Our September release features support for Profile View on iPhone, a layer selector for the Track Log Review flight metrics, and support for additional aircraft types in Runway Analysis.
Profile View on iPhone
Profile View is now supported on iPhone, giving you a side-on view of your route along with terrain, obstacles, airspace, and forecast weather.
To support narrower iPhone screens, route metrics like Highest Point, Clearance, and First Strike have moved to a new row above Profile View, along with the toggles for Route and Flight mode that appear during a flight.
The Profile settings menu also moved to directly below Profile View, just to the right of the Profile layer selector.
See how Profile View on iPhone compares to the view on iPad below.
Profile View is included in Pro Plus subscription plans and above, while forecast weather in Profile View is included in ForeFlight Performance subscription plans.
Track Log Review Layer Selector
A small update to the Track Log Review interface combines the four flight data buttons (Speed, Altitude, Pitch, and Bank) into a single layer selector in the bottom-left of the Track Log Graph.
You can display Pitch and Bank in Track Log Review for improved maneuver debriefing by flying with an AHRS-capable receiver like Sentry.
New Runway Analysis Aircraft Support
ForeFlight’s Runway Analysis product for jets now supports the following new aircraft models:
GPS Data via Honeywell Apex & Aspen Connected Gateway
Pilatus pilots who fly with a Honeywell Apex FMS and Aspen Connected Gateway can now receive GPS position, ground speed, and track in ForeFlight, building on the support for flight plan transfer from ForeFlight to Honeywell Apex released earlier this year.
The integration with Honeywell’s Apex FMS is available with ForeFlight Performance subscription plans.
Documents take center stage in this release with support on iPhone, a new, more flexible interface, and syncing of documents, bookmarks, and annotations across all devices. Other new features include support for importing custom geospatial PDF files, improvements to the flight plan filing workflow, and new charts for Greece and Malta.
We’ve enhanced the Documents view with new capabilities that make finding, accessing, and keeping documents in sync across your devices easier than ever.
The Documents Catalog is now always accessible as a collapsible drawer on the left side of the screen. Your imported documents, cloud documents, and all downloadable documents from ForeFlight and other providers are kept in “Drives”, a new paradigm that simplifies how you download and access documents. Drives allow you to find, download, and view documents all in one place, and also support nested folders, allowing for better organization and grouping of related documents. Tap the blue download button to the right of any document, folder, or drive to download it to your device.
When you download all of the contents of a folder or drive using its download button, ForeFlight will automatically keep that folder or drive up to date when new versions of existing documents or even new documents become available. This also applies to documents you update in your linked cloud storage account, which is great for large multi-pilot operations that need to distribute different sets of documents to different groups of pilots.
Your binders are still accessible at the top of the Catalog to help you organize your documents in whatever way you prefer. To add a document to a binder, open the document from a drive, tap the Binder icon in the toolbar, then choose from your existing binders or add a new one.
For even more flexibility, you can use ForeFlight’s Cloud Documents feature to transfer documents and folders to ForeFlight from a linked cloud storage account, including Dropbox, Box, or Amazon S3. This will create your own Drive that you can easily manage from your computer or device.
Documents on iPhone
Documents are also now available on iPhone, allowing you to download, view, and modify your documents and folders on all of your devices. The Documents tab on iPhone takes the place of the Imagery tab at the center of the navigation bar, and the Imagery view is now accessible from the top of the More view.
Documents in App Search
You can now use the search bar on the Airports, Maps, Plates, or Documents views to search for and view documents, whether downloaded or not. ForeFlight returns all documents with titles matching your search term and highlights that term within each title. Where documents appearing in the Search results list depends on which app view you’re on, so while searching for a document from the Documents view will place them at the top, searching from other views will place them further down the list.
Finally, your documents and all their associated information are now included in ForeFlight’s Sync system, allowing you to easily stay organized when moving between devices and backing up your imported documents to the ForeFlight Cloud.
