Last year we reviewed Plane English, an interesting app that uses voice recognition to help pilots improve their VFR communication skills. We liked the interactive nature of this app, which means that pilots can get graded on simulated transmissions instead of just listening to recordings. Now the there’s a new option for IFR pilots.
The app is now called ARSim Aviation Radio Simulator and works on iOS and Android devices. A one-year subscription unlocks all the learning tools. The app starts with a review of the basics of IFR communications, including the familiar “who you’re talking to, who you are, where you are, what you want” sequence.
The real meat can be found in the 70+ scenarios that come with an IFR subscription. These cover every part of a typical IFR flight:
- Requesting and copying a clearance from clearance delivery or ground
- Takeoff clearances and working with tower
- Departure control and climb-out
- Enroute communications with Center, including pilot requests
- Approach vectors, clearances, and requests
ARSim includes multiple airports, so you can try scenarios at complicated Class B airports and quieter Class D airports alike. The app shows the relevant airport diagram or charts, so you can visualize your position. Tap the speaker button to hear the simulated ATC call, and tap the microphone button to speak your response. If you’re unsure, you can tap the eye button for a transcript.
This is good practice, but the best feature is that the app listens to your radio calls and offers scoring and suggestions. It will point out which words you got wrong and offer a score in four different areas. You can repeat a scenario from the results screen with the tap of a button. Once you’ve completed the scenarios, you can take a quiz to test your knowledge.
The app does a pretty good job of understanding human speech, and it seems to improve over time—the latest version is better than it was a year ago when we last reviewed it. If you talk really fast, you can confuse it, but then again, you shouldn’t do that with ATC in real life.
Overall, we like ARSim. It won’t teach you everything you need to know about communications (you still need a video course or textbook for that, plus some time listening to real world radio frequencies), but it’s ideal for practicing varied scenarios once you know the basics. For many pilots, IFR communications is a particular challenge, so the new scenarios are a welcome addition. Next time approach tells you, “turn left heading 240, maintain 3,000 until established, cleared for the approach,” you can be ready to reply confidently.
ARSim Aviation Radio Simulator by Plane English offers two subscription levels: the VFR subscription costs $59.99, and the IFR subscription costs $79.99. You can buy both the VFR and IFR subscriptions as a bundle and save—the package price is $95.99, making it by far the best value. One subscription is valid for iOS or Android devices.
To see the app in action, check out the following video: