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I did not create this app. A company called PocketWings, LLC did.   Here is a link to them, but as of 02JUN16 it is an abandoned shell from which everything has been purged.

20JUN20. BUG OR FEATURE? If you have The Goblin, fly it straight into the river (or maybe also the ground!?!) and you're still flying "underwater!" You can then "fly" it back up above ground and into the air again. (Thanks to D.H. for discovering—and sharing—this tip!)

15JUN16. NEW VERSION. I have been ignoring my App Store notifications and so was unaware of the big update back in May. An even newer update is available as of 2 days ago. Here are the significant changes as I have experienced them:

13 total new planes. (Description page says 19 new planes; no clue where to find the other 6.)
The classic 5 are free, and today the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was free. Here are the rest of the new planes, in the order they appear in the selection menu after the C-130 (in-app prices are listed, but after I bought the Eclipse the other prices were 5¢ lower):
      - Bombardier 415 Superscooper, fire-fighter!(99¢)
      - Extra EA300S. (99¢)
      - Pitts S-2C. (99¢)
      - Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 M21, yep, that's a Zero! ($1.99)
      - Vought F4U-10 Corsair, no introduction necessary. ($1.99)
      - Berkut 360, light, experimental, canard stabilizer. (99¢)
      - Lockheed P-38F Lightning, no introduction necessary. ($1.99)
      - Eclipse 550, small business jet. (99¢)
      - Short SC.7 Skyvan, Irish-made cargo plane. (99¢)
      - Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG15, one of the very first swept-wing jets. ($2.99)
      - Grumman OV-1D Mohawk ($1.99)
      - McDonnell XF-85 Goblin, very small single-seat jet dropped from a B-36 bomber. Only 2 prototypes were made. (Not sure of price, I got it free 6/15/16)
      - Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a. ($1.99)

No more bridge paint-jobs.
I flew the Sopwith Camel under the bridge and got no new paint job. You can select the alternate paint jobs when you select the plane now.

New instruments/controls.
- New airspeed indicator is almost too small on my iPhone to be read, but I bet it looks good on an iPad!
- Brakes. No more long rollouts.
- Cockpit view in the Hellcat. (Don't know if any others have it, though I only have the classic 5 and the Goblin. I'd be surprised if the other fighters didn't have it.)

Will comment more as I learn more.
last modified: 15JUN16

PocketWings: Discovery Island is an exceedingly cool fight sim (or sim-like?*) app for the iPhone and iPad. This page was created with the iPhone version in mind because that's the version I have and am familiar with. (iPad users, Your Mileage Will Surely Vary.) The page is not complete. I don't know what complete means at this early juncture, but I will be adding to it as things occur to me.


Meet The AircraftMeet Discovery IslandFun StuffTriviaRecording, etc.

*Flight sim aficionados (a group I was—and sort of still am—a member of) will take issue with the use of the word simulator here, and they'd have a point; PocketWings planes suffer no damage when they crash, nor is any damage incurred by ground structures; planes bounce off buildings, balloons, the ground. The only exception to this is that planes will splash into bodies of water and disappear.

And don't look for the classic "six-pack" on the instrument panel. The only instrument on your "panel" is an airspeed indicator, which we can go ahead and call a speedometer since there is no wind on Discovery Island. There are two airfields on Discovery Island, only one of which has numbered runways, and all four of those are amusingly numbered "RWY 12" (and one of the four 12s is amusingly painted upside down!) so gyro headings are essentially useless. For the purposes of reference, on this page I will assume the aircraft in the starting position is heading due north. This means the Sun is always to the southeast. (The clouds do not move and can be pressed into use as a compass. Details below.)

But there's no shooting! What the hell are you supposed to do?
FLY, for goodness' sake. Land on stuff, see what happens! • Buzz the city. • Out of nowhere flying over wherever, drop your throttle to zero and pretend you have an engine failure. Try it off the coast and practice getting best glide ratio to reach land. • Try for Quickest Time From Starting Point To Landed And Wheels Stopped. (My record is 14 seconds in the Sopwith, though it probably wasn't survivable. My best survivable landing is 35.94 sec.) • See if those houses and churches and castles are to scale! • Fly under or through every encircling structure you can find. Fly though them inverted. • Get yourself into a death spiral and try to get out of it. • See how many barrel rolls you can do without losing complete control. • Do a loop and time it so at the peak of the loop you pass though one of the big hoops. Try it with one of the small hoops! • Even things you think you can't negotiate, try it! (What the hell damn guy! You know the single-span bridge near the start point? Try that multi-arch bridge way up the river! Impossible!) (......right?)