Any annotations or bookmarks you add to a document on one device will also appear on your other devices, including the last page you viewed in that document so you can pick up right where you left off. Visit our Documents page to learn how you can get the most out of ForeFlight’s Documents.
Geospatial PDF Support
Customize your planning and flying experience even more with support for custom georeferenced procedures and airport diagrams in Content Packs and BYOP. Import geospatial PDF files to access them from the Airports or Plates views and overlay them directly on the map.
Georeferenced procedures and Plates on Maps are included in Pro Plus plans and above.
Flight Plan Filing Changes
The “Proceed to File” button on the Flights view now brings up a filing form modal instead of a separate page so it’s easier to keep your planned and filed flight plans in sync. Also, filing confirmation and briefing emails are combined into a single email to reduce clutter in your inbox and centralize important flight information.
Expanded European Coverage
All European subscribers can now download AIPs for Greece and Malta, which include IFR and VFR procedures charts, airports diagrams, documents, and IFR high and low enroute charts for Malta. Jeppesen’s IFR and VFR aeronautical data is also included for both countries.
Visit foreflight.com/europe to learn more about what features European pilots can benefit from, and see all available charts and data with prices here.
We also updated Passenger alongside ForeFlight with some GPS-related improvements. Passenger will now receive and use GPS position data from ForeFlight Mobile 11.3+ when the Passenger devices cannot receive GPS directly. Additionally, Passenger devices that connect to a properly configured Gogo inflight Wi-Fi device will now receive GPS updates from it, in addition to normal inflight internet connectivity.
ForeFlight 10 is here! Expanded search capability provides results from multiple app views so you can find what you need faster, a collection of powerful new airspace features help you stay aware of (or away from) airspace along your route, and automatic chart and data downloads keep you up to date and ready to fly. Other improvements include an extended GDL 90 protocol for third-party devices and an interactive map for Pack. Read on to get the details and watch the videos!
Please note that ForeFlight 10 requires iOS 10.3 or higher.
Expanded App Search Delivers Results You Need – Fast
The Airports, Maps, and Plates views now share a unified search capability that supports a wider range of search types making it easier and faster to find what you’re looking for.
When connected to the internet, search for cities, states, countries, addresses, street intersections, and even business and place names (e.g. “Central Park”). These new search types help operators pinpoint exact locations for missions like urban search and rescue. Other supported search types include navaids by name, airports, procedures, aircraft registration, and scheduled flights. Recent search history recalls previous searches and saves them for offline use.
Search is fast, flexible, and smart, offering suggestions as you type and prioritizing results based on which app view you’re on. For example, searching for an airport identifier on the Airports and Maps views puts airport results at the top of the list, while the same search on Plates displays procedures for that airport at the top of the list.
Airspace in Profile View
ForeFlight’s Profile View now includes an interactive vertical cross-section of controlled, MOA, SUA, and TFR airspace along your planned route or flight track. Combined with terrain and obstacles, Airspace in Profile View gives you a single view to help plan and navigate around hazards and complex airspace.
You can tap on any airspace shown in Profile View to display airspace name and type, floor and ceiling details, and TFR effective times. With airspace selected, the main map automatically zooms to and highlights the airspace, allowing you to see exactly where your route intersects from a top-down perspective.
Use the Ruler tool (press two fingers on the map simultaneously) to pan around the map and watch Profile View depict what is between your fingertips.
ForeFlight’s data-driven Aeronautical Maps now highlight airspace along your route while dimming other airspace, making it easy to focus on the airspaces that matter for your flight. ForeFlight automatically highlights any airspace within +/- 1,000 feet of your altitude and within 1-nautical mile on either side of your route. Adjust your route or altitude, and ForeFlight smoothly updates the on-screen depiction.
ForeFlight considers the flight’s climb, cruise, and descent trajectory to highlight nearby airspace. Once in flight, ForeFlight uses your current altitude to determine which airspaces to highlight, and looks ahead to highlight airspace along your current heading, even if not directly on your route.
