New Chart Color Inversion, Logbook and Weather Enhancements in ForeFlight 8.3

Featured

We are thrilled to introduce an innovative feature that we know you’ve been asking for – you can now invert colors on charts and documents for better viewing at night. On the weather front, we have a new Color IR Satellite layer, and, for SiriusXM SXAR1 customers, Cloud Tops and Echo Tops are now included in your SiriusXM Pilot for ForeFlight plan. Also, we hope you have fun with sharing your flights online using our new Logbook Entry Summary. Read on for all the details of the ForeFlight 8.3 release, now on the App Store!

Protect Your Night Vision with Color Inversion for Charts and Documents

Color inversion reduces the glare of bright charts and documents when viewing them at night by inverting white and black elements on IFR Enroute charts, VFR Sectionals, procedure plates, airport diagrams, and documents. Text and chart symbols are prominent and legible without the annoying glare while viewing them in a dark cabin, minimizing eye strain and fatigue.

White and black elements are inverted, turning the predominantly white background black, and the black icons and text white. All other colors stay the same – airspace frequencies and altitudes, MOA boundaries, and Class B airspace all retain their usual coloring, making them just as easy to identify as before.

When used in conjunction with ForeFlight’s “dark” map theme and the brightness slider, color inversion provides more options than ever for creating an ideal chart solution for night flying. The setting applies independently to each app view, so you can mix and match where you see or don’t see inverted colors.

If you have a Pro Plus subscription, the Plates on Maps feature slightly brightens the plate so it stands out against an inverted IFR chart. Toggle color inversion on and off in the Map Settings menu.

Share Your Favorite Flights with Logbook Entry Summary

First solo cross-country? Animal rescue mission? With our new Logbook Entry Summary feature, you can turn memorable Logbook entries into an interactive, visual scrapbook that you can easily share with friends and family. Create your flight entry as you normally would (be sure to include photos!) and then tap on View Entry Summary. ForeFlight creates an elegantly styled web page, complete with photos, flight details, and a map view of your route. When viewed on a desktop browser, the map becomes interactive, allowing you to zoom in to see the route in more detail or use the layer selector to overlay different map themes. Back in the flight entry, tap on the Send To button (upper right) to generate a link you can share via social media, email, or as a URL.

Share your Logbook Entry Summaries with friends, family, and fellow pilots to keep them up to speed on your most recent flying adventures.

Logbook Enhancements: More Ways to Streamline Data Entry and New Type Currency Tracking

We continue to streamline flight logging to save you time and taps. It is now easier to lookup and select airport approaches. In your flight entry, tap on Add Approach. You’ll see the destination airport field is already populated, and, if you tap on Autofill Approach, you can easily select from the list of approaches for that airport. When you choose an approach, the Type and Runway fields are automatically filled in. In addition, when selecting the aircraft for a flight entry, a helpful Aircraft list displays your three most recently logged aircraft first.

Do you have multiple type ratings to track? You can now add them to your Logbook Currency Tracking for better visibility into your flight status. Tap on Add Currency Summary then Aircraft Type Currency to choose between General and Night currency (or both) then select your aircraft from the list. The list includes all of the aircraft that you’ve added to your Logbook. You can also set up a multi-model type rating currency tracker by selecting multiple aircraft from the list.

If you add a new aircraft, Logbook automatically notifies you if there are any missing aircraft profile details, ensuring complete and accurate tracking. Currencies are color-coded, so you’ll know your status at a glance.

Learn more about ForeFlight Logbook at foreflight.com/logbook.

ForeFlight is Your SIC with Helpful Destination Weather Frequency Callout

Checking the weather report at your destination airport is an important step in your landing checklist. Like a good co-pilot, ForeFlight anticipates your needs and automatically displays the weather frequency approximately 20 nautical miles from your destination airport. In the More > Settings > Alerts view, you can set the Destination WX Frequency Alert to be an audio alert, visual alert, or both. The popup stays active on the screen until you tap on it, so you can still easily get the frequency if you happen to miss the callout in your headset.

