When The Radar Lies

The ground-based radar mosaic displayed on the Map view in ForeFlight Mobile combines radar data from the National Weather Service (NWS) and Environment Canada. Its primary purpose is to provide pilots with a good estimation of where precipitation is occurring and where it’s not. While there are some holes in the coverage (especially in Canada) the radar mosaic is fairly accurate most of the time. Even so, non-precipitation returns generically called ground clutter can be displayed on the radar layer producing what looks like very real areas of precipitation.

Anomalous propagation, or AP, is perhaps the most annoying form of clutter. Essentially with AP, part of the side lobes of the radar beam are ducted or bent down toward the earth during certain atmospheric conditions. This causes it to strike objects on the ground (trees, buildings, cars, etc.) and some of that power from the beam is reflected back to the radar along the same bent path and gets recorded as areas of precipitation. When this occurs you might see on ForeFlight what looks like real precipitation. In fact, it can look remarkably like real convection at times fooling even the most seasoned pilot.

ForeFlight Radar Layer With AP

Anomalous propagation (AP) on the ForeFlight radar layer near Buffalo, New York.

What to do if you suspect AP

Since AP can look remarkably like real areas of precipitation (including thunderstorms), it’s important to always examine the observational data in and around the area. This includes cross-checking surface observations (METARs) to see if precipitation or thunderstorms are being reported. Also, without clouds, it can’t rain. So if clear skies are being reported all around the area, then either the precipitation shown on the radar is very isolated or perhaps it’s erroneous. Keep in mind that automated reports only show clouds that exist below 12,000 feet AGL.

Along these lines, the visible satellite imagery in ForeFlight Mobile can also be useful to identify non-precipitation returns during the daytime hours. If precipitation exists on radar, there should be clouds in that region even if it is isolated convection. If there are no clouds, the returns on the radar are likely ground clutter or AP.

Even when the area is cloudy, AP can still exist. If this is the case and you suspect AP, try looping the radar. Most real precipitation moves and evolves over time, but AP tends to stay anchored over the same area with little noticeable movement. Moreover, the radar loop may look erratic and the intensity may change in a way that’s unnatural.

While AP can occur the U.S. it tends to occur the most in the Canadian Provinces. A favored place is on the U.S. side of Lake Erie just onshore and also in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest in British Columbia. While AP can occur anytime of the day or night, it’s often favored during the morning hours just before and after sunrise. This the time of day where the atmosphere is generally stable near the surface which is a perfect environment to allow the side lobes of the radar to be ducted.

So why can’t AP be filtered?

Filtering the radar of non-precipitation returns is like walking a fine line. If you filter too aggressively, you may remove real areas of precipitation; if you don’t filter enough, you get clutter such as AP displayed. In the U.S., filtering can be automated since the Doppler portion of the radar is available. This can be used to help filter AP and other ground clutter. While Canadian radars are Doppler radars, Environment Canada does not export the Doppler data at this time. Also in the U.S., the NEXRAD ground-based radar systems are all fitted with a dual polarization (dual pol) capability which can provide additional information to filter non-precipitation returns.

At the moment the only way to guarantee that AP from Canadian radars won’t find its way into the ForeFlight radar layer is to add a gross filter before the data reaches the display. This is accomplished by our radar provider by manually turning off the data coming from the offending radar(s). This can be risky since it means that all returns shown from this radar will be eliminated, false or not. The folks at Barons who produce the XM-delivered satellite weather also face the same issue with Canadian radars. They don’t turn off specific radars. Instead they create a manual gross filter that eliminates all returns over regions that are highly unlikely to receive precipitation.

In the end, every piece of information you use to make preflight decisions should be scrutinized even if it comes from a trusted source. Take the time to cross-check the radar layer against other sources within the ForeFlight Mobile app so you won’t be fooled.

ForeFlight Announces Connectivity with Garmin Avionics

We are excited to announce connectivity between ForeFlight Mobile and Garmin avionics. When connected to Garmin Flight Stream, you can now wirelessly receive ADS-B weather and traffic, precise GPS position data, and dynamic pitch and bank information on your iPad or iPhone.

