We are performing compatibility testing between ForeFlight and the newly released iOS 10.1 to ensure that everything is working smoothly. We will update this post with an “all-clear” when testing is completed.
With ForeFlight 8.1 we introduce support for SiriusXM’s powerful SXAR1 Aviation Weather Receiver, which supplies ForeFlight with high resolution radar with storm cell attributes and tracks, lightning, METARs, TAFs, AIR/SIGMETs, TFRs, and more. In addition, more of your logbook data is now in easy reach with Currency Details and access to Custom Field data in Reports. Download ForeFlight Mobile version 8.1 in the Apple App Store today!
Powerful, Portable Satellite Weather from SiriusXM
We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with SiriusXM to offer a portable XM weather solution to ForeFlight customers in the form of the SXAR1 Aviation Receiver. This compact, lightweight device wirelessly delivers a wide range of XM weather products to ForeFlight Mobile, including both composite and lowest-tilt NEXRAD radar, storm cell attributes like echo tops and tracks, AIRMETs and SIGMETs, TFRs, METARs, TAFs, winds aloft, and more, as well as GPS position. Future updates will unlock even more capabilities that will continue to make the SXAR1 a powerful inflight weather solution.
Because it receives weather information from satellites, the SXAR1 bypasses many of the limitations affecting the delivery of FIS-B weather. The SXAR1 provides nationwide weather with no coverage gaps, minimum altitudes, or line-of-sight restrictions – all it needs is a clear view of the sky. The built-in rechargeable battery and Bluetooth connectivity eliminates the need for wires in the cockpit.
Coinciding with ForeFlight 8.1, SiriusXM is introducing the new Pilot for ForeFlight weather subscription package specifically designed for this integration. SiriusXM is also offering a $200 savings to pilots who buy the SXAR1 and activate the new subscription package.
Learn more at foreflight.com/siriusxm.
Currency Details and Custom Field Data in Logbook
ForeFlight Logbook continues to improve with new ways to access important flight data. Tap on Currency Summaries on Logbook’s main view to see in-depth information about which flights contribute to each currency type, and a brief description of the requirements for each currency type. Access to this neatly organized information makes it easier than ever to understand your currency and stay on top of it.
Logbook experience reports were also upgraded to include Custom Field data. Aggregated totals from any custom fields you’ve added to your logbook now appear at the bottom of experience reports.
ForeFlight and Apple iOS 10
Click here for the latest information regarding ForeFlight Mobile and iOS 10 compatibility.
An updated Airport and Nav Database is available to download for the October 13, 2016 – November 10, 2016 period. This update includes corrections to geo-referencing information for a few plates and diagrams as well as a small number of airspace corrections.
All customers will be prompted to download these updates inside of ForeFlight Mobile.
Data updates are now available to download for our Military Flight Bag users for the October 13, 2016 – November 10, 2016 period:
- Airport and Nav Database
- Taxi Diagrams
- Terminal Procedures
These updates include the latest Airfield Suitability and Restrictions Reports (Giant Reports). All Military Flight Bag customers will be prompted to download these updates inside of ForeFlight Mobile.
ForeFlight’s built-in Documents catalog provides you with our complete library of always-current ForeFlight user guides, as well as an extensive library of up-to-date publications issued by the FAA. Chart supplements and legends, FAA handbooks, and Federal Aviation Regulations are all at your fingertips and included with your ForeFlight subscription. We recently expanded ForeFlight Documents to include more FARs that your flight crews will find as useful references:
- FAR Part 119 Certification: Air Carriers and Commercial Operators
- FAR Part 120 Drug & Alcohol Testing Program
- CFR 49 Part 175 Carriage by Aircraft and Hazardous Materials
“Having the FAA documents right in the app is very convenient. Plus the ability to text search, annotate and add personal bookmarks makes it easy to use. Also very important to us is the automatic updating of the documents. It takes away a lot of stress monitoring the FAA documents for currency.” –Daniel Thornton, Millbrook Aviation
These additions join our comprehensive list of FARs already in the Documents catalog, including:
- Part 23 – Airworthiness Standards
- Part 43 – Maintenance
- Part 91 – General Operating and Flight Rules
- Part 121 – Operating Requirements
- Part 135 – Operating Requirements
ForeFlight’s Business Pro plan for flight departments includes the built-in Documents catalog, as well as the ability to add secure cloud-based document distribution of your company pubs. ForeFlight Cloud Documents gives you a fast, easy, affordable way to distribute company documents to every flight crew member. Your administrator can control the distribution of every new or revised flight manual, operating handbook, or special procedures to every pilot’s iPad delivered from the cloud of your choice: Dropbox, Box, or Amazon S3.
