Apple iOS GPS Issue Resolved with 8.4 Update

UPDATE 7/2/15:

We have completed our general ForeFlight Mobile compatibility testing of the public version of Apple iOS 8.4. We recommend caution when it comes to any iOS update, however our testing did not reveal any significant issues.

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We are happy to report that the GPS accessory compatibility issue that resulted from the Apple iOS 8.3 update is resolved with the iOS 8.4 update released this morning. We have performed a quality review of the Bad Elf GPS Pro, Bad Elf GPS Pro+, Dual XGPS150, and Dual XGPS160 on a Wi-Fi iPad running iOS 8.4 and these devices perform as expected. Stratus 1 and Stratus 2 devices were not affected by this issue. We have also started our general ForeFlight Mobile compatibility testing of the final version of iOS 8.4.

Customers that wish to resume use of their affected GPS accessories can upgrade to iOS 8.4. Customers that do not need immediate access to the affected GPS accessories can opt to wait until ForeFlight completes its compatibility testing of the final iOS 8.4 release and issues an ‘all clear’ notice.

For your reference, here are the instructions on how to update the iOS software on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Bulletin: June 25 Data Updates

A new Airport and Navigation Database is available for the June 25, 2015 – July 23, 2015 period for customers running ForeFlight Mobile 7.0 or newer. This update corrects Procedure Preview for our ForeFlight Mobile Pro Canada customers.

We have also released an updated version of Search and Rescue in ForeFlight Mobile in our Documents Catalog.

All customers will be prompted to download these updates inside of ForeFlight Mobile.

ForeFlight is Onboard Historic Air Race Classic

As a veteran of this and other cross-country air races, I was thrilled to participate in the Air Race Classic starting events in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

AboveAllAviationTeam+FF

Visiting with Pilots Jessie Davidson, Topaz Grabman, and Emma Sullivan from Above All Aviation. These ladies are strategizing for a win!

The Air Race Classic has its roots in the first Women’s National Air Derby, held in 1929, when twenty female pilots set out to prove to the world that air racing was not just a sport for men. Beginning in Santa Monica, California they flew over 2,800 miles to the finish line—the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. From that event, the Ninety-Nines were formed, as ninety-nine of the then 117 licensed female pilots organized to promote flying, friendship, and freedom around the world. Air Race Classic, Inc. continues the tradition of this historic race.

With airplanes and logbooks impounded for meticulous inspection by members of AWAM (Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance), anticipation and excitement built over the weekend as the 51 race teams gathered for three days of pre-race briefings. During the briefings I shared with racers how to get the most out of ForeFlight features such as our new weather imagery for better forecast planning, user waypoints, and annotating taxi diagrams with race time lines. It was fun to share my experience in what goes into creating a strategy for this race.

Each airplane is ‘handicapped’ to provide the best way possible to make all airplanes equally competitive. During the handicap flight the plane is flown full throttle on a rectangular course at a specific altitude. Vents are closed and engines are leaned for best performance. This levels the playing field and so the race becomes one of pilot skill and strategy rather than the raw speed of the fastest airplane, as it was in 1929.

As an Air Race Classic racer myself, I can tell you that the best strategy is to scrutinize the weather each day of the race and capture the best possible winds on the best possible days. Sometimes that means not flying on a day of headwinds if more favorable weather is forecast. As long as the course is completed in the four days allowed, how many of the legs are flown each day is up to each race team. There are some other fine-tuned race strategies I have used, but you’ll have to be my race partner to find out what those are! My ultimate advice: fly straight, fly fast.

2015 Air Race Classic star route

This year’s 2400 mile race forms a star pattern.

On Monday, the clock started against the 111 racers. The day VFR race legs total more than 2,400 miles. The race route is different each year; this year’s path draws a sort of star pattern, with the required timed legs going first to Hickory, NC, then Connellsville, PA, Jeffersonville, IN, Kalamazoo, MI, Lawrenceville, IL, Kirksville, MO, Union City, TN, and Gadsden, AL, and crossing the finish line at Fairhope, AL. Those who crossed the starting timeline have until 5:00 pm EDT Thursday to finish the course.

Engineers and rocket scientists who work for companies like Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic, airline pilots, and airport managers, artists, singers, veterinarians, and retirees, and more people with fascinating backgrounds are in this race. Seventeen collegiate teams from around the country are vying not only for the coveted first place prize, but the chance to finish ahead of all other competing schools.