Try anything you can think of because you can always REWIND a couple of seconds and try it over a zillion times without restarting!! (See the Recording section below for details on how to do a DO OVER!)

Meet The Aircraft

• The tan biplane is a
RAF Sopwith Camel, the renowned WWI British fighter. Its paint job resembles that of the plane flown by RAF officer Roy Brown when he engaged The Red Baron.
• The blue low-wing single is a USAF F6F Hellcat WWII American naval fighter. To my experience the Hellcat is the highest performance plane of the six. It has the quickest acceleration and a terrific climb rate. (Eric Parker, PocketWings's programmer, had much success in the early 90s with his Hellcats flight simulators: it's no surprise at all that one of your choices is a Hellcat.)
• The red tri-wing is a Fokker Dr. 1, the famous WWI German fighter piloted by Manfed von Richthofen, "The Red Baron."
• The green and white heavy twin is a Douglas DC-3 / C-47 Skytrain.
• The four-prop, three-tail TWA airliner is a Lockheed C-69 Constellation.
• The four-prop beast in Coast Guard dress is a Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport.

The C-130 and the Constellation have nose gear. The other four planes are tail-draggers.

The game adjusts the view as soon as you select a new aircraft, so all planes fill the frame and look about the same size. The effect is recreated perfectly in the selection menu above. The reality is quite different of course. Compare the wingspan of each plane:
wingspan ft m
Sopwith Camel 27.99 8.53
Hellcat 42.85 13.06
Dr.I 23.62 7.2
DC-3 / C-47 95.01 28.96
Constellation 123.0 37.49
C-130 132.55 40.4

Once you fly any of the three heavies, you definitely notice a dramatic decrease in response and handling compared to any of the three singles.

Also, the heavies drop like a rock when you start. A TIP FOR FLYING THE HEAVIES: FIREWALL THE THROTTLE (go to full power) BEFORE YOU TAP THE "FLY" BUTTON, and DON'T pull up the gear/flaps until you've achieved a stable climb, or decent speed! The reason? In PocketWings the landing gear are wedded to the flaps, and flaps increase the lifting power of the wing, so you really need them when you're moving relatively slowly and close to the ground. (It's kind of a balancing act though, because while flaps increase lift, they also—along with deployed landing gear—increase drag, which means flaps/gear slow the plane down. BUT AREN'T WE USING FLAPS FOR EXTRA LIFT AT LOW SPEED AND LOW ALTITUDE? ISN'T THAT DANGEROUS? It is, but there's a solution: Throttle up a little when the plane is "dirty" (i.e. when flaps and gear are down) to compensate for the increased drag.)

Meet Discovery Island (map under construction...)

My goal with this section, which in fact was the main reason I started this page in the first place, is to create a decent map of Discovery Island. I'm a map junkie in the worst way, and I know I'll have a ton more fun with this app if I can have a map handy. The map is in progress, stay tuned. In the meantime, here's the current draft. As you can see I started with a sketch, then scanned it, and now am overwriting digitally. Eventually the only gray will be the city block, and spots that indicate tunnel entrances.

A Note About Measurement: short lengths—bridge heights, runway widths, etc—were measured by comparison with the known wingspans of the aircraft. Longer distances were measured by timed flight at fixed speed. I'm assuming the airspeed indicator displays mph. I tried to use documented stall speeds to determine the units for the ASI but none of the planes would stall reliably, so unless I hear otherwise I'll measure in miles and occasionally convert to metric for courtesy.)