Learn more about ForeFlight for Business Aviation here: foreflight.com/business
Perhaps one of the most underutilized weather products shown on the ForeFlight Map view are the yellow-shaded polygons called convective outlooks. On any given eight-hour shift, they are issued hourly by a highly trained meteorologist at the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) in Kansas City. In fact, convective SIGMETs shown by a red-shaded polygon are also issued by this same forecaster.
Let’s start with convective SIGMETs
Convective SIGMETs (WSTs) define regions of airspace with active areas of thunderstorms that meet specific criteria. The important word here is active. In other words, convective SIGMETs represent more of a NOWcast for thunderstorms than a forecast. Here’s the way it works. Each and every hour the convective SIGMET forecaster at the AWC looks for thunderstorms throughout the lower 48 United States and coastal waters that meet specific criteria. A single cell pulse thunderstorm isn’t necessarily hazardous as long as you don’t fly through the same airspace that it occupies. However, when thunderstorms form long lines, are clustered close together in widespread areas, are embedded or severe, they become more of a threat to aviation and the forecaster will issue a convective SIGMET for those areas of thunderstorms at 55 minutes past each hour.
Despite the fact that convective SIGMETs are valid for two hours when issued, the following hour the forecaster will once again evaluate the convective threat and issue a new round of convective SIGMETs. Each new issuance at 55 minutes past the hour will supersede the previous set of convective SIGMETs. Effectively, no convective SIGMET will ever exist for two hours.
This is not to say that you must fly around convective SIGMET areas. For a convective SIGMET to be issued, the area of convection must contain significant radar echoes that fill a minimum of 40% of the area at least 3,000 square miles or 40% of a line of at least 60 miles in length. This leaves a fair amount of airspace to navigate through some convective SIGMET areas.
What about convective outlooks?
First, they are not “outlook SIGMETs” as I’ve seen them called. In fact, they are not SIGMETs at all. Unlike convective SIGMETs, convective outlooks are truly forecasts; there isn’t a requirement that active thunderstorms exist when they are issued. Instead, they define larger regions of airspace that are expected to contain thunderstorms that meet convective SIGMET criteria in the next two to six hours after the outlook was issued. These may include ongoing areas or lines of convection covered by a convective SIGMET or they may include new areas or lines of thunderstorms that are expected to develop and reach convective SIGMET criteria in the two to six hours valid period.
That two to six hour window is a perfect “sweet spot” for many of us making flights. There may not be any thunderstorms when you go to depart, but if your proposed route takes you through one of these convective outlook areas in the valid time specified you may see one or more convective SIGMETs issued within this outlook area during your flight.
What about ADS-B or SiriusXM?
At the moment, convective outlooks are not broadcast over the ADS-B ground stations and are not part of the SiriusXM satellite weather broadcast. In ForeFlight, we attempt to preserve the latest convective outlooks until they expire six hours later. So be sure to use the Pack feature of ForeFlight prior to departure.
Data updates are now available to download for the October 13, 2016 – November 10, 2016 period:
- Airport and Navigation Database
- VFR Charts and Terminal Area Charts
- Taxi Diagrams
- Terminal Procedures
- Airport/Facility Diagrams
- ForeFlight Airport Diagrams, including new diagrams and updates for the following airports:
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
- AFR High Enroutes, Area Charts
- 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.
With the release of ForeFlight Mobile 8.1 you now have the opportunity to use the best portable en route weather system available courtesy of our partnership with SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The SiriusXM Pilot for ForeFlight subscription tier has been uniquely designed to provide all of the essential weather data during every phase of flight. In fact, within about 15 minutes of turning on the SXAR1 and connecting to the ForeFlight Mobile app, you’ll have seamless access to a comprehensive set of weather products well before you close the door on the cockpit and depart. Here are some of my tips to safely use this unique collection of weather data.
