Update: iOS 8.4 Expected To Resolve GPS Accessory Compatibility Issue

UpdateAs part of the June 2015 WWDC, Apple announced that iOS 8.4 arrives on June 30. This version includes a fix to the Apple Bluetooth GPS bug.

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As noted in previous blog post and via a customer notice email, iOS 8.3 introduced an incompatibility with previous generation GPS accessories like the DUAL XGPS 150 and some Bad Elf devices. The issue was escalated to Apple by ForeFlight and Bad Elf and expected to be resolved in the forthcoming iOS 8.4 update, based on PIREPs we have received. This issue has frustrated many pilots who own Wi-Fi only iPads or GPS accessories, and we are glad relief is on the way.

Flooding Rains In Texas Courtesy Of An MCS

Over the last five or more years a drought of historic proportion has plagued much of Texas. In fact, the National Weather Service reported that 2011 was Texas’ driest year on record. Fast forward to 2015 and that’s hardly been the case over the last few weeks as a good portion of Texas has received more rain in the month of May than they usually receive throughout the entire year. Rainfall totals reported to exceed 20 inches have been pretty common. And to cap it all off, this past Monday a very significant rainfall event occurred throughout central and eastern Texas with more than 10 inches falling in Houston Monday night causing widespread flash flooding in the city. So what caused this extreme rainfall event?

Texas Rainfall

Rainfall totals in May 2015 for the Southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley. Image courtesy of The Weather Channel.

The phenomenon that was responsible for this deluge of rain on Monday is called a Mesoscale Convective System or MCS. Similar to hurricanes, they are very seasonal. Occurring mostly east of the Continental Divide, they start out in the Southern Plains and Deep South during the month of May. As the jet stream moves north through the summer months of June and July, they tend to occur in the Central Plains, Middle Mississippi Valley as well as the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Finally, into July and August, they are seen more in the Northern Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley and Upper Great Lakes regions.

These systems are usually severe and can often produce a few tornadoes, dangerous lightning, large and damaging hail and strong straight-line winds. But perhaps the most devastating feature is the torrential rains that can fall from some of these storms since they are often long-lived weather systems. Nevertheless, these convective systems are absolutely necessary since they provide much of the needed rain for agriculture in the Midwest during the summer months.

MCS on infrared satellite

Many Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCSs) have a signature oval or circular cloud shield as seen on the color-enhanced infrared satellite image. This is the one that provided Houston with over 10 inches of rainfall in just a few hours.

Mesoscale Convective Systems are easy to spot on the color-enhanced infrared satellite found in the ForeFlight Imagery as shown above. When mature, they usually appear as a large circular or oval cloud shield that can cover one or more Midwest states with very cold cloud tops that show up on this image as purple and white. Under this cloud shield is usually a bow-shaped line of strong thunderstorms at the leading edge of the MCS as seen on this NEXRAD mosaic below.

Bow echo associated with the MCS

Often an MCS will have a bow- or crescent-shaped line of echoes which is a good sign of very intense straight-line winds.

You were probably taught that the early morning hours are the best time to fly to avoid thunderstorms. That’s usually sound advice unless you are dealing with an MCS that will often develop and mature in the overnight hours and persist into the next day. So they are often nocturnal beasts that almost seem to create their own environment to feed on.

MCS Pair

The weather system that dumped a copious amount of rainfall on Houston Monday night developed from a pair of thunderstorm complexes in western Texas early that morning. It’s unusual to see a pair of Mesoscale Convective Systems tracking along together.

In fact, the MCS that flooded Houston Monday night was born early that morning in western Texas and began as a pair of MCSs as shown above. Throughout the morning the two systems tracked east and eventually merged (below) into a single complex of storms setting the stage for a very wet evening in Houston.

MCS combined

Just after 12 p.m., the pair of Mesoscale Convective Systems joined up in central Texas to produce one massive convective complex.

This is a very common setting in the Plains where the unique geography of the region favors nocturnal and early morning thunderstorms. During the warm season, this setting promotes a strong flow of low-level moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico, often referred to by meteorologists as a low-level jet stream. Moisture carried by the low-level jet helps to maintain these systems that often begin during daytime hours on the higher terrain in western Texas and Colorado. Because of the low-level supply of moisture, the MCS can mature and persist well into the nighttime hours.

The Skew-T Log (p) diagram for Houston Monday evening shows the low-level jet as a maximum wind speed at 6,000 feet. This moist, southerly flow keeps the surface dewpoint temperature in the low 70s to offer a good source of moisture for the MCS to ingest.

Skew T Diagram

The Skew-T Log (p) Diagram is an excellent source to visualize the moisture, winds and the instability for a particular location.

Last but not least, the Skew-T diagram shows the atmosphere was very unstable Monday evening with a lifted index of -6, Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) approaching 3,000 Joules/kg and a K-Index of 42. A K-Index this high is a good sign of high convective rainfall rates that can produce local flash flooding.