Topping Off the Weather with New SiriusXM Satellite Layers

ForeFlight pilots flying with the SiriusXM SXAR1 Aviation Receiver can now view both Cloud Tops and Echo Tops as part of the SiriusXM Pilot for ForeFlight subscription. If you have been considering a portable satellite weather solution, check out the SXAR1. You can purchase from Sporty’s or SiriusXM and take advantage of limited-time special pricing and rebates.

To learn more about how to interpret Cloud Tops and Echo Tops and also best practice on using the altitude slider, check out this article from Scott Dennstaedt (ForeFlight’s Weather Scientist).

New Full-Color Infrared Satellite Layer Gives You Better Awareness of Icing Conditions

The new Color IR Satellite layer is an alternative to the existing satellite layer (now called Enhanced Satellite) and is useful for identifying dangerous regions of supercooled liquid water that can cause airframe icing. This danger is especially present in the yellow and green depicted areas, which are just warm enough to support large amounts of supercooled water – turn on the PIREPs layer and you’ll notice that most icing PIREPs occur in these areas. This new layer is a powerful tool to add to your preflight planning, especially during the late fall, winter, and early spring seasons to help you avoid dangerous weather and icing conditions.

To dive deeper into the Color IR Satellite layer, check out this article written by our in-house Weather Scientist, Scott Dennstaedt.

New Climb Gradient Instrument
ForeFlight Climb Gradient Instrument

ForeFlight’s Climb Gradient Instrument uses GPS, ground speed, and vertical speed information to display your climb gradient in feet per nautical mile, allowing you to monitor your climb performance in real time. Activate this new instrument by tapping on the Instrument Panel and selecting Climb Gradient from the list.

ForeFlight Tops it Off with Two New SiriusXM Weather Layers

If you surveyed a group of IFR pilots, tops are likely one of the most requested features. Now, the wait is over. With ForeFlight Mobile 8.3, you can view both echo tops and cloud tops when connected to the SXAR1 SiriusXM satellite receiver. These two sought-after weather products are now included with the current ForeFlight Mobile SiriusXM pricing tier at no extra cost.

tops-selections

You can find the echo tops and cloud tops selections in between the radar and satellite layers in the ForeFlight Mobile app.

Cloud top height

First and foremost, the cloud tops depiction from SiriusXM is not a satellite image per se. Instead it depicts the height of the cloud tops in reference to mean sea level (MSL). Second, the cloud tops overlay does not infer the depth of the cloud layer. Consequently, a high overcast cirrus deck at 30,000 feet may mask one or more cloud layers below. Third, not all cloud layers may be shown, especially when there are regions of low-topped stratus or scattered to broken fields of fair weather cumulus clouds. So it’s important to always overlay the sky coverage markers to augment the cloud tops layer.

lowstratus-tops

Here’s a common limitation during a low-topped stratus event. Notice that the sky coverage markers around Houston, Texas indicate the presence of overcast skies, however,  the cloud tops layer shows the sky as clear. 

The cloud tops layer is always valid in the recent past since it’s based on observed data. It is typically updated with a new image once or twice an hour. Tops above 25,000 ft MSL are color-coded using blue, orange and red to visually enhance the highest tops. Tops below 25,000 ft are shown as simple shades of gray.

echo-tops-layer

The echo tops layer (left) may appear to look like a radar depiction (right) from a color perspective, However, it has a much lower spatial resolution than the composite or lowest tilt radar mosaic.

Echo top height

Like cloud tops, echo tops depict a height above mean sea level so it’s not a radar depiction per se. Simply put, echo top height is based on the highest elevation angles at which greater than 18 dBZ reflectivities are detected. Keep in mind that echo tops are primarily used by meteorologists to identify more significant storms by locating the highest tops. So it’s important know that echo tops are not the same as cloud tops. The actual top of the cloud is always higher than the echo top.

echotops

In this vertical cross-section of a thunderstorm, reflectivity is shown using colors similar to what you would see on a NEXRAD mosaic. Dark blue represents a reflectivity of 15-20 dBZ. So, the echo tops are likely found near the top of the dark blue regions on this image.

