Bulletin: November 10 Data Updates

Data updates are now available to download for the November 10, 2016 – December 8, 2016 and November 10, 2016 – January 5, 2017 periods:

  • Airport and Navigation Database
  • ForeFlight Airport Diagrams, including updates to the following airports:
17FL 17N 1B2 1D2 2CN4 2O3
3CK 3GM 3J7 3NJ6 66R 6B0
7TA7 82V 8MN3 C04 C65 CNK4
CYCK CYDC CYET CYHE CYOJ CYPR
CYPS CYQS CYQW CYRC CYRI CYRJ
CYRM CYRV CYSA CYVK CYWL CYXZ
CYYD CZNL D25 D54 D98 E26
EVGA F45 F69 FVHA FZAA GA39
HDAM I35 I40 IA27 KALS KAMA
KANP KANQ KAPV KBGF KBIV KBJI
KGXF KSEQ KSLJ KTKO L05 N98
O26 P14 PABT PAGA PAMY PAOO
PAQT PATQ PGRO PGSN PHJH S27
SEGS SEGU SEMT VOHS X59

From the FAA:

  • VFR Charts and Terminal 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 Canada region 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.

Don’t Let Satellite Weather Get You Down

The radar depictions you see from the SiriusXM broadcast are highly filtered to provide only real precipitation areas. Ground clutter, anomalous propagation, birds, insects and such are carefully removed to provide the cleanest and most representative image. But like any process, there will be times where non-precipitation returns do not get filtered out. More importantly, you may see real areas of precipitation filtered out as well.

While rare, the latter usually occurs in regions where WSI (the weather provider for SiriusXM) implements what is called a manual gross filter. This kind of filter is the most efficient way to eliminate any clutter in large areas that are not expected to see precipitation. But when that filter is left on too long, it’ll be just as efficient at removing real precipitation from the broadcast.

zoomed-in-gross-filter

Lightning and a single hail storm attribute marker with no radar depicted.

Here’s one such example depicted above. While connected to the SXAR1 I panned the map over Texas and I saw some lightning and a lone hail attribute marker showing echo tops at 45,000 feet in north-central Texas, but no radar returns. Hmmm?

I verified that I had the Radar Composite turned on (I did) and zoomed the display out as shown below to see that there are plenty of other precipitation areas shown to the northeast and southeast of this area. Given that the area wasn’t cross-hatched with “Radar not available” why wasn’t there any precipitation shown?

texas-gross-filter

Zoomed out to show the presence of other precipitation on the radar composite.

About 15 minutes later I came back to the map to see if there was any change. Notice below that plenty of lightning and storm attributes are being depicted here in north-central Texas; however, there are still no radar returns being rendered. Given this activity, you’d expect there to be some precipitation shown when both lightning and storm tracks are present. This is a classic indication that the real precipitation in this region was being erroneously filtered.

gross-filter

This is a classic signature for a gross filter being left on too long. With the radar composite on, no precipitation is being shown despite the presence of lightning and storm tracks.

Just five minutes later, the gross filter was removed by WSI and the returns suddenly popped into existence as you can see below.

gross-filter-pulled

Once the gross filter was removed, the NEXRAD returns associated with these thunderstorms were rendered.

I took a look at the NEXRAD archives and discovered that the first precipitation developed in this region around 12:05 p.m. CDT. The gross filter wasn’t removed until 12:50 p.m. CDT. That’s 45 minutes with no radar for this area of rapidly developing and potentially severe thunderstorms. Moral of the story is to always have lightning ON and be sure the SiriusXM Storm Markers are also set to ON in the Maps Settings menu (the gear button on the Maps view). Having both of these layers on will likely expose these kinds of uncommon events.

Apple iOS 10.1 and ForeFlight

UPDATE: ForeFlight 8.1.1 is all-clear to use with iOS 10.1.1

UPDATE October 28, 2016: Compatibility testing between ForeFlight Mobile 8.1.1 and iOS 10.1 is complete and we are issuing the “all-clear” to ForeFlight customers. Feel free to upgrade at your convenience.