ForeFlight Mobile and Garmin avionics

ForeFlight Mobile connects to compatible Garmin avionics via the Flight Stream 210/110, Garmin’s Bluetooth® wireless gateway, and displays the full suite of ADS-B weather and traffic information received from the GDL 88/84. The Flight Stream 210, with its internal attitude sensor, powers ForeFlight’s Synthetic Vision and adds a backup attitude capability with dynamic pitch and bank information.

WAAS GPS position information from GTN™ 650/750, GNS™ 430W/530W navigators, or GDL 88 with an internal WAAS receiver can also be used to power features like ForeFlight Mobile’s moving map and geo-referenced approach plates and taxi diagrams to enhance situational awareness in the air and on the ground.

Additionally, flight plan transfer capability is currently in development and will be available in a future app update.

Support for Garmin Flight Stream connectivity is available with ForeFlight Mobile 7.2, now available for download on the App Store. For more information, visit foreflight.com/connect.

ForeFlight for Apple Watch. Coming Soon.

ForeFlight for Apple Watch

Apple Watch is the first product Apple has designed to be worn and represents a new chapter in the relationship pilots have with technology. It brings a fresh opportunity for ForeFlight designers and developers to deliver new experiences that make interacting with ForeFlight Mobile and important flight information easier and more personal. We are excited to share with you this preview of ForeFlight for Apple Watch.

ForeFlight for Apple Watch weather and instruments.

At-a-Glance Weather and Time

With a flick of the wrist, ForeFlight displays nearby flight conditions, as well as local and zulu time using the Apple Watch Glances feature. Know when flight conditions are above minimums and forget having to do local to zulu time conversions in your head!

ADS-B Weather to Your Wrist

With a Stratus on board and connected to iPhone, ADS-B weather is delivered right to ForeFlight for Apple Watch. In flight and on the ground, easily view current METARs for airports in your recents and favorites lists.ForeFlight for Apple Watch Instruments view.

Customizable Flight Instruments

A customizable dashboard of flight instruments helps you keep track of information like ETE, ETA, distance to destination, track, ground speed, GPS altitude, and more. Configure the instrument layout to suit your preferences.

Flight Notifications and Timers

Apple Watch delivers the ForeFlight flight notifications that you are used to, but in a more convenient way. Get a discreet wrist tap as soon as an expected route clearance is issued. Keep tabs on total flight time or timed approaches in the Timers view.

ForeFlight for Apple Watch Timers view.Get Ready

An iPhone 5 or later running iOS 8.2 or higher is required to run ForeFlight for Apple Watch. The iPhone installs supported applications on Apple Watch and manages communications between the devices. Without an iPhone, you cannot install Apple Watch applications at this time.

 

 

Pre-orders begin today and Apple Watch goes on sale April 24th.

ForeFlight for Apple Watch with iPhone.

ForeFlight Mobile and iOS 8

The next version of ForeFlight Mobile will require iOS 8 or later. By making iOS 8 the minimum iOS version supported, we can deliver new features that require iOS 8, deliver smaller application downloads, improve energy efficiency, add improved support for devices like the iPhone 6 Plus, and deliver faster application performance. The only device that is not capable of upgrading to iOS 8 that is currently also supported by iOS 7 (the current minimum iOS requirement for ForeFlight Mobile) is iPhone 4.

This support article on Apple’s website describes how to update your iOS device wirelessly or using iTunes if you are wanting to get ahead of the release: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204204.

Faster, Better Auto-router Now Available and DUATS service deprecated

Last night we released an update to our airway routing suggestion in Route Advisor by replacing our previous route provider, DUATS, with our integration partner Lockheed Martin. This enhancement brings quicker response times and more accurate and direct routing for user-provided origin and destination pairs. 

Lockheed Martin provides proper entries and exits onto and off of the airways so that clicking on the suggested route and loading it as a flight plan should be a seamless process. Previously this was not always the case with DUATS and some routes failed to load properly.