Filtering by altitude

On the ForeFlight Map view, both the echo tops and cloud tops can be filtered by altitude. When selecting either one of these layers, an altitude selector similar to the one that appears with the winds aloft layer is shown. This provides a quick way to determine tops that are above a selected MSL altitude. Initially, the altitude selector will be positioned at the lowest setting, namely, 0 feet MSL. This is the selection that will show all cloud or echo tops. Setting the cloud tops altitude selector to 10,000 feet, for example, will remove any clouds with tops below this altitude leaving only clouds with tops above 10,000 feet. Therefore regions without tops data are regions without clouds or tops that are below the selected altitude.

cloud-tops-filter

The altitude selector allows you to filter all of the cloud tops (or echo tops) below a specific altitude. In this example, all cloud tops below FL300 are removed leaving only those tops above that altitude. For convective tops, it’s also a good idea to overlay the lightning layer.

Echo top clutter

Echo tops received through SiriusXM do not go through a rigorous filter like you may see with the two radar layers. Therefore, it is normal to see echo top clutter around and near the various NWS radar sites as shown below. Typically these are not associated with real areas of precipitation and often occur during fair weather. Simply moving the altitude selector up to the next rung at 5,000 feet will remove many of these annoying areas of clutter.

clutter

Echo tops clutter showing tops below 5,000 feet will often occur around the various NWS radar sites. Here you can see clutter around the NEXRAD sites at Charleston, W. Va., Sterling, Va., Dover, De., and Mount Holly, N.J.

True Colors of IR Satellite

Now in ForeFlight Mobile 8.3, you have a choice between one of two satellite layers on the ForeFlight Map view. The legacy satellite layer was renamed to Enhanced Satellite and the new layer is appropriately named Color IR Satellite. For many, the new satellite layer will look quite familiar. That’s because it was created to generally match the infrared (IR) satellite images located within the ForeFlight Imagery view. Or you may have seen similar color images on aviationweather.gov. While there are some differences, this color IR satellite layer has a rather high glance value to depict the locations of significant adverse weather and help to locate the height of the cloud tops.

satellite-selection

The older satellite layer was renamed to Enhanced Satellite with the new layer now called Color IR Satellite.

Why another satellite layer?

Back in November 2014, you may recall that we added color to the global satellite layer. Color was added to enhance or highlight the highest cloud tops that are typically associated with significant large synoptic-scale weather systems and deep, moist convection or thunderstorms. This is especially critical when flying in regions where ground-based radar data is sparse or nonexistent. The new satellite layer takes this a step further by colorizing the entire satellite layer based on a discrete cloud top temperature (in degrees Celsius).

color-satellite-layer

The Color IR Satellite layer should be viewed along with the sky coverage markers. You will notice that many pilot weather reports of icing tend to occur in regions of yellow, green and very light blue.

As I discussed in this earlier blog post high clouds are very cold and emit less infrared radiation than warmer clouds near Earth’s surface. Satellite sensors measure this radiation and meteorologists calibrate this to appropriate temperatures. Knowing the cloud top temperature can help us determine the relative height of the cloud tops and more importantly it can help us understand when supercooled liquid water may dominate the clouds creating a nasty icing threat.

Cloud tops and icing

In this new color satellite image, purple and darker shades of blue are indicative of tops at high altitudes. At the other end of the spectrum, shades of red and orange are indicative of shallow clouds with tops near the earth’s surface.

color-scale-ir

Colors such as dark blue and purple on the left side of this scale (in degrees Celsius) represent the coldest (highest) cloud tops whereas colors on the right side of the scale represent the warmest (lowest) cloud tops.