Global Airspace Details
ForeFlight’s Maps view now features Jeppesen-sourced global airspace information for FIRs, UIRs, controlled airspace, and special use airspace. Tap-hold anywhere on the map to see a list of airspaces at that location, then tap “Details” to find more information.
Different types of airspace provide different amounts of information: controlled airspace shows basic information about the class of airspace and altitude limits. Special use airspace and MOAs add to this with information about communication frequencies, activation hours, and the controlling agency. Flight information regions (FIRs) and upper information regions (UIRs) have even more detailed information, listing center, control, and radio frequencies; RVSM cruise tables; and operational notes required for transnational and oceanic flights.
Automatic Downloads Reduce Preflight Workload
Eliminate the little red notification on the More tab without having to tap anything! ForeFlight will now automatically download chart and data updates when connected to internet via Wi-Fi to ensure that you always have current charts and data.
Note that charts downloaded using Pack or charts you are no longer “subscribed” to in Download Settings will not receive automatic updates. Make sure you select all the charts, data, and regions you need in More > Downloads > Download Settings.
Extended GDL 90 Protocol for Third-Party Devices
ForeFlight allows third-party devices to transmit live inflight data to ForeFlight Mobile using the industry-standard GDL 90 Data Interface Specification. Properly configured devices will be able to send GPS data, ADS-B weather and traffic, AHRS, and device-specific information like device name and serial number to ForeFlight.
The Pack window on Maps and Flights now includes an interactive map showing your route and the “Pack corridor”, which extends for 25 nautical miles on either side of your route. Pack downloads weather and NOTAMs within this corridor, ensuring you have access to this important data while offline in the air.
For Performance customers, PDC badges now appear throughout the app on airports that support the pre-departure clearance service.
On devices with force-touch capability, tap-hold the ForeFlight icon for quick access to New Flight, Nearest Airports, Maps, and Logbook views.
On ForeFlight’s web application, the Flights tab for planning and filing flight plans now has a more condensed so you can access more fields at once.
Finally, please note the following:
Profile View is available for Pro Plus subscribers and above.
As a feature of ForeFlight’s Aeronautical Map, Airspace Highlighting requires a “Plus” subscription plan.
ForeFlight 10 requires iOS 10.3 or higher
Airspace in Profile and Airspace Highlighting require iOS 11 or higher.
Our first release of 2018 brings quick access to Pack on the Flights view for downloading charts and weather before a flight, and smarter route suggestions for Performance subscribers with the new Recommended Route. Other noteworthy improvements include a new Flight Log to record start/end meter times, Out/Off/On/In times, and fuel remaining after a flight, as well as temperature and dewpoint data in MOS forecasts.
Integrated Flight Log Simplifies Your Record-Keeping
If you keep an aircraft flight log for recording actual flight time and fuel values, the new Flight Log can streamline your post-flight workflow by automating these common time calculations.
Scroll to the bottom of the Flights view to access the new Flight Log. Use the “Fuel at Shutdown” field to capture that data for reference during fuel load planning on your next flight. Tap on “Times” to open a page where you can record the flight’s start and end meter times and Out/Off/On/In times. ForeFlight uses these values to calculate total flight, block, and meter times and displays a summary on the main Flights form for quick reference.
The Flight Log is also useful for comparing actual ETE and fuel burn values with ForeFlight’s planned values so you can fine-tune your aircraft’s performance profile in ForeFlight. For Performance customers, tap into the performance profile detail view to adjust the bias sliders.
Pack Charts, Data, and the Latest Weather from Flights
To further streamline your planning workflow on Flights, you’ll find a quick access button to Pack directly below the Flight Log. Just like the ‘suitcase’ button on the Maps view, Pack analyzes your route to determine the charts, data, NOTAM, and weather information you need, then prompts you to download with a single tap. Packed data is available offline and when in flight. Pack also includes Icing and Turbulence map layers for Pro Plus and Performance subscribers, helping you find smoother air while in flight.