Below is a screenshot of an airway routing between KAXH and KLAL in preparation for our flights to Sun ‘n Fun 2015, as computed by the new router:

IMG_1777

In addition to leveraging Lockheed Martin’s routing engine, we implemented server-side caching on routes that will provide an instant response for routes that have been recently searched by other users. Give it a try for some of your favorite routes and let us know about your experience – it is fast! 

We are always working to improve our infrastructure to provide the most utility for your flight planning goals, and this is another great step forward!

DUATS Support Deprecated

With this release, we are also deprecating our support for DUATs based services in favor of the modernized web services technologies provided by Lockheed Martin. For those customers who still have DUATS credentials configured in ForeFlight Mobile, we recommend removing those credentials to take full advantage of the more advanced capabilities.

Sign out instructions are provided on page 153 of the ForeFlight Mobile Pilots guide and as follows:

  1. Tap More > Accounts.
  2. Tap on the “CSC DUATS” field.
  3. Tap the red “Sign Out” button on the next page.

As always, we are on frequency at team@foreflight.com to answer any questions you have.

How To Use ForeFlight Mobile and Dynon SkyView Wi-Fi Connectivity

We are delighted to announce an integration with Dynon Avionics to bring you secure Wi-Fi connectivity between ForeFlight Mobile on the iPad and iPhone and the SkyView glass panel avionics system. This integration expands our ForeFlight Connect capabilities and delivers more ways to make flying easier and more efficient.

Getting Started

The wireless connectivity between ForeFlight Mobile and the Dynon SkyView system is enabled by a Wi-Fi Adapter for SkyView. The USB adapters may be purchased from an authorized Dynon Avionics dealer or directly from Dynon Avionics. Please see the Dynon website for current pricing.

For software, you will need SkyView version 12.0 or later and ForeFlight Mobile 6.7 or later (Basic or Pro). Once configured, ForeFlight connects to SkyView via a Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) connection.

Your checklist for ForeFlight Mobile + Dynon SkyView Connectivity hardware and software requirements:

  • Wi-Fi Adapter for SkyView for each screen you have installed
  • SkyView version 12.0 or later
  • ForeFlight Mobile version 6.7 or later (Basic or Pro)

After the Wi-Fi Adapter(s) are installed, configure the SkyView Wi-Fi network though SkyView’s Setup Menu. Refer to the current SkyView System Installation Guide for full instructions.

Connect ForeFlight and SkyView

With SkyView turned on, locate the Wi-Fi network in the Settings menu on your iPad or iPhone and connect. You can verify connection in ForeFlight Mobile in the following places: 

  • When ForeFlight is connected to the SkyView network you will see the Connected logo along the top menu bar: 
Pull flight plan changes by tapping the Connect icon.

To pull flight plan route changes from SkyView into ForeFlight tap the Connect icon in the top menu bar.

  • Navigate to the Maps view and tap on the Settings menu cog icon in the top menu bar and scroll down to Devices. 
  • From the Route Editor, tap on the Send To icon to see the panel Connect icon:
Send to the panel-mount avionics from the route editor

In the Route Editor on the Maps view, use the Send To button to transfer route plan changes from ForeFlight to SkyView. 

  • Navigate to the More view > Devices > tap on the SkyView box on the right for connection details.
Connect status in the More view

Navigate to More > Devices to see the SkyView connectivity status.

 ForeFlight Mobile and SkyView Connectivity

 ForeFlight Mobile and SkyView connectivity has the following capabilities:

  •  Send and receive flight plan routes between ForeFlight Mobile and SkyView
  • ForeFlight Mobile can receive SkyView’s WAAS GPS data to drive the moving map display and information in the HUD instrument panel.
  • ForeFlight Mobile can receive SkyView’s AHRS data to drive pitch and roll in the Attitude Indicator and Synthetic Vision views.