Unfortunately not all registered teams arrived for the start, as weather kept four race teams from reaching Fredericksburg. Another nerve-trying situation occurred at the start when Team 54, Terry Kane and Roxanne Ostrowski, returned from the starting line with a low voltage light. To remain contenders, they had three hours to secure the parts, complete repairs, and fly the timeline to start the race. I’m happy to report that they beat the clock and are still in the competition!

As the race teams navigate through the challenging race course, Team ForeFlight sends its best wishes for a safe and exciting adventure! Find out more about the race teams here, and join us as we track their progress here.

Bulletin: June 25 Data Updates

Data updates are now available to download for the June 25, 2015 – July 23, 2015 and June 25, 2015 – August 20, 2015 periods:

  • Airport and Navigation Database
  • ForeFlight Airport Diagrams

From the FAA:

  • VFR Charts and Terminal Area Charts
  • World Area Charts
  • High and Low Enroutes, Area Charts
  • Caribbean High and Low Enroutes, Area Charts
  • Ocean Planning Charts
  • Taxi Diagrams
  • Terminal Procedures
  • Airport/Facility Diagrams
  • Documents

For our ForeFlight Mobile Pro Canada customers:

  • Taxi Diagrams
  • Terminal Procedures
  • High and Low Enroutes
  • Canada Flight Supplement
  • Documents

For our Military Flight Bag customers:

  • Georeferenced worldwide D-FLIP Terminal Procedures
  • Georeferenced worldwide D-FLIP Airport Diagrams
  • CSA High and Low Enroutes, Area Charts
  • PAA High and Low Enroutes, Area Charts
  • D-FLIP Publications such as Planning Change Notices, Area Planning Documents,
  • Chart Supplements, Enroute Change Notices, and Terminal Change Notices.
  • Airfield Qualification Program (AQP) diagrams
  • Airfield Suitability and Restrictions Report (Giant Report)
  • Airport/Facility Directory

All customers will be prompted to download these updates inside of ForeFlight Mobile.

What’s Up With QPF?

Areas of precipitation that are forecast along your proposed route should get your attention. These should be considered “hot spots” for concern and may add undo risk to the flight. While precipitation isn’t always problematic, even to pilots flying under visual flight rules (VFR), adverse weather elements such as thunderstorms, low IFR conditions, mountain obscuration, reduced visibility, airframe icing and turbulence tend to occur in and around areas of precipitation. So these precipitation areas are regions that pilots need to drill down a little deeper to determine what, if any, impact they may create on their planned flight.

This is the reason we introduced the 6 hour Quantitative Precipitation Forecast, or QPF, in ForeFlight Mobile 7.1. Shown below, the QPF represents excellent guidance when planning a cross country trip, whether your flight is several hours or several days in the future. You can find the 6 hour QPF under the CONUS Weather in the USA Ensembles. So let’s take a look at the advantages and limitations of the QPF.

QPF Example

This is the 6 hour QPF or Quantitative Precipitation Forecast.

Most pilots are familiar with the precipitation forecast on Prog charts. Precipitation identified on prog charts such as the one shown below is considered an instantaneous precipitation forecast. That is, the precipitation shown is valid at a single time and represents precipitation coverage or where precipitation is expected to be reaching the surface at the valid time.

Prog Chart Precipitation

The Prog chart includes an instantaneous precipitation forecast valid at a single time as shown in the lower left.

Instead of a single time, the QPF is valid over a range of time. In other words, it is the quantity of precipitation expressed in inches that is expected to reach the surface over a specific period of time. In this case, the period is six hours so the forecast is called a 6 hour QPF. The valid range of time is shown in the date-time stamp on the lower left, so this forecast is valid from 0600 through 1200 UTC as shown below. It is important to note that unlike Prog charts, the QPF does not distinguish between the type of precipitation (rain, snow, freezing rain, etc.) nor does it tell you if the precipitation is the result of deep, moist convection or thunderstorms.

QPF-Date-Time-Stamp

Solid-filled color contours are drawn based on the expected precipitation amount (in inches) within the six hour forecast period using the scale in the lower left. Any “X” on the chart tells you the local maXimum precipitation amount (also in inches) within it’s respective contoured area. So for this forecast below in eastern Oklahoma and Texas, a maximum of 1.78” of precipitation is anticipated to reach the surface between the period beginning at 1800 UTC through 0000 UTC. In the case of wintry precipitation such as snow or ice pellets, the forecast roughly approximates the melted equivalent. Typically 12 inches of snow melted down represents about 1 inch of rain.