Pack uses a “route corridor” to determine what information to include: weather and NOTAMs within 25 NM on either side of your route and within 50 NM of both your departure and destination airports are included. Pack also uses your chart type selections in More > Downloads to determine what maps and charts to include, so if you haven’t selected IFR High Charts, for example, Pack won’t prompt you to download them.
Use Pack to ensure you don’t get caught in the air without the charts you need.
Faster, Smarter Autorouting for Your Aircraft
For Performance subscribers, the new Recommended Route feature (formerly AviationCloud Autoroute) gives you the best route based on your detailed aircraft performance profile and time/fuel savings, while also accounting for preferred routes, recent ATC cleared routes, and how frequently a given route is assigned. Use the recommended route for more ‘cleared as filed’ flight plans.
Graphical Route Advisor in ForeFlight
In addition, on shorter routes, the Recommended Route makes smarter altitude suggestions to prevent uncomfortably short cruise times at or near the aircraft’s service ceiling and provides altitudes that ATC is more likely to accept.
Graphical Route Advisor is also better at filtering out old and irrelevant filed routes created to avoid storms and other temporary hazards.
For all customers who File with ForeFlight, expected Route notifications now include “(as filed)” after the route string if the expected route is the same as the one you filed.
New Closure Warnings and Expanded NOTAM Coverage
We’ve added prominent new warning banners that let you know when an airport or runway is closed by NOTAM, making this critical information more visible to help you avoid surprises. The red banner appears on the Airports or Maps view on any closed airport or airport with a closed runway, indicating which runway is closed in the latter case. Tap or scroll to the list of runways and a smaller banner will appear on the one that’s closed. Tap the runway to see the closure NOTAM with effective and expiration dates.
We also integrated the full set of EUROCONTROL-sourced EAD NOTAMs, providing greater NOTAM coverage for European airports. We continue to provide worldwide NOTAM coverage using the FAA’s global database.
Temperature & Dewpoint in MOS
MOS forecasts in ForeFlight now provide temperature and dewpoint values, enhancing their usefulness as a supplement to official TAFs. MOS stands for Model Output Statistics and, as the name suggests, is derived from the output of weather prediction models to forecast weather at over 2000 U.S. airports, including smaller ones not served by an official TAF. The new temperature and dewpoint values are expressed either as single values or as ranges, indicating that conditions are expected to vary over the forecast period. Learn more about MOS.
Updates to ForeFlight on the Web
For a more seamless experience between web and mobile, the Maps page on the web now has a combined Favorite/Recent Route button with Edit/Clear functions. For Performance subscribers who plan with Flights on the web, the total fuel burn values shown in the Route and Altitude Advisors now include taxi fuel to better represent total fuel usage.
Other Noteworthy Improvements
When you select an FBO on the Flights view, details for it such as FBO name, phone number, and frequency are included in the printable Navlog. Learn more about printable Navlog.
A new setting in More > Settings > Flights can be used to translate weather and NOTAM information in the text-only Legacy Briefing to plain text, or leave it in the original coded form.
Performance subscribers can now enable a %MAC mode in ForeFlight’s Weight & Balance feature, simplifying data entry for jet pilots.
We redesigned the ForeFlight Mobile interface on the iPhone to more closely match the iPad, and that new interface is available now to all customers with ForeFlight version 9.5. Also in this release, your preflight Graphical Briefing automatically syncs across devices, view and select your destination FBO in the Flights view, ForeFlight Military Flight Bag (MFB) customers can download and view the worldwide DOD library of tactical mission planning charts, and more.
Familiar iPad Interface Now on iPhone
The biggest thing you’ll notice about the new iPhone interface is the Tab Bar at the bottom of the screen, which replaces the “Menu” button as the primary means of navigating around the app. Tab Bar navigation makes it much easier to move between different views in the app. And with the new Flights view on iPhone, you can plan, brief, and file flight plans faster than ever before.
The iPad has some notable changes as well. Favorite and Recent buttons throughout the app are consolidated under a single button and a new “slim” tab bar design increases usable screen space.