ForeFlight Synthetic Vision is Coming

Luminous terrain

We are excited to unveil our visually stunning, high performance synthetic vision platform for ForeFlight Mobile. With features like luminous terrain, night sky, FAA styled runway numbers, and a brilliant obstacle awareness system, we believe you will find flying with ForeFlight Synthetic Vision a joy. Synthetic Vision plans will be available on the iPad with ForeFlight Mobile version 6.6 or later and are available for United States and Canada coverages. ForeFlight Mobile Basic + Synthetic Vision will be $99.99/year, ForeFlight Mobile Pro USA + Synthetic Vision will be $174.99/year, and ForeFlight Mobile Pro Canada + Synthetic Vision will be $174.99/year. Synthetic Vision plans will be available soon after the Christmas holiday. Start the New Year with a significant upgrade to your flight bag! Until then, enjoy the ForeFlight Synthetic Vision highlights shown below or on our Synthetic Vision web page:

Synthetic Vision Comes Alive with Stratus

The Stratus 2* has a built-in AHRS that drives real time pitch and roll indications on the attitude indicator within the SSV-iPad-with-Stratusynthetic Vision view. The award-winning Stratus also delivers subscription-free weather, ADS-B traffic, and GPS position and attitude information—all from a wireless receiver that fits in your pocket. Because Stratus is made for ForeFlight, it delivers seamless app integration and simply works the right way.

It’s Not Too Late! Give yourself a last minute gift and be ready for Synthetic Vision. Order Stratus 2 by 5pm Central Time on December 23 for delivery on Christmas Eve. Order by Friday, December 19 to avoid expedited shipping costs.

Buy-Stratus-Now-button

 

 

Stratus is Made in the USA.

*Stratus is not required to run Synthetic Vision.

ForeFlight Mobile’s Helper Messages Make Filing Easier

ForeFlight Mobile has two kinds of helper messages to assist with the flight plan filing process. These messages ensure that you file with accuracy and avoid potential issues with ATC down the line.

The first type of helper message is a warning. Warnings are new in ForeFlight Mobile version 6.5 and appear when something doesn’t look quite right in the Route or Altitude fields.

In the route field, the main thing ForeFlight will be looking for is an invalid or mistyped fix. The warning gives you an opportunity to double-check that you have entered the route as intended before you file. There may be route codes or other route elements that the app is not familiar with and so you can still file your flight plan when this warning is triggered.

An example of a route element warning.

An example of a route element warning.

A warning will also be triggered if you select an altitude that does not agree with your direction or type of flight:

An example of an altitude warning where an altitude of 12,000 was chosen for an eastbound IFR flight.

An example of an altitude warning where an altitude of 12,000 was chosen for an eastbound IFR flight.

Similar to the route field warning, the altitude warning gives you a chance to ensure you have entered the proper altitude before you file.

The second type of helper message is an error. Errors are more restrictive in that they prevent you from filing a flight plan until they are corrected. Errors include things like: not enough fuel to meet required reserves, incomplete ICAO profile elements, and invalid departure times.

Not enough fuel error

An example flight plan error indicating not enough fuel to meet required reserves.

ForeFlight Mobile Adds Color-Enhanced Infrared Satellite

To celebrate fall, we’ve added a touch of color to our global satellite layer! The color-enhanced infrared (IR) satellite image is designed to visually highlight the coldest cloud tops. Cold cloud tops are often indicative of active thunderstorms that can produce severe or extreme convective turbulence. The animated satellite layer updates every thirty minutes and is accessed in the map mode menu in the Maps view.

IR-Satellite-1-fix

How IR Satellite Imagery Works

Any object that has a temperature warmer than absolute zero will emit radiation at many different wavelengths. Radiation produced by the earth and its atmosphere is emitted spaceward from land masses, oceans, lakes and the top of most clouds. Satellite sensors are used to measure this radiation that includes both visible light and those wavelengths that are invisible to the naked eye. The radiation emitted in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum is the source of data used to build our IR satellite layer.

To create this layer, five geostationary satellites look at the entire earth (with the exception of polar regions) and measure the amount of infrared energy being emitted. The infrared satellite sensor measures the amount of energy and calibrates it to temperature using a very simple physical relationship known as Planck’s Law.

