If you have ever used the Current and Forecast Icing Products (CIP and FIP) or the Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG) product available in ForeFlight or on the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) website, you may have noticed a disclaimer at the top of the image like the one shown below. Essentially, FAA policy prohibited pilots from using this automated guidance to make operational decisions without also consulting the official forecasts, namely, G-AIRMETs and SIGMETs that are issued by meteorologists.
Effective January 21, 2015 the NWS and the FAA agreed to relax this limitation and quietly removed the disclaimer from the charts. This opens the door for pilots to make safety decisions based on the information contained within this guidance. This is not to say that G-AIRMETs and SIGMETs can be ignored; they still provide valuable guidance to pilots, but may not have a comparable temporal or spatial resolution found in these automated products.
The disclaimer was also confusing to pilots given that G-AIRMETs for icing are issued for widespread moderate non-convective icing whereas the CIP and FIP provides guidance about all icing hazards big or small. In fact, these automated tools often provide a more realistic picture of the icing environment as it evolves.
It is certainly understandable for such a disclaimer to be required when a new weather product is first introduced or is considered experimental, especially if the guidance is automated. However, these icing and turbulence tools have been available to pilots for over a decade, so it’s finally nice to see them lift these restrictions.