The SiriusXM source label
Knowing the source of the data you are using is paramount since weather data ages quickly. When connected to the SXAR1, you’ll see a SiriusXM label under the tappable timestamp button in the upper left of the Map view. Moreover, every weather product provided through the SiriusXM broadcast includes a source label in parentheses along with its relative age like the one depicted in the image below. This is similar to the ADS-B label shown when connected to Stratus. While connected to the SXAR1 in flight, always be sure to check for the presence of the SiriusXM label. Seeing this label will confirm that you are using the most current weather available.
During the warm season, lightning from ground-based sensors is perhaps one of the most critical weather elements to have available in the cockpit. Any area of weather that includes lightning means there’s a darn good chance you will encounter severe or extreme convective turbulence in and around that weather. While most of the serious thunderstorms will be included within the boundary of a convective SIGMET, not all thunderstorms will meet convective SIGMET criteria. Moreover, thunderstorms often occur outside of these areas, especially during a rapidly developing convective event.
Lightning is broadcast over SiriusXM every five minutes and provides pilots with a birds-eye view of where the truly nasty convective weather is located. Moreover, both cloud-to-ground (CG) and intracloud (IC) lightning are part of this broadcast. It’s quite important that both types are included since many severe storms are often dominated by IC lightning.
With SiriusXM not every lightning strike is broadcast. Instead, a single lightning symbol is shown anytime one or more strikes have occurred within a generous 0.5 nautical mile grid. So when you pinch-and-zoom way in on the ForeFlight map as shown below, you’ll notice the lightning bolt symbols are aligned in this 0.5 nautical mile gridded pattern. ForeFlight retains the most recent 10 minutes of lightning data which tends to align with the most recent radar depiction very well.
Lightning is detected even in regions where radar coverage is not present. This can be extremely useful when flying outside of the NEXRAD radar coverage area. You’ll see lightning depicted in regions over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean as well as the coastal waters of the U.S. in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans. It will also include lightning in Canada, Mexico, Central America and the northern-most regions of South America. Although there is SiriusXM NEXRAD coverage provided around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (using the base reflectivity from the lowest tilt), having lightning shown in other locations in the Caribbean will help pilots avoid the nasty tropical convection that occurs in these highly traveled areas where there isn’t NEXRAD coverage.
Storm attribute markers
Pilots have become accustomed to seeing echo top heights and storm track identification markers in ForeFlight. With SiriusXM you’ll get those same NEXRAD storm attributes. This includes a generic storm marker with an echo top height shown in 100s of feet in addition to cells that have signatures of hail, mesocyclone and tornadoes using the symbols shown below. Echo top heights are only shown for tops 20,000 feet and higher.
In most cases these storm attribute markers will also contain a direction and speed of the cell being tracked. Similar to the other storm tracks you will see depicted on the radar mosaic in ForeFlight, SiriusXM tracks will contain an arrow showing the direction of movement as well as the speed. If the cell is moving at a speed of more than 10 knots, you’ll also see two black dots depicted on the arrow that loosely estimates the position of that storm cell in 20 and 40 minutes based on the cell’s current speed and direction provided. The arrowhead represents the estimated location of the cell in 60 minutes.
While these markers provide additional information about a storm cell, keep in mind that there will be times when the storm tracks for adjacent cells may provide conflicting information as you can see in the example shown above. It’s unlikely these cells are actually moving toward each other. This typically occurs during the initial stage of thunderstorm evolution especially when there’s an area of rapidly developing convection. Animating the radar is perhaps the best way to note the direction of movement of an area of weather.
The SiriusXM composite reflectivity and base reflectivity from the lowest tilt have the same 2 km horizontal resolution as you may have experienced with the regional radar broadcast provided by ADS-B. On the left is the regional composite reflectivity mosaic broadcast by ADS-B using the Stratus 2 receiver. On the other hand, the right side is the SiriusXM mosaic just a minute earlier. While the mapping of dBZ levels to color may be a little different for the two composite reflectivity sources, the overall spatial resolution is the same.