QPF

Also, the QPF doesn’t specify when the precipitation is expected within the valid range of time; it could fall all in the first hour, all in the last hour or it could be a continuous light rain falling throughout the entire forecast period. This is especially important to understand when the precipitation may be from convection. Often during the warm season, most of the precipitation forecast may fall within an hour or two and that could be near the beginning or end of the forecast period leaving much of the valid time free of precipitation.

The QPF offers a couple of distinct advantages over the instantaneous precipitation forecasts found on the Prog charts. Given that precipitation forecasts on prog charts represent coverage and are valid at a single time, the QPF can highlight areas of precipitation that may occur between Prog chart forecasts. For example, it is possible that an area of showers and thunderstorms may be expected to develop at 1900 UTC and dissipate by 2300 UTC. This area of precipitation would not be shown on the prog charts valid at 1800 and 0000 UTC, however, it would show up on the QPF. So the QPF is a complementary forecast to help fill in the gap in between prog chart forecasts.

Another advantage is that Instantaneous precipitation shown on prog charts stops after 48 hours. However, given that the QPF is valid over a range of time which is considerably less difficult to forecast, they provide guidance out to 3.5 days in the future – perfect for those Friday to Sunday round-robin flights.

PoP Goes The Forecast

When we make a decision to depart on any round-robin flight, it’s not unusual to also factor in the expected weather on the return trip. If the return leg doesn’t look very good, what’s the sense in making a flight that may put us in a compromising position later on. But if that flight is three or more days in the future, how do you know that it’ll be safe to fly back home? That’s a difficult question to answer because at three days and beyond there really isn’t any aviation-specific weather guidance that can tell you about adverse weather elements such as low ceilings and/or low visibility, airframe icing and turbulence. That certainly leaves pilots to fend for themselves.

If you want to stack the deck in your favor and choose the best time to minimize your exposure to adverse weather you should focus in on areas of precipitation. Of course, not all precipitation events are considered hazardous, but many are, especially when flying VFR. That’s because adverse weather elements such as IFR conditions, icing, turbulence and thunderstorms tend to occur in and around areas of precipitation. So it’s a good bet that if you find yourself faced with precipitation forecast along your proposed route, you will likely encounter some form of challenging weather, even if your planned flight is several days from now.

So that’s why in ForeFlight Mobile 7.1 we introduced the 12 hour Probability of Precipitation forecast like the one shown below. It’s known as the PoP forecast and you’ll find it in the USA CONUS Imagery view under 12 HR PoP.

Probability of Precipitation forecast

This is the 12 hour Probability of Precipitation (PoP) forecast. You can find this on ForeFlight under the Imagery view in the 12 HR PoP collection.

This forecast is issued by meteorologists at the Weather Prediction Center (WPC) in College Park, Maryland. It’s the same group of forecasters that issue the familiar prog charts pilots have used for many years. It’s designed to show the forecaster’s confidence of where precipitation will likely reach the surface within a 12 hour forecast period. The higher the numbers shown on the forecast, the higher the chances (probability) precipitation will occur in that period.

It’s important to understand the date-time stamp on the forecast. Many precipitation forecasts are valid over a period of time. In this case, the period is 12 hours. The valid time in the lower left of the chart is the ending time of the 12 hour period. In this case the forecast is valid from 12Z on June 1st through 00Z on June 2nd. This basically covers the daytime hours on June 1st.

While the short-range surface prog charts generally cover the weather features and precipitation expected over the next two days, the 12 hour PoP forecast describes the medium- to long-range forecast. It starts with Day 3 (the day after tomorrow) and runs through Day 7 with 12 hour forecasts ending at 00Z (daytime) and 12 hour forecasts ending at 12Z (nighttime).

Let’s say you were planning a flight from Chicago to Atlanta during the day on June 1. Using the 12 hour PoP forecast above, there’s a good chance you’ll face challenging weather along that route. On the other hand, if you were flying from Chicago to Oklahoma City, the likelihood of any significant adverse weather is minimal.

That’s not to say that most of the significant weather may end up occurring during the late afternoon on that flight to Atlanta. So a morning flight may still be possible. But this forecast doesn’t provide that level of temporal resolution. Moreover, even though the flight to Oklahoma City looks promising, you could still face IFR conditions, icing (during the cold season), strong winds or the potential for turbulence. So you can’t become complacent.