Finally, we redesigned the More view to group the tabs on the left into more logical sections. We moved frequently used features like Logbook and Checklist to the top and administration functions like Downloads, Account, and Settings to the bottom.
Military Mission Planning Charts and Graphical Chart Manager
ForeFlight MFB (the version of ForeFlight built for US government, military, and DOD aviation) is now the first and only mobile solution where authorized and authenticated customers can download and display the worldwide library of US Department of Defense military mission planning charts, including Joint Operations Graphics (JOG), Tactical Pilot Charts (TPC), Operational Navigation Charts (ONC), and Range charts.
A new interactive Graphical Chart Manager makes it fast and easy to select and download only the desired charts from the thousands available in the library.
The charts use the newest format standard in military digital chart technology, developed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, called Enhanced Compression Raster Graphics (ECRG). The ECRG format combined with ForeFlight’s compression process technology results in faster over-the-air (wireless) downloads, less used storage space, higher resolution, and quicker load times.
All four mission planning chart types are geo-referenced and support display of ownship position, the overlay of weather and hazard information, and seamlessly integrate with all of ForeFlight’s innovative map features.
Select FBOs in Flights with Destination Services
A new section in the Flights view planning form allows you to select an FBO at your destination airport, making helpful functions and information easily accessible while planning and viewing your flight. The Destination Services tab opens the familiar ForeFlight Directory list where you can compare all the FBOs at an airport and view additional details like services, photos, comments, and fuel prices. Once you select an FBO, new buttons appear on the planning form to call or email the FBO, find its location in the Apple Maps app, or view its details.
ForeFlight also remembers your selection at every airport where you choose an FBO and automatically selects the same FBO the next time you plan a flight to that airport, saving you time and making useful functions quickly accessible.
Preflight Briefing Sync and Other Planning Enhancements
ForeFlight’s Sync platform now includes preflight Briefings, making critical weather information and NOTAMs quickly accessible on iPad, iPhone, and the web. As soon as you retrieve a briefing, ForeFlight makes it instantly available for viewing on any of your other signed-in devices. In addition, Briefings are now created automatically for every filed flight plan and stored permanently in the ForeFlight Cloud.
Graphical Briefing now includes graphical area forecasts (replacing the legacy text-based area forecasts for CONUS regions). The new imagery for cloud cover, visibility, surface winds, and precipitation help you make better, faster analysis of the weather along your route. Tap on any graphic in the briefing to view it in full screen, then zoom in and pan for a better view of the details.
New Map Gesture: Tap on Route Leg
A small but powerful enhancement, you can now tap on any leg in an active route on the Maps view to see information about it and take a number of actions. The popup includes values for leg distance, magnetic course heading, and MEA and MOCA information if the leg is part of an airway. You can also use the buttons to delete the waypoint at the end of the leg, fly direct to that waypoint, or “Fly Leg”. Tap Fly Leg to activate that leg in the Navlog, which is helpful if you need to manually advance to the next leg.
Support for iPhone X and 10.5-inch iPad Pro
ForeFlight looks stunning on the iPhone X’s high-resolution edge-to-edge screen, with text and colors appearing sharp, smooth, and vivid. On the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which has a slightly larger screen than 9.7-inch iPad models, ForeFlight now takes advantage of the screen’s full resolution to maximize every app view.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
In the pilot world there is a ubiquitous debate that continues to thrive over what ground-based radar product is better to use – NEXRAD composite reflectivity or NEXRAD base reflectivity from the lowest elevation angle. Without question, both of these radar mosaics provide a high glance value to the pilot to highlight the location and movement of the truly nasty adverse weather along your proposed route assuming you understand each of their inherent limitations. Now in ForeFlight Mobile 7.7, you’ll have the opportunity to wrangle over which is best since we’ve added a high resolution base reflectivity layer from the lowest elevation angle to complement the current composite reflectivity layer within the app.