Bulletin: May 28 Data Updates

Data updates are now available to download for the May 28, 2015 – June 25, 2015 period:

  • Airport and Navigation Database
  • Documents, including the AOPA Fly-In Frederick NOTAM
  • ForeFlight Airport Diagrams
  • VFR Charts and Terminal Area Charts
  • World Area Charts
  • Taxi Diagrams
  • Terminal Procedures
  • Airport/Facility Diagrams
  • Documents

Data updates are also available for our Military Flight Bag customers:

  • Global airport, navigation, and airway coverage from the Digital Aeronautical Flight Information File
  • Georeferenced worldwide D-FLIP Terminal Procedures
  • Georeferenced worldwide D-FLIP Airport Diagrams
  • EEA High Enroutes, Area Charts
  • ENAME High and Low Enroutes, Area Charts
  • 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.

Bulletin: May 19 Data Updates

Data updates are now available for the April 30, 2015 – May 28, 2015 and April 30, 2015 – June 28, 2015 periods:

  • Updated Terminal Procedures are available for Texas Southeast. The NNCEE One arrival at IAH has been replaced to addresses a recent FAA Safety Alert.
  • The Instrument Procedures Handbook has been updated in our Documents Catalog.

For our ForeFlight Mobile Pro Canada customers:

  • The Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual has been added to our Documents Catalog.
  • Toronto and Montreal VNC and VTA charts have been updated.

An Eventful Weekend with AOPA Salinas and Sporty’s Fly-In

Spring is in the air and so are we—this weekend ForeFlight team members are flying to Salinas, California for AOPA’s opening fly-in and Batavia, Ohio for Sporty’s annual event.

We’re proud to support AOPA’s second year of events that celebrate grassroots aviation. Visit with Josh and Thomas at booth #57 and experience new ForeFlight Mobile features like Procedure Preview, FBOs on Taxi Charts, and Synthetic Vision.

The Clermont County Airport may be small, but this fly-in is big. Education seminars, a hot dog lunch, the RV-12 sweepstakes winner announcement, and more make this a fun day for all. ForeFlight team members Susan and Jason will be on hand to demonstrate the latest ForeFlight features. In addition, Jason (ForeFlight co-founder and CTO) presents “The Latest from ForeFlight” at 1:30 pm.

We hope to see you there!

Webinar: Weather Flying and the iPad

Recently ForeFlight’s own Weather Scientist, Scott Dennstaedt, and Sporty’s John Zimmerman hosted a webinar devoted to Weather Flying and the iPad. In this hour long session, learn about the basics of weather, discover how to utilize ForeFlight and the Stratus ADS-B receiver for the most informed and effective weather decision-making, and see ForeFlight and Stratus in action with real-world scenarios. This webinar is geared towards making you a safer, more strategic, and informed pilot in any weather situation.

ForeFlight 7 is Here. Faster Planning, Faster Downloads, and More.

With this release, planning gets even better with a more advanced Procedure Advisor and a dramatically improved navigation database that enables visual preview of SIDs, STARs, approaches, and pattern entries. Downloads are significantly faster and use less disk space. Cabin Altitude Advisor leverages integrated pressure sensors to alert you when things don’t seem quite right. Support for Apple Watch gives you at-a-glance weather, flight instruments, and timers. Our new web-based flight planning system delivers an industry first Web-to-Panel flight planning experience for supported avionics. ForeFlight Mobile version 7.0 is available now on the App Store.

More Efficient Route Planning with Departure, Arrival, and Instrument Procedure Preview 

Our Procedure Advisor tool now allows you to visually preview arrivals, departures, approach procedures, VFR traffic patterns, and Search and Rescue patterns prior to adding them to your route. Procedure preview makes it easy to see how various procedures enter and exit a terminal area.

To use procedure preview, enter a departure and destination in the Route Editor, then tap the Procedure button in the upper right of the Edit view:

Procedure button

A preview window displays the available departures, arrivals, approaches, traffic patterns, and optionally, SAR patterns.

Choose a procedure type to preview.

In this example, tap on ‘Departure (19)’ to view the graphical display of departure procedures out of the Houston area:

Departure procedures out of the Houston area.

The preview begins with a broad overview of the selected airport and geographic guides that outline each direction served by a particular procedure. After selecting an arrival or departure, either in the list on the left or by tapping one on the Map, transitions can be previewed and selected before adding it to the route.

Procedure Advisor also allows you to preview instrument approaches, including a flag on the best wind runway based on the current METAR. Once an approach is selected you can preview different entry points on top of the plate itself. When you are done, simply tap Add to Route.

You can also preview different traffic pattern entries with Traffic Pattern Advisor. The preview flags the best wind runway based on the current METAR and the best side for different VFR pattern entries. Once you have finished adding items to your route, simply tap Close (on the upper right) or tap outside the preview window to hide the Procedure Advisor.