To use the layer to determine the cloud top height over a particular region, zoom in on the area of concern in the Map view and note the temperature using the color scale above. Next, find the MSL altitude that corresponds to that temperature by referencing the local temperature aloft in that region. That gives you the cloud top height. For example, assume you were departing out of Garden City Regional Airport (KGCK) and wanted to know the height of the tops. Zooming in as shown below provides an orange color representing a temperature of approximately 0 degrees Celsius.

color-height-example

The color IR satellite when zoomed in over Garden City shows mostly orange in this area. This corresponds to a temperature of roughly 0 degrees Celsius.

Using the winds/temperatures aloft provided in the Garden City popover, find the altitude that corresponds to that temperature. Perhaps a more accurate approach is to use a tool called a Skew-T log (p) diagram like the one pictured below. Starting from the surface, work your way up the red environmental temperature line and find the first altitude that corresponds to a temperature of 0 degrees Celsius. In this case, that corresponds to an altitude of 4,285 feet as shown on the left. Additionally, the diagram confirms that saturated conditions occur below this altitude representing the presence of clouds with unsaturated conditions above. This kind of analysis will provide the necessary confidence that a climb to 5,000 feet MSL will get you on top of this cloud deck.

skew-t

A Skew-T log (p) diagram like the one shown here for the Garden City Municipal Airport is an excellent tool to help locate the cloud top height. This depicts a forecast model representation of temperature (red line) and dewpoint temperature (blue line) as a function of height.

The more important colors are perhaps shades of yellow and green and maybe even very light blue. Using the color scale below, clouds with fairly warm subfreezing cloud top temperatures are likely to be dominated by supercooled liquid water and represent a airframe icing threat.

icing-potential

The pale green, yellow and very light blue indicate regions where cloud top temperatures are in the  regime where the clouds below are dominated by supercooled liquid water representing an airframe icing hazard.

Don’t become complacent; clouds with colder (higher) tops can and do contain supercooled liquid water and may pack the threat of supercooled large drop (SLD) icing especially within deep, moist convection. However, these colder-topped clouds of darker shades of blue will normally be dominated by ice crystals or more likely be a mixed phase cloud (containing both ice crystals and supercooled liquid water). However, once ice nuclei begin to activate and ice crystals start to form in the cloud, the cloud tends to grow bigger ice crystals at the expense of supercooled liquid water which lessens the icing threat.

Masking out clear skies

As mentioned above, this layer is a close cousin of the static color IR satellite images found in the ForeFlight Imagery view. The static images show not only the temperature of the cloud tops using the same colors, but also the temperature of the surface of the earth. This can make it difficult to know where clouds exist and where the sky is clear. The main improvement is that the new satellite layer attempts to mask out regions where the sky is clear showing the map background in those regions instead of the surface temperature.

clear-vs-cloudy

Clear regions are masked out to show the underlying map below.

While this masking algorithm works a majority of the time, it can be difficult to get it right every single time simply using temperature alone. For example, anytime there’s a shallow low-topped stratus deck like the one shown below, the tops of the clouds may actually be slightly warmer than the surface of the earth courtesy of a surface-based temperature inversion. So the algorithm may have a difficult time discerning where it is cloudy or clear. So it’s important to always overlay the sky coverage markers to pick up on these issues when they occur.

bad-mask

For some low-topped stratus events, it’s not unusual for the masking algorithm to show clear skies as it did here in the Midwest. The best way to detect this condition is to overlay the cloud coverage markers or during daylight hours check the Enhanced Satellite which operates in the visible spectrum during this time.

So during the late fall, winter and early spring, give this new satellite layer a quick glance. It’ll provide you with a method to determine the tops of most clouds and to reveal where there’s a definite risk of airframe ice.

ForeFlight 8.2.3 Now Available on the App Store

ForeFlight version 8.2.3 corrects an issue with tail number checking that blocked filing with aircraft profiles set up using call signs rather than N-numbers. As always, we’re on frequency at team@foreflight.com if you experience any issues with the update.