But wait…there’s more! In addition to this new layer, we now offer two new low resolution NEXRAD mosaics, namely, a composite reflectivity and lowest elevation angle base reflectivity layer. These two four-color ground-based radar mosaics comply with the dBZ-to-color mapping standards defined by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) documented in Table 3.2 of DO-267A. More on these later.
You can now select from one of two radar mosaic depictions in ForeFlight Mobile. The selections include Composite reflectivity and reflectivity from the lowest elevation angle or Lowest Tilt.
Base does NOT equal lowest
First, let’s squash a misnomer about base reflectivity. Many pilots (and even weather professionals) may use the term “base” in base reflectivity to imply lowest. That’s not what it means. In fact, every elevation angle generated by the WSR-88D NEXRAD Doppler radars has a base reflectivity product. The amount of energy directed back to the radar is measured and recorded in a logarithmic scale called decibels of Z (abbreviated dBZ), where Z is the reflectivity parameter. Next, these basedata returns are processed by a radar product generator (RPG) to produce hundreds of meteorological and hydrological products including a few near and dear to pilots such as reflectivity.
A more accurate description would be to prefix the product with the elevation angle such as “0.5 degree base reflectivity.” Nevertheless, you may see labels like “Composite Reflectivity” and “Base Reflectivity” on various public and subscription-based websites including those from NOAA. It’s likely that the base reflectivity is from the lowest elevation angle (or lowest tilt) of NEXRAD radar. That’s because the lowest elevation sweep is most representative of precipitation that is reaching the surface which is helpful to the average person on the street including hikers, golfers, boaters and anyone else who wants to know if they need to take the umbrella to work. Unfortunately, the elevation angle is usually dropped (likely due to ignorance or brevity) from these labels.
This is an animated comparison of the composite reflectivity and lowest elevation angle for convection in Florida. Notice the composite reflectivity provides a larger footprint since it picks up on the ice crystals that make up the cirrus anvil.
You might be surprised to learn that in many locations across the U.S., the composite reflectivity image you study before or during a flight is largely made up of only three or four of the lowest 14 elevation scans of the radar. So in these areas the composite reflectivity and base reflectivity from the lowest elevation angle are not all that different. These areas include regions where the NEXRAD coverage is sparse. Which surprisingly doesn’t only occur in the western U.S. Places such as my home town of Charlotte, North Carolina have distinct gaps in radar coverage.
Radar to the max
Each NEXRAD radar makes multiple 360° azimuthal sweeps at increasing elevation angles from 0.5° to 19.5° depending on the current mode of operation. The number of elevation angles (or tilts) depends on the scanning strategy or Volume Coverage Pattern (VCP) of the individual radar which is set by the radar operator that is located at the local weather forecast office that monitors and manages that particular radar site. A composite reflectivity image considers the base reflectivity from all of the most recent sweeps at each elevation angle and shows only the maximum reflected energy in the vertical column above each location within the radar’s effective coverage area.
It’s all about range
With respect to ground-based radar, range or distance is the key. Even though the lowest elevation angle is only 0.5°, at 124 nautical miles away the center of the radar beam is already nearly 17,000 feet above the surface due to the curvature of the earth. So it is easy to see how the higher elevation angles may easily overshoot precipitation that is not in the immediate vicinity of a radar site. Moreover, even if the beam is low enough to see the storm, it may still overshoot the precipitation core. Let’s take a look at an example.
Below is a two-image animation from the NEXRAD located at the Greenville-Spartanburg Weather Forecast Office in Greer, South Carolina. This shows the returns received from the lowest elevation angle or lowest tilt of the radar which is 0.5° and the fourth elevation angle which is only 1.7° (remember that 19.5° is the maximum elevation). Notice the radar at the lowest elevation has identified an area of weather over Fayetteville, North Carolina (seen on the far right). This cell is approximately 150 miles away from the radar site in Greer (on the far left). However, given it’s distance from the radar, the 1.7° elevation scan completely overshoots this area of precipitation. That means the composite reflectivity image in the Fayetteville area is likely made up of only the lowest three elevation angles of the radar. The remaining higher 11 elevation angles overshoot the precipitation in this region.