- Discovery Island is essentially a jagged-edged square that is roughly 5.5 to 6 miles (8.8 to 9.7 km) per side.
- The northern and eastern coastlines are mountainous (as I mentioned in the intro, I'm assuming that due north is the direction the plane is facing at the start position) the southern and western coasts are lowland beaches or wetlands. The central part of the island is covered with what appears primarily to be farmland.
- The sun is at about alt: 45°, az: 135°, but aircraft shadows on the ground appear directly beneath the aircraft, as if the sun were high overhead. While aircraft appear to be the only things that cast ground shadows, almost every object is clearly sunlit on its southeastern side and shaded on its northwestern, planes included.)
- A mighty river wends and slices more or less diagonally through the island in a NW - SE direction, bisecting the island into NE and SW halves.
- The one city, on its perfecty rectangular 2500' x 2000' (760m x 610m) gray foundation :-) is in the center of the southern coast, more or less.
- As I mentioned in the intro, there are two airfields on Discovery Island.
      • Southeast Airstrip. This one is southeast of the start point and is just a pair of intersecting paved landing strips at the base of a mountain, between the mountain and the river. (I call this Southeast Airstrip: both runways here are roughly 3600' long. One is more north-south and is 15-33. The other is closer to east-west and is 11-29.)
      • West Island Airfield. The other airfield is a bona fide airport on the large island off the western coast. This airfield also has a pair of intersecting runways (about 5500' and 3100') but there are also taxiways, hangars and a control tower there, and the runways are numbered. (As I mentioned earlier, they're all numbered 12, but whaddaya gonna do? In point of fact the shorter one is oriented about 93°-273° so I'm calling that a 09-27; the longer runway is 48°-228°so I'm calling that one a 05-23. RWY 09 is the one whose "12" is painted upside down.)
- There are three significant smaller islands off the coast of Discovery Island. In the spirit of cartographers of yore, I'm making the map, I name the islands!
      • "Lava Island" is beyond Discovery Island's northern coast. It has one large lava pit and two smaller lava pits. There is an old-timey (wooden deck) aircraft carrier between Discovery Island and Lava Island; details about the carrier in the Fun Stuff section, below.
      • "West Island" is off the western coast, and has the controlled airfield on it I just mentioned.
      • "Southwest Island" is a tall, grass-capped island off the southwestern corner of Discovery Island. (From a distance it bears a passing resemblance to Devil's Tower National Monument.) I was thinking it was Discovery Island's highest point, but this is probably an optical illusion since Southwest Island is surrounded by the sea and low-lying beaches, while the peaks on the north and east coasts are surrounded by higher terrain.
- The clouds are lovely—very realistic— but you can't fly through them, or to them, for that matter. You can climb high enough that you lose sight of Discovery Island entirely and appear to be over an endless ocean, but you never get any closer to the clouds. (TIP: If you ever want or need to gain serious altitude—or go anywhere—fast, use the Hellcat. That sucker climbs like a rocket.) ANOTHER INTERESTING THING ABOUT THE CLOUDS: They do not move. If you fly around long enough, you instinctively start to use ground features for direction (the essence of VFR, of course) but since the clouds do not move no matter where you are, it is possible to use them as a compass. Reset sometime and before tapping FLY just pan around the motionless Sopwith camel. Look down the length of the leading edge of the wing in both directions and get a feel for which clouds are due east and west. Look directly forward and directly backward to familiarize yourself with which clouds are due north and due south. Since the Sopwith's shape is a perfect 90° cross (or "T") you can eyeball northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest and associate those clouds with those directions, if you like.
- There is a wood-top aircraft carrier off the northern coast, between Discovery Island and Lava Island. (More on that in the Fun Stuff section below)
- Discovery Island has two sea arches (aka natural bridges, natural arches), one about midway down the eastern coastline, the other is centrally located on the northern coastline.

Fun Stuff

Alternate Paint Jobs. If you manage to fly any of the six planes under the low bridge (it's to your immediate right of the starting position) you are rewarded with a new paint job. The paint changes are as follows:

- The Sopwith Camel turns white, with RAF insignia and a red heart on the side of the fuselage.
- The Hellcat gets a "target-tow" paint job: gray fuselage, yellow wings and tail planes, red rudder, red stripes on the inboard wings.
- The Fokker gets Lt. von Raben's paint scheme where the front half of the plane is blue and the back is white, with a white raven under the cockpit.
- The DC-3 gets what looks like some sort of military paint job where the fuselage and tail fin are red and the wings and horizontal stabilzers are white.
- If you can get that Connie under the low bridge in one piece (!) the plane gets a rather wild looking US NAVY paint job; the upper fuselage is midnight blue, the entire tail section and the outer half of each wing is red-orange, and the sides and bottom of the fuselage and the inboard half of each wing are gray.
- The C-130 assumes a United Nations paint job (judging by the "UN" letters that appear on the left wing and fuselage) where the fuselage and tail fin are white and the wings and horizontal stabilizers are light gray.

Balloon-floated runways. They are about 50' wide, which, if you take a look at the wingspans of the six planes, not everyone should try the floating runways. (Although if you're like me, you couldn't resist seeing if a C-130 would actually bounce off a balloon tether.) These guys are, for me, the toughest challenge so far. I've taken a couple dozen tries in the Sopwith Camel and the best I've been able to do is a nose-over. The runways are SHORT.
Aircraft Carrier. Fly straight/north after starting, pass under the natural bridge off in the distance, then turn left/west, you'll be right on the carrier's heading. The carrier has an effective landing width of about 100' (62m). I recommend the Hellcat to get you there quickly, then after making the turn west, transfer to a Sopwith or Fokker.
Roller Coaster? (what the hell else would you call it?) I have no idea what that big thing is in the NE corner of the island, but I was able to land the Sopwith Camel on it and use the prop to pull me all the way up the slope. Kinda cool. One of Discovery Island's two tunnels goes through the mountain, under the Roller Coaster.
Tunnels. There are two. "Mountain Tunnel" is a relatively short one that goes through the green mountain under the Roller Coaster. "River Tunnel" is longer and goes under the river at the location of the low bridge ("Paint Job Bridge!").
Flying Saucer. A flying saucer lies in wait somewhere on Discovery Island!