Procedure preview is available on the iPad to Basic and Pro subscribers.

New Map Touch Feature Enables Chart Legends on the Maps View

You can now view US VFR Sectional and IFR Enroute chart legend panels directly on the Maps view. The new Map Touch action allows you to rotate through each overlapping chart in turn based on where you tap the chart. To enable, select the gear icon in the Maps view; then, tap on Map Touch Action.

When “Bring chart to front” is selected, a single tap toggles between all available charts in the area, including switching between sectionals and terminal area charts. When “bring chart to front with legends” is selected, the chart side panel information is also displayed. You can turn off the Map Touch feature at any time by selecting “No action”.

Faster Downloads with Delta Downloads

With ForeFlight 7, we introduce faster and smaller downloads that use less disk space during cycle cross-over time. We call this Delta Downloads and the new system only delivers the ‘what changed’ data each month, resulting in a 70% to 90% reduction in download time without compromising chart quality. Delta Downloads includes terminal procedures, taxi charts, IFR and VFR charts, FAA A/FD, and Canada Flight Supplement data. As Delta Downloads rolls out, you will see the full benefit over the next couple of data cycles. As a customer, there is no action you need to take. Delta Downloads happens automatically for all subscribers.

Stay Safe at High Altitudes with Cabin Altitude Advisor

In the past year, hypoxia and depressurization have claimed pilot lives. We hope Cabin Altitude Advisor helps to prevent future accidents like these. Cabin Altitude Advisor takes advantage of the barometer sensor built-in to iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2. The advisor alerts pilots when crossing through 12,000 feet MSL and 25,000 feet MSL. The audio and visual alert triggers once every 30 minutes for each altitude. Pressure Altitude is also available to display in the Instrument panel.

 

A New Look in the Downloads View

In the Downloads view, you will now see VFR charts (TACs and Sectionals) listed by chart name instead of by State.

New look in Downloads view.You can refer to a Chart legend for VFR chart coverage or simply use Pack to ensure that the charts you need for a trip are downloaded to your device.

ForeFlight on Your Wrist with Apple Watch

ForeFlight 7 introduces Apple Watch support, including weather at-a-glance, instruments, and timers.

ForeFlight Lands on Your Desktop

We are excited to announce that ForeFlight flight planning is coming to your web browser. ForeFlight Web Beta enables a full screen desktop experience, automatically syncs to ForeFlight Mobile, and offers seamless Web-to-Panel capabilities via ForeFlight Connect. Our Web-to-Panel concept is a first in flight planning, where web planning activity syncs to your mobile device and loads into the panel of supported avionics like Dynon SkyView.

ForeFlight Web Beta will initially be available to existing ForeFlight customers. We envision this as a very collaborative product development process with our customers. Features will evolve quickly with frequent releases, driven by our vision and by customer feedback. ForeFlight customers who are interested in this Beta program are invited to sign up at www.foreflight.com/web. Invitations to the Beta will be released in phases.

Bulletin: April 30 Data Updates

Data updates are now available to download for the April 30, 2015 – May 28, 2015 and April 30, 2015 – June 28, 2015 periods:

  • Airport and Navigation Database
  • ForeFlight Airport Diagrams
  • North American Obstacles
  • Documents, including the EAA AirVenture 2015 NOTAM

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

An updated Terminal Procedures download for New York is also available for the April 2, 2015 – April 30, 2015 period to address a safety alert.

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.

A Layered Approach In ForeFlight

In addition to all of the other great features introduced in ForeFlight Mobile 6.8, we also enhanced the app to allow more layers to be displayed simultaneously on the Map view. Many of these layers are mutually exclusive of one another. That is, when you select a new layer, it will replace the current layer (if any) that was previously selected.  For instance, the app will not allow the Radar and Satellite layer to be displayed at the same time. Therefore, with the Radar layer on, selecting the Satellite layer will deselect and hide Radar layer.

Having this dependency certainly makes sense when selecting between many of the airport-specific layers such as Flight Category, Temperature and Ceiling just to name a few. That dependency hasn’t changed. However, the Pilot Weather Reports (PIREPs) and Lightning layers are not tied to an airport and can now be overlaid individually or together with any of the other Map layers.

Multiple Overlays on Map View

When viewing the Satellite layer, be sure to select Sky Coverage, PIREPs and Lightning for the most complete picture.

This was primarily done to allow users to select the satellite layer while also displaying Sky Coverage along with Lightning as discussed in this earlier blog post. Adding on the PIREPs layer will provide an even greater situational awareness of the weather occurring at any particular location as shown above. If you were to visit the Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, Missouri, you will notice on the image below that they also make heavy use of overlays.

AWC Overlay Screen

Forecasters often overlay sky coverage and AIRMETs over the visible satellite image.

But if you really want to go crazy, you can select up to seven layers to be displayed at the same time as shown below.  But let’s not go crazy.

Everything Selected

Adding too many layers can render the Map view unreadable.