ForeFlight 8.2 includes more data for Aeronautical Maps, new in-flight alerts that keep you aware on the ground and in the air, Logbook enhancements with improved currency tracking, Garmin Flight Stream 510 connectivity, and more. Click here to explore all the new features in 8.2.

ForeFlight 8.2.1 Now Available on the App Store

ForeFlight version 8.2.1 corrects a few items in 8.2, including Stratus 2S Track Logs not being available in ForeFlight, an issue where filing a destination using a Lat/Long format (DDMMN/DDDMMW) caused a filing error, and an issue where the search disambiguation function did not always offer potential airways. We’re on frequency at team@foreflight.com if you experience any issues with the update.

Upgrades to Aeronautical Maps, Safety Alerts, Logbook, and More with ForeFlight 8.2

ForeFlight 8.2 includes more data in Aeronautical Maps, new in-flight alerts that keep you aware on the ground and in the air, Logbook enhancements with improved currency tracking, Garmin Flight Stream 510 connectivity, and more.

Click here to explore all the new features in 8.2.

‘Tis the season for airframe ice

Now that cold air has infiltrated a good portion of North America, it’s time to review one important aspect of airframe icing, namely, precipitation type. The three basic wintry precipitation types include snow, ice pellets (colloquially known as sleet) and freezing rain (also freezing drizzle). Surface observations (METARs) and forecasts such as TAFs typically report these precipitation types based on what’s reaching or expected to reach the surface. That’s a critical element to understand. If the surface temperature is expected to be even a degree or two above freezing, you may see a forecast for rain (RA) or drizzle (DZ) in the TAF instead of freezing rain (FZRA) or freezing drizzle (FZDZ). However, just 500 feet above the ground a serious icing hazard may be lurking. So let’s take a look at the three primary precipitation types and examine the temperature profile aloft that’s common for each.

Snow

Snowflakes are just collections of ice crystals that coalesce as they fall toward the Earth’s surface. For snow (SN) to reach the surface, there needs to be a deep moist layer that is, for the most part, entirely below freezing. More importantly, the key to getting snow is that the top of this moist layer must be sufficiently cold to produce those ice crystals. While there is no definitive temperature, ice crystals begin to dominate when the top of this moist layer is -12 degrees Celsius or colder. Precipitation continues to fall as snow when the temperature remains at or below 0 degrees Celsius from the cloud base to the ground. Wet snow is the result of temperatures slightly above freezing near the surface.

snow

A typical environmental temperature profile that produces snow. Image courtesy of NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Freezing rain

There are two processes in the atmosphere that can produce freezing rain (FZRA), namely, classical and nonclassical. The classic situation is what most pilots are taught during their primary training. That is, the precipitation starts out high in the cloud as snowflakes. These snowflakes fall through a melting layer that’s warmer than 0 degrees Celsius. If the melting layer is sufficiently warm and/or deep enough, it will melt those snowflakes turning them entirely into raindrops. That rain falls into a subfreezing layer and becomes freezing rain creating a significant airframe icing hazard.

freezingrain

A typical temperature profile that produces classical freezing rain. Image courtesy of NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

The nonclassical case is a bit more complex to explain, but essentially the entire process remains liquid. In other words, the precipitation high in the cloud doesn’t involve snow. This occurs when the weather system isn’t terribly deep and the top of the moist layer is at a temperature warmer than -12 degrees Celsius. Warmer subfreezing temperatures at the tops tend to prefer a liquid process over the production of ice crystals. In the non-classical case, the entire temperature profile aloft may be below freezing or may also have a melting layer. Regardless of the actual profile, the non-classical case is strictly an all-liquid process. In most situations, you’ll see a lot of tiny drops that produce a nasty freezing drizzle environment. Surprisingly, 92 percent of the cases are nonclassical based on a study done by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Ice pellets

Ice pellets (PL) are similar to the classical freezing rain case mentioned above, except that the melting layer is very shallow. This doesn’t entirely melt the snowflake, and the drop retains a slushy inner core. These slushy drops refreeze as they fall through a deep layer of subfreezing air near the surface, and eventually reach the ground as hard little nuggets that bounce on impact.

sleet

A typical temperature profile that produces ice pellets. Image courtesy of NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Keep in mind that ice pellets often indicate the presence of supercooled large drop (SLD) icing aloft. While the frozen pellets will bounce right off of your aircraft while in flight (taking a bit of paint with it), they are often mixed with other forms of freezing precipitation including freezing rain especially at altitudes right below the shallow melting layer.