ORIGINAL POST October 24, 2016: 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.

Bulletin: October 24 Data Updates

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.

Bulletin: Military Flight Bag Oct 16 Data Updates

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 Documents Deliver FAR More Value To Flight Departments

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 

2016-10_docs_blog

“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

If you are interested in making ForeFlight a part of your Electronic Flight Bag program, we’d love to chat! Contact sales@foreflight.com or visit foreflight.com/approved.

Why Use Convective Outlooks?

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.

wst-outlooks

Convective outlooks, shown in yellow, can be displayed by picking the AIR/SIGMET/CWAs menu selection. Tapping on the TS button will display all convective SIGMETs as well as any convective outlooks.

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.

wst-siriusxm

A convective SIGMET outlined in red for a line of embedded thunderstorms as depicted from the SiriusXM satellite weather broadcast.

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.

wst-outlook

A convective outlook is outlined in yellow. This shows the region where convective SIGMETs are likely to be issued within the next two to six hours. The text of the outlook provides the effective time.

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.

outlook-with-cwa

When convection doesn’t quite meet convective SIGMET criteria you may still see a Center Weather Advisory (CWA) issued for thunderstorms as shown in this image. CWAs are issued by meteorologists at the Center Weather Service Units and coordinated with forecasters at the Aviation Weather Center.

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.

Bulletin: October 13 Data Updates

Data updates are now available to download for the October 13, 2016 – November 10, 2016 period:

  • Airport and Navigation Database
  • Documents
  • 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:
06C 07A 08C 0Q9 0S9 0V7
1G0 1T8 1TE4 2G9 2L0 2NC0
2R4 2RR 33N 4S1 5F1 5T9
60J 67L 67T 6A2 6S5 76G
7S3 82J 9WN2 B19 BQ1 E16
F82 FA83 FL59 I19 I67 I69
K88 KAEG KAJR KAUN KAVQ KAXV
KAXX KBAK KBAZ KBBG KBCE KBCT
KBDH KBFD KBIH KCEW KDEN KICR
KLFT KNFD KNFJ KNRA KNRQ KRBM
KREO KRUT KSCA M33 M40 M54
MMMX MYCB MYSM N14 N43 NV74
O22 O43 O57 O69 O86 O88
OMSJ PACD PACX PAGK PAHP PAKP
PASY PAVD PHNG S10 S12 S21
SC00 TS36 WV12 Y19 Y72

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
  • Documents

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

Tips On Using SiriusXM Satellite Weather In ForeFlight

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.

Hurricane Hermine

SiriusXM radar depiction of Hurricane Hermine as it approached the Florida coast in early September.

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.

siriusxm-tag-taf

Products received from the SiriusXM broadcast and displayed in ForeFlight will be labeled with a SiriusXM tag along side the product’s age as shown here for a terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF) for the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

Lightning

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.

SiriusXM Lightning grid

A zoomed-in view of SiriusXM lightning reveals it’s gridded nature.

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.

lightning-south-america

SiriusXM radar coverage is available using the base reflectivity layer from the lowest tilt around Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. You will also see lightning depicted outside of the standard NEXRAD coverage area as far south as the northern portions of South America.

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.

markers

Storm attribute markers include hail, mesocyclone and tornadic vortex signature. Under the settings, these SiriusXM Storm Markers can be switched on and off as desired.

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.

Confusing Storm Attribute Markers

During a rapidly developing convective event or when thunderstorms are dissipating, it’s quite common to see the storm tracks for adjacent cells point in opposite direction.

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.

tvs-hermine

Shown here are several storm attribute markers to include mesocyclone circulation and tornadic vortex signatures from Tropical Storm Hermine as it passed off the coast of South Carolina.

Radar layers

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.

ads-b-vs-siriusxm

Regional composite reflectivity from ADS-B shown on the left and composite reflectivity from SiriusXM shown on the right. Both have a similar resolution.

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.

Partial refresh

Partial updates to both the composite reflectivity and base reflectivity from the lowest tilt should be expected when the newest radar broadcast is being processed.

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.

winds-aloft

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.