This two-image animation from WDT’s RadarScope app shows the base reflectivity from the 0.5 degree and 1.7 degree elevations. The NEXRAD radar producing this image is located in Greer, SC on the far left. Notice that some returns farther from the radar completely disappear as the radar beam overshoots the weather entirely.
Now it’s true that other adjacent radars such as the one from Raleigh Durham, North Carolina might be able to see this area of weather at higher elevation angles. However, due to the curvature of the earth, the radar beam from the highest elevation angles often overshoots much of the precipitation out there unless it is close to the radar site. This means that locations where there is little overlap between adjacent radars, expect the composite reflectivity image to be very similar to the base reflectivity image for the lowest elevation angle in these gaps.
The four-color radar
If you are flying with airborne radar, you may want to look at the new low resolution four-color NEXRAD mosaic now available in ForeFlight Mobile. The colors depicted in this radar mosaic match the standard color-to-dBZ mapping defined by the RTCA as documented in Section 3.8.2 (Table 3-2) of RTCA DO-267A (shown below). This standard is also used for airborne radar displays.
This is Table 3.2 of DO-267A that defines the color-to-dBZ mapping for airborne radar.
To see the four-color radar depiction, simply select one of the two radar layers on the Map view. Then tap the gear button next to the Map mode button and scroll down the Settings window until you see the setting switch labeled Four-color Radar just above the Radar Opacity slider. Tapping on the right side of this switch will change the radar depiction from the high resolution radar mosaic to the four-color mosaic. You can also find this four-color switch in the general Map View settings.
The four-color radar switch is located in the general Map View settings or can be found under the gear button at the top of the Map view.
If you use the Stratus (FIS-B) to receive weather while in flight, you won’t find the capability to select the lowest tilt, but you will find the four-color radar will also be available for the composite reflectivity mosaic. As you can see below, the four-color radar mosaic (second image) provides a much more ominous depiction of the weather as compared to its higher resolution counterpart (first image).
Normal resolution radar mosaic from FIS-B (Stratus).
Four-color radar mosaic from FIS-B (Stratus).
The reason for this may not be obvious. The data broadcast for FIS-B radar does not specifically include the raw dBZ values. Instead it uses intensity encoded values or “bins” that map to dBZranges as shown in the table below. Notice the wide 10 dBZ ranges for intensity encoded values of 2 and 3. Based on the RTCA standard defined in the table above, these are mapped in the ForeFlight four-color radar to green and yellow, respectively. Red is mapped to intensity encoded values of 4 and 5 with magenta mapped to 6 and 7. Because of the wide ranges as they map to the RTCA standards, the four-color radar depiction from FIS-B will use much “warmer” colors than the standard depiction.
This table from RTCA DO-358 defines the intensity-to-dBZ mapping for FIS-B radar broadcasts. The intensity encoded values of 0 and 1 are considered background and are not displayed as a color. ForeFlight chose to use magenta for intensity encoded values of 7.
Keep in mind that the four-color radar mosaic is a low resolution depiction and will not emphasize storm characteristics like you may see with the Internet radar. This is especially true for the initial evolution of convective cells.
Pilot weather reports are the eyes of the skies. They are not only consumed by pilots, but they are critical data for meteorologists as discussed in this earlier blog post. For example, SIGMETs for turbulence and icing often live and die by pilot reports. It’s rare to see a SIGMET issued for severe or extreme turbulence until pilots begin to report those conditions. As such they are an important part of any preflight briefing and are even more valuable as they trickle in over ADS-B while en route. That’s why we’ve given pilot report symbols used in ForeFlight a much needed facelift.
The new ForeFlight pilot weather report symbols help to quickly identify adverse weather along your proposed route of flight.