Here’s a little bit of ice pellet trivia. The abbreviation for ice pellets used to be PE. However, when rain and ice pellets occurred together with rain being the dominant precipitation type, the surface observation includes the term RAPE. This was deemed to be politically incorrect in English speaking countries and the abbreviation for ice pellets was then modified to PL.

So the next time you venture out this cold season, pay attention not only to the precipitation types that are being reported or forecast but also get a sense of the temperature profile aloft.

Upgrades to Aeronautical Maps, Safety Alerts, Logbook, and More with ForeFlight 8.2

The theme of ForeFlight 8.2 is to enhance core app features. Aeronautical Maps, Alerts, Garmin connectivity, and Logbook all received development love. Download ForeFlight 8.2 now on the App Store!

More Data, More Customization Options for Aeronautical Maps

We compiled your feedback and delivered the top items you wanted to see in our global data-driven Aeronautical Maps. Data additions include altitude markers for Class B, C, and D airspace, ARTCC frequency stamps, Class E surface areas, Mode C rings, Special Airport Traffic Rule (SATR) areas, U.S. ADIZ, and Terminal Radar Service Areas (TRSAs).

Aeronautical Maps airspace details

Explore the Map Settings menu for more options to customize the Aeronautical Maps layer; for example, to turn on and off airport and airspace types. For customers who fly outside of the U.S., you can access airspace details when you tap-hold on an airspace outline and then select the All tab at the bottom of the pop-up. Tap on an item in the pop-up window to highlight it on the map.

Aeronautical Maps airspace

Left: More options to customize the Aeronautical Maps layer in the Map Settings menu; Right: Tap-hold on airspace outside the U.S. for more details.

Stunning Aeronautical Maps Now on the Web

The same incredibly fast rebuilt map engine and stunning data-driven Aeronautical Maps you enjoy in ForeFlight Mobile have landed on the web. ForeFlight’s Continuous Zoom technology smoothly declutters the map as you zoom in and out, and provides essential aeronautical information with a single click of the mouse. All of your work syncs instantly from the web to mobile, giving you the flexibility to plan on the desktop and in the cockpit. Log in to foreflight.com with your ForeFlight Mobile credentials and start your next flight plan on the web.

New Safety Alerts for Increased Situational Awareness

Better in-flight situational awareness is a major theme for us, and we continue that theme with three new safety alerts.

ForeFlight inflight alert settings

Manage Alert settings by navigating to More > Settings > Alerts.

The Sink Rate Alert activates when your descending vertical speed exceeds 4,000’ per minute for more than 5 seconds while flying above 2,500’ AGL. Below 2,500’, the vertical speed required to activate the alert drops to 3,000’ per minute and gradually lowers along with the altitude, down to 1,500’ per minute at 500’ AGL and below.

The 500’ AGL Alert triggers when you descend below 500’ AGL. To prevent the alert from repeating it is only shown if you have previously been above 1,000’ AGL.

Finally, the Runway Proximity Advisor, an alert which lets you know when you’re approaching and entering a runway, now includes both the name of the runway and the length remaining in feet, rounded to the nearest hundred. This alert is a helpful final cross-check that you are lined up on the correct runway.

You can manage all of the Alerts in ForeFlight in More > Settings > Alerts.

Whether on the runway or in the sky, these alerts provide critical information when you need it, and add to ForeFlight’s lineup of helpful safety features.

