has been making gradual but steady headway with the rollout of both the Polaris seat (now on its 787-10 Dreamliners in addition to many of its 777s and 767s) and its top-of-the-line Polaris lounges. We’ve already been to the Polaris lounges at SFO, Newark, and Chicago. And we hear great things about Polaris Houston. So when Polaris LAX opened earlier this year, we knew we had to swing by.
We found a lounge just as impressive as the other stellar Polaris lounges we’ve seen before, though with a smaller footprint. With plenty of sleek decor, amenities, and local flavor, Polaris LAX is definitely worth visiting. Read on for the full details and prepare to be starstruck!
We didn’t actually get to fly a United 757, but we did get to see one, so that was cool
I hear from family and friends (even strangers) all the time how they no longer like flying. It is much more stressful, the respect is gone, and the golden age has long expired. For sure, air travel has changed. It has become cheaper, much safer, and yes, more annoying. It can be a challenge for even a pro to get through an economy experience with a big smile. However, if you are one who flies with some (or a lot of) anxiety, the current flying experience can be terrifying. I don’t mean the flying at 35,000 feet in the air, but the smaller worries that can add up to one big worrisome mess.
Most people who meet me typically sees someone with an outgoing type A personality with little anxiety with flying. Sure, I have had quite a bit of experience, but when I was younger, it was very difficult for me — and sometimes, it still is. I would sweat, I would dry-heave, and I would fear the process of travel, but still loved flying.
Driving to Hana in a Jeep was SUPER cool, and lots of anxiety!
Maui is great
I have improved my process for dealing with my anxiety, and flying has become much easier for me. I have been wanting to write a story about flying with anxiety for a while, but it seemed challenging for me to be effective with it, so it has been sitting in the ’œDavid Story Idea Bin’ (man, some of the scraps in there…) Recently, my fianc Brittany (we recently got engaged, yay us!) and I were set to fly from Seattle (SEA) to Maui (OGG) via San Fran (SFO) on United Airlines. We have been together for a while and done quite a few flying adventures. I know she has that sort of travel anxiety that I used to have, but loves to actually fly (I know, great catch right?).
I thought this trip might be a good opportunity to look at how flying with anxiety can be challenging and how one can make it better. Over and over again, I kept going back to how being able to pay your way out of anxiety can be a great option for some people! What better way to do that than to fly first class? Would the extra extra cost be worth the reduction of anxiety? If so, where is that tipping point? Keep reading to see what we both found.