Day 3 Prog Chart

Use the Day 3 Prog chart along with the 12 hour PoP.

In that light it’s useful to also look at the Day 3 prog chart shown above (Day 3 through Day 7 progs are now located in the Prog Charts collection). Forecasters don’t show areas of instantaneous precipitation on the Day 3 through Day 7 progs, but what you do notice is that most of the precipitation shown on the 12 hour PoP forecast is along and ahead of the stationary front that extends from the Eastern Shore of Maryland southwest to Houston, Texas. Therefore, much of this precipitation is associated with a large scale synoptic feature which means plenty of dynamic forcing and likely the reason the probabilities are so high.

Also notice that behind the front the precipitation chances decrease and become nearly zero through Illinois and Missouri. This is courtesy of a rather large area of high pressure seen on the Day 3 prog with an inverted ridge spilling down from Ontario, Canada into central Texas. Such a ridge promotes subsidence or sinking air. Air that is sinking tends to inhibit the formation of clouds and tends to keep the air stable. While you can’t rule out early morning radiation fog or some moderate thermal turbulence in the afternoon, the chances of any significant turbulence aloft is minimal under a ridge. Lastly, the pressure gradient (distance between isobars) is fairly large implying a low risk of strong and gusty winds.

Pilots have never really been all that skilled using long-range forecasts. That’s understandable since a pilot’s primary training mainly focused on making a go or stay decision moments before departure. Very little time is spent on how to analyze the weather more than 24 hours in advance. But these long-range forecasts can provide some valuable planning information especially if your timing is flexible. Or if it’s not flexible, a bad decision now might tempt you to fly when the weather is hazardous later on for your return trip. Here at ForeFlight we hope that the 12 hour PoP forecast will provide the guidance you need for that long-range flight planning.

Bulletin: June 5 Data Updates

An updated Ontario Taxi Diagram and A/FD download is available for the April 30, 2015 – June 28, 2015 period. This update adds two CFS entries for offline use: CYQK and CYVZ. We have also updated the Pilot’s Guide to ForeFlight Mobile in the Documents Catalog.

All customers who have these selected will be prompted to download them inside of ForeFlight Mobile.

New Pilot Scores Sporty’s Sweepstakes Plane with ForeFlight Purchase

Sporty's Michael Wolf congratulating sweepstakes winner Rick Okikawa.

Last month we participated in Sporty’s Annual Fly-In and enjoyed free food, fellowship, flying—and a special surprise. Always a highlight of the event is the announcement of the airplane sweepstakes winner. Sporty’s customers are automatically entered into the sweepstakes each time they make a purchase. This year that winner was Rick Okikawa from Sacramento, California. Rick’s winning purchase was a ForeFlight subscription bought on a whim when he ran into his flight instructor one day.

I had the opportunity to chat with Rick about his big win and what his plans are for his new plane:

“I was struggling looking at TFRs and my instructor happened to pass by and asked if he could help. He immediately saw what I was trying to do and said, ‘Wait, you don’t have ForeFlight? Let me show you what you can do’,” explained Rick. “He proceeded to pull out his iPad and started showing me everything from TFRs to airport details in the Directory. I immediately purchased an iPad and called up Sporty’s the same day to order ForeFlight.”

Rick considers himself new to flying, having started part-time about three years ago flying with the Cal-Aggie Flying Farmers out of the University of California Davis. In July of 2014 he sealed the deal, completing his flight training and becoming a licensed pilot.

“I’ve always had the interest and always wanted to fly. You can always make excuses—not enough time, not enough money. Things just fell into place for me; I had the time, I had the money, I didn’t have any more excuses to not fly.”

When I asked him about the winning phone call he received from Sporty’s, he said he thought it was a scam at first. And who could blame him? It’s not every day you get a call from someone trying to give you a new airplane!

What does Rick have planned for his new ride? “Currently my favorite places to fly are along the coast: Mendocino, Little Rivers, Monterrey, and flying the bay tour. I am looking forward to having the freedom to just get out and go when I want and not have to plan ahead to reserve a plane. I’d like to do some cross-country flying, and would even like to start training for mountain flying so I can take a trip to Lake Tahoe through the mountains.”

We thank Sporty’s for another unforgettable fly-in; we had a great time and it’s an event we’re sure Rick won’t forget either. Congratulations, Rick—wishing you blue skies in the new RV-12!