• Big green chunks of forest are about 40' (12.6m) tall.
• That supposedly "low" bridge you fly under to change paint jobs? About 270' (82m) average width underneath (it's wider closer to the water), with about 95' (29m) vertical clearance from the water to the underside of the bridge. Not so low after all.
• The wind turbines are something like 500' (150m) tall. The rotating blades are each about 100' (30m) long.
• There are four electrical towers south of the river and two north. I think of them as Eiffel Towers for obvious reasons but at 130' (46m) wide at the base and roughly 300' (91m) tall, they're less than 1/3 the height of the real deal.
• The tallest building in the city is about 60 stories and about 850' (260m) tall.

Recording, and other tech stuff

When you press the FLY button everything you do is entered into the game's five-minute memory cache, and can then be either viewed again by you, or even recorded into a stand-alone movie.

Recording in PocketWings seems kind of complicated when you first try it, but like anything else it's a piece of cake once you get used to it. Say for instance you've just flown a beautiful pattern around the island and touched the screen to PAUSE it. You can then press REWIND many times to speed back to the point where your coolness began and either:
        1) watch it (by pressing PLAY ) or
        2) record it (by pressing RECORD ).
        3) DO IT OVER (by pressing FLY ). This will overwrite your beautiful pattern of course, so be careful: if you want to watch it or record it, DO NOT TAP THE FLY BUTTON, OR ELSE THE THING YOU WANT TO WATCH OR RECORD WILL BE GONE.

VERY COOL: This DO OVER option is INFINITELY HANDY. Say you want to try a difficult maneuver (flying under a bridge, say) and you crash during the attempt. Simply touch the screen to stop, tap REWIND a few times, and give it another shot by tapping the FLY button! And when you fail again :-) do it over again! And again after that. Seriously, this DO OVER ability is one of the cooler things about Pocket Wings!

The cache has a five minute capacity so if you have been flying for, say, seven minutes, only the most recent five minutes will be viewable/recordable. If you close the app but don't fully quit it, the cache is not cleared but data stops being entered into the cache. In other words, you can fly for three minutes, close the app and do something else with your iPhone, open PocketWings back up, press FLY again and you still have that three minutes available for viewing or recording.

There appear to be four ways to clear flight data out of the cache (so if you FINALLY landed the C-130 on the aircraft carrier but haven't recorded it yet, DON'T do one of these!):
  1. Keep flying. Anything older than 5 minutes will "scroll off" the back end of the flight cache.
  2. Press the "RESTART" button . That will clear the cache and send you back to the start position in a Sopwith Camel.
  3. As I mentioned a second ago, merely pressing the iPhone's HOME button to get to the iPhone's menu screen will not clear the flight cache. BUT...if you get back to the iPhone's menu screen and press the HOME button twice quickly to activate the Multitask Menu, and then close PocketWings from the Multitask Menu...that WILL fully quit PocketWings and clear the flight cache.
  4. Powering off your iPhone completely will not clear the Multitask Menu but WILL cause PocketWings to relaunch, clearing the flight cache.
Anytime you see the blue launch screen where PocketWings tells you it is "Loading, Reading verts, Assigning uv's, Reticulating splines, Mipping textures, integrating Reynold's number"...rest assured the app is completely restarting and you're going back to the start position with a fresh Sopwith Camel and an empty flight cache.

iPhone mythbusting: The apps that appear in the Multitask Menu are NOT still running in the background, draining battery power, as is often claimed. The icons in the Multitask menu are ALIASES of programs you've had open recently, and nothing more.

Recording tips:
- The flight cache stores any view angles/viewing distances you used while flying in Free view mode so when you first rewind you'll view (or record) the flight the way you initially saw it. Later, when you are viewing a flight or recording it YOU CAN CHANGE FREE VIEW ANGLES AND VIEW DISTANCES AND THESE NEW PARAMETERS WILL BE INCORPORATED INTO YOUR RECORDING. The recording is a little jerky when you change angles, but still, it's pretty damned cool to fly a wild flight then watch it or record it from every conceivable angle or distance!
- IF, WHILE RECORDING, YOU TRY TO CHANGE MODES (from Free to Chase, or vice versa) PocketWings ENDS THE RECORDING. You can press RECORD in the new mode, to continue where you left off, but everything after the mode change will appear in a separate movie clip.
Questions, comments?