Keep Your Logbook Currency Summaries Accurate

Logbook aircraft validationThe color-coded Currency Summaries in ForeFlight Logbook are an excellent way to stay on top of certificate expiration dates, flight currency requirements, or flying goals.

Because most of the Currency Summaries rely on complete aircraft profile information to accurately reflect status, Logbook will now flag any missing details (like category, class, or gear type) when you add an aircraft to a flight entry.

An orange alert marker appears next to the aircraft, signaling that you need to add information. When you tap into the profile, the fields with missing information are also highlighted in orange to make it even easier.

Connect Sporty's online course with ForeFlight LogbookConnect Your Sporty’s Online Training to Logbook

A new integration with Sporty’s allows you to receive certificates and endorsements in Logbook for completing Sporty’s online flight training courses.

Login to the Sporty’s online training portal to link your ForeFlight account.

 

Logbook airport lookup helper

Quick Airport Lookup in Logbook Flight Entries

Now you can quickly look up and select your departure and destination airports when you fill out your flight entry. Start typing an airport name, identifier, or city to auto-populate a list of available options. Your recent and favorite airports are also listed for easy access. Just one more way to make flight logging easier and faster!

Connectivity with Garmin Flight Stream 510

ForeFlight now supports the Flight Stream 510, Garmin’s latest addition to their Connext product line. The Flight Stream 510 connects to your iPad or iPhone via Bluetooth, enabling ForeFlight to receive GPS data, ADS-B weather* and traffic, and attitude data, as well as two-way flight plan transfer between ForeFlight and the GTN 650 and GTN 750 series navigators.

Learn more about connectivity with Garmin avionics at foreflight.com/garmin.

*Please note that satellite weather from the GDL69 through the Flight Stream 510 to ForeFlight Mobile is not currently supported.

Get Your Call Sign on File

You can now add your FAA-registered call sign to your flight plan form. This new field appears underneath the tail number field and is transmitted to ATC in place of your tail number when you file (your tail number is automatically added to the Remarks section of the flight plan so it’s available to ATC). If you leave the call sign field blank, the plan will be filed under the aircraft’s tail number.

ForeFlight gift certificates now availableGift Certificates Now Available

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for your pilot-friend or flight instructor? ForeFlight Gift Certificates are now available! Click here to purchase.

New Caribbean VFR Charts Available in ForeFlight

Two new Caribbean VFR sectional charts, recently published by the FAA, are now available in ForeFlight. The Caribbean 1 and Caribbean 2 charts cover the Caribbean and the Bahamas and replace the World Aeronautical Charts (WACs) that cover this region. In case you missed it, the FAA is in the process of phasing out WACs.

US VFR Caribbean chart

View the new Caribbean 1 and Caribbean 2 charts in the U.S. VFR sectional map layer.

You can view the new charts in the U.S. VFR sectional map layer, and they are available to download by anyone with a ForeFlight subscription that includes the U.S. geographic region. You can download them by enabling the switch for VFR Charts and selecting Florida and Puerto Rico in the United States download settings.

The WACs covering the Caribbean will be available in ForeFlight until they expire: CJ-26 expires on February 1, 2018 and CJ-27 expires on March 29, 2018. After these dates, the charts will no longer be available for download in the app.

Aging Surface Observations

One of the more common concerns raised by ForeFlight customers is the age of surface observations or METARs shown within the app. They often wonder why the age of a METAR can be 60 or more minutes old in some cases. To understand why this occurs, let’s discuss how routine surface observations are taken throughout the world.

metar-age

The age shown here in the airport popover is based solely on the difference between the current time and the time the METAR was issued.

If you visit most any airport in the U.S., you’ll likely see one of two weather observing systems installed: the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) or the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS). Both of these are capable of generating one or more weather reports each hour. Although these systems observe the weather nearly continuously in time, they will only generate official reports known as an aviation routine weather report or METAR when certain conditions apply.