High clouds are very cold and emit less infrared radiation than warmer clouds near Earth’s surface. Furthermore, land masses are usually warmer than most clouds. Since the satellite can’t directly distinguish between the earth’s surface and clouds, we employ a software algorithm that determines where it is cloudy and where the sky is clear. While this works well most of the time, snow cover, fog and even the oceans can sometimes fool the algorithm. We recommend using the Sky Coverage and the Satellite layers together to get the most accurate picture.

IR-Satellite-5-fix

How To Interpret IR Satellite Imagery

Data measured by the satellites is calibrated and colorized according to the temperature. Warmer objects emit more infrared energy and colder objects less. Shades of gray are used to represent the lowest-topped clouds; the darker the shade of gray, the lower the cloud tops. For higher-topped clouds, color is added. Just above the lightest shades of gray you may see blue and green colors introduced representing still colder and higher tops. Above this, shades of red, orange and yellow represent the coldest and highest cloud tops.

As the temperature of the atmosphere generally decreases with height, a pilot can get a pretty good idea which clouds are high-level and which are low-level based on the color or shades of gray depicted.

Global Coverage

The IR Satellite layer allows you to quickly locate the most dangerous weather anywhere in the world. Ground-based radar provides a multitude of information on the location and movement of convective weather, however it is limited to US and Canada. The IR Satellite layer gives you a global, at a glance view of significant weather. This is especially important if you are planning a flight over large bodies of water.

In this image over central Africa, you can quickly see where the most significant weather is located, especially in regions that have a cellular appearance depicted in deep red, orange and yellow colors.

IR-Satellite-6

One thing to note is that thick cirrus clouds at very high altitudes will also show up as very cold clouds even though they may not be associated with deep, moist convection. Most of the time these high cirrus clouds do not have the same cellular appearance as convective clouds and thus have very little variation in color.

ForeFlight and Comply365 Collaborate on Customer Solutions

This week ForeFlight team members are participating in the Comply365 Third Annual Connections365 education and networking conference in Dallas, Texas. Comply365 serves many industries, including aviation, as a leader in mobile enterprise optimization software. We are pleased to announce two integrations with Comply365 that simplify operations for flight departments.

Comply365 dashboard with ForeFlight quick link.

Comply365 dashboard with quick link to ForeFlight Mobile.

Comply365 Connector for ForeFlight Mobile is a software solution that enables a seamless first time sign-on and authentication capability for ForeFlight Mobile via Comply365’s MyMobile365 dashboard. The solution simplifies deployment of ForeFlight Mobile to large enterprise pilot groups. Customers using the Comply365 Connector tap a ForeFlight icon on the MyMobile365 dashboard and pilots are immediately authorized to use ForeFlight Mobile without additional setup steps.

Ownship position shown with ForeFlight Mobile's runway proximity advisor.

Ownship position shown with ForeFlight Mobile’s runway proximity advisor.

In addition to the Connector, ForeFlight and Comply365 collaborated on a solution to simplify the processes required to obtain FAA authorization for the display of aircraft Ownship position on airport maps. ForeFlight’s Taxi Data Recorder (built upon the Track Log platform) collects GPS taxi data from many pilots within an operation, uploads the data to the cloud, and exports it into the Comply365 MyMobile365 dashboard. The Taxi Data Recorder dashboard makes it easy to start workflows and support analysis for Airport Moving Map Ownship approvals.

At ForeFlight, we are always excited about finding ways to make a pilot’s work simpler and to make flight operations safer. Expanding the capability of our Taxi Data Recorder to Comply365 customers gives those operators a powerful solution to simplify the data collection and analysis work required to support Ownship authorization. The ability to have Ownship position for ground operations increases situational awareness and could lead to reduced runway incursions. We look forward to more innovations with Comply365 to make customers more productive and efficient.

If you are interested in using the ForeFlight Mobile Taxi Data Recorder to pursue Ownship position authorization, contact us at team@foreflight.com.