There’s no doubt that the overall qualitative glance value is practically the same between the two radar depictions above. You’ll find, however, that the latest SiriusXM broadcast will be about 5 minutes fresher on average than what you get through ADS-B.
Partial radar refresh
You may occasionally notice that both of the radar mosaics may take a short period of time to completely refresh the Map view for the entire radar coverage area when a new NEXRAD broadcast is being processed. During the refresh, it will be common to see “Radar not available” briefly depicted over regions where coverage is normally provided as shown below for the base reflectivity mosaic from the lowest tilt.
This is because radar data received by the SXAR1 rarely comes as a continuous frame of data. Often this data is broadcast in blocks over a short period of time. This is especially true for the base reflectivity mosaic from the lowest tilt. To avoid holding back the entire radar mosaic until every single byte is received, we decided to provide the newest radar in pieces as it arrives. Whether or not this occurs and how long it takes to provide a complete picture, depends on the amount of radar echoes throughout the entire coverage area. During times of high convective activity or large-scale precipitation, expect the refresh to be a bit slower, typically 20 to 30 seconds.
If you believe in Murphy’s Law, this refresh delay will rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time. If the refresh takes uncomfortably too long while in flight, you can always switch to the other radar depiction in the short term.
Also includes Canada
Unlike ADS-B, the SiriusXM radar depiction from the lowest tilt does include Canadian Doppler radar information as well (Canadian radar is not included in the composite reflectivity mosaic). You won’t see any storm tracks or echo tops depicted by Canadian radar data, but this does extend the radar coverage to the southern most part of Canada for those pilots that fly to this area frequently. In addition to radar, you will see winds and temperatures aloft depicted in Canada as well as METARs, TAFs and PIREPs.
Winds and temperatures aloft
The winds aloft layer is populated by model-based winds (not observations) from the SiriusXM broadcast. These are an accurate representation of the current winds at 3,000 ft MSL up to FL480 at 3,000 ft intervals. This is a similar presentation to what you will find with the winds aloft layer when connected to the Internet. Tapping on any wind barb will provide the wind direction, wind speed and temperature at the altitude selected.
While in flight, you will see updates to the current winds once each hour. At this time there are no forecasts of winds aloft provided through SiriusXM valid beyond the current time. Consequently, the SiriusXM winds are not used in performance calculations, so you should anticipate using the pack feature to have an estimation of winds aloft along your route while in flight.
ForeFlight’s flight plan filing capabilities recently got a big boost with support for intra-Canada VFR flight plans.
VFR flight plans for routes within Canada are now sent directly to Nav Canada, allowing customers to both plan and file Canadian VFR flights entirely within ForeFlight Mobile or via the ForeFlight website. ForeFlight also supports cross-border VFR flight plans from the U.S. to Canada and all IFR flight plans within or between the U.S. and Canada, in either direction.
When filing a VFR flight plan within Canada, pilots are required to fill out the Destination Contact and Phone fields in the ICAO flight plan form. These fields specify who should be contacted if search and rescue actions need to be initiated. Pilots are also required to provide their license number, which can be entered after their name in the Pilot Name field (e.g. “Joe Pilot LIC 123456”).
As with other flight plan types, Canadian VFR flight plans can be amended or canceled within ForeFlight using the Amend and Cancel buttons at the bottom of the flight plan form. The Activate and Close functions are not currently available for Canadian flight plans, so a pilot must contact flight service to perform these functions. If a flight plan is not activated by phone, it will automatically activate at the estimated time of departure specified in the flight plan, as prescribed in Transport Canada’s Aeronautical Information Manual:
“A VFR flight plan should normally be opened with a Tower, a Flight Service Station, a Flight Information Center or a Community Aerodrome Radio Station upon departure to activate the alerting service. The pilot is responsible for extending or cancelling the flight plan if the flight is delayed or cancelled. If an extension or cancellation is not received by the proposed departure time, the responsible ATS unit will activate the flight plan or flight itinerary, using the Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) as the Actual Time of Departure (ATD).”