Routine observations

For an ASOS, only one routine report is issued every hour, which is a key reason for the seemingly excessive age of these observations. If you pay close attention to the issuance time on METARs, you will notice that many routine observations are issued a few minutes before the top of each hour. Starting at 47:20 past the hour, the ASOS begins to make its routine observation. By 53:20, the hourly observation has been prepared and edited and should be ready for transmission. This routine report becomes the official hourly observation for the NWS. That’s the METAR you will see in the ForeFlight Mobile app.

It’s important to understand that the age presented in ForeFlight is based on the issuance time in the METAR regardless of when it was disseminated by the ASOS or AWOS station. Once each minute we pull down those latest observations directly from our interface with NOAA, parse them and add them directly into our database. After the METAR was issued, it is not unusual for several minutes to pass before it becomes available to ForeFlight. ForeFlight doesn’t typically receive and ingest the data until 4 or 5 minutes after this issuance time. Therefore, it’s very common that the routine observations will have an age of 4 or 5 minutes when updated. That means it’s quite normal to see an age of 64 or 65 minutes just before it gets refreshed by the latest hourly observation.

metar-refreshed

When a METAR is refreshed in ForeFlight Mobile an age of 4, 5 or 6 minutes is very common. For example, this METAR for Ellington, the METAR was updated 6 minutes ago.

An AWOS, on the other hand, typically issues three routine observations each hour or every 20 minutes. The typical interval is at 15, 35 and 55 minutes past each hour. However, you will find that these times will vary depending on the location. You may even run across some AWOS stations that operate similar to an ASOS, that is, one routine observation an hour.

SPECIs

If the weather is changing rapidly for the better or worse, special observations (SPECIs) are issued in addition to the routine hourly observations and include operationally significant changes to elements like wind direction, wind speed, ceiling height and visibility just to name a few. Given that the ASOS relentlessly measures the weather and could inundate pilots with more frequent special observations than a human observer, the system is purposely throttled to provide SPECIs only at 5-minute intervals. This is to limit the number of observations that can be transmitted during the hour when the weather is changing rapidly. Like the routine observations, SPECIs will also take several minutes to appear in ForeFlight after it is issued.

1-minute weather

Before you depart or when you approach an airport, it’s common to listen to the local weather broadcast over the dedicated ground-to-air frequency. This broadcast is referred to as the 1-minute weather. You can also get the latest weather by calling the stations dedicated telephone number. In either case, this automated weather is often more up to date than what you’d get over ATIS or via ForeFlight. At the moment, ForeFlight only provides the latest official observations that are disseminated in the form of a METAR or SPECI. In other words, we don’t currently provide the 1-minute weather you’d get over the phone or on the radio broadcast.

airport-wx-freq

You can find the frequency and phone number for the local ASOS or AWOS on the Airports view under Weather and Advisory tab.

Of course, all pilots want the latest and greatest information. However, that does not necessarily mean an hourly observation that’s 30 or more minutes old should be considered stale. In fact, if the weather hasn’t undergone an operationally significant change, the latest observation is likely still very representative of the weather at the airport.

Range of usefulness

You can’t talk about age unless you also wrap in a discussion about the range of usefulness of an observation. It’s not unusual for many pilots to assume that a particular observation is useful as far as 20 or more miles from the airport. That may be the case when the weather is fairly homogeneous across a large region. But in most situations, making that assumption can get you into trouble.

These official surface observations are taken to be representative of the weather within the terminal area. The terminal area is defined as the circular region within 5 statute miles from the center of the airport’s runway complex. In other words, they are point observations. Notice in the table below that many of the parameters reported in a METAR are valid only within 1 to 3 miles of the airport. So there are no guarantees that the weather is similar to what’s shown in the observation as you get outside of the terminal area.

table-validity-asos

This table defines the representative range from the airport of the various weather elements provided by the observing system.

So the next time you look at the age of latest surface observation don’t discount its operational value. When the weather isn’t changing all that rapidly, a single update each hour will be the normal case for many reporting stations throughout the world.

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 

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“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.