The hunt is over
In ForeFlight Mobile 7.5.2, we’ve significantly enhanced the way you see pilot weather reports displayed in the Map view. Prior to this release, pilot reports were loosely organized into three types, namely, turbulence, icing and sky & weather – each represented by a single pilot report symbol (chevron, snowflake and eyeball, respectively). However, this required you to tap on each and every PIREP marker to see important details such as altitude and intensity. Moreover, routine (UA) and urgent (UUA) pilot reports looked exactly the same. Now, standard pilot report symbology used in this release makes it clear as to the type of report, intensity, altitude (when known) and whether or not it’s an urgent pilot report without the need to tap on the pilot report symbol. So the hunt is over; with the added glance value, the truly nasty weather conditions reported by pilots jumps right out of the glass.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Pilots can include all sorts of things in a report, like seeing a flock of geese or even critters camping out on the runway. But reports of adverse weather (or lack thereof) of turbulence and icing are typically made through a subjective estimate of intensity. In order to enhance the glance value and minimize taps to get information, ForeFlight now uses standard pilot report symbols for turbulence and icing reports. Reports that do not contain turbulence or icing details are defaulted to use the legacy sky & weather “eyeball” symbol. These may contain reports of precipitation, cloud bases and cloud tops as well as outside air temperature and winds aloft (speed and direction).
Each icing and turbulence pilot weather report is shown in the ForeFlight Map view with one of the symbols above that depict the reported intensity. From left to right, the top row includes icing intensities of null (negative), light, moderate and severe. Also from left to right, the bottom row includes turbulence intensities of null (negative), light, moderate, severe and extreme.
Some intensity reports are “rounded up” to minimize the overall number of icons to remember. For example, you may notice in the symbols above that ForeFlight doesn’t use the official symbol for trace icing. Consequently, a report of trace icing is rounded up to use the light icing symbol. Similarly, we’re not providing a symbol for reports that straddle two intensities such as “moderate to severe.” Therefore, a “light to moderate” turbulence report will be rounded up to use the moderate turbulence symbol; a report of “moderate to severe” turbulence will be rounded up to use the severe turbulence symbol and so on.
All urgent pilot reports and reports of a severe nature will be tagged with a red badge to add increased glance value to those reports. For example, shown here is an urgent pilot weather report for severe turbulence at 8,000 ft MSL in the Florida Panhandle.
Above and beyond the different turbulence and icing symbols and to further attract your attention, urgent pilot reports in ForeFlight contain a red badge in the upper-right corner like the turbulence report shown above. These badges will typically be included on a turbulence or icing symbol for a report for severe or extreme turbulence and/or severe icing, respectively.
However, you may also see a red badge included with a weather & sky report like the one shown below. This is typically an urgent pilot report for low-level wind shear (LLWS) or mountain wave activity that did not also include any turbulence or icing details. Also, reports of hail, tornadoes, waterspouts or funnel clouds will be classified and tagged as urgent.
A red badge on a sky & weather (eyeball symbol) pilot report means that the report was tagged as urgent even though no icing or turbulence details were provided. Most of the time this means that low-level wind shear or mountain wave activity was reported by the pilot.
Altitude at a glance
If the pilot report contains a flight level (MSL altitude), this flight level is displayed below the symbol using three digits. For example, from the icing pilot report shown below, 057 is added below the symbol which identifies the reported altitude of 5,700 feet MSL.
A light icing pilot weather report at 5,700 feet MSL (FL057).
On the other hand, when the flight level is unknown (FLUNKN) as it is in the icing pilot report below, we will just show the appropriate symbol (turbulence, icing or sky & weather) without an altitude. Even so, there may be specific altitudes reported, but you’ll have to tap on the pilot report marker to examine the raw report for those details. In this case, light rime ice was reported between 6,000 and 4,500 feet MSL, for example.
Flight level in this light icing report is unknown (FLUNKN). Tapping on the report reveals more details.
I see double
If the pilot reported both icing and turbulence in the same report, you will see a pair of symbols side by side like the ones shown below with the center of the symbol pair representing the actual location of the report. This pair of report symbols indicates light icing and light turbulence at 16,000 feet MSL.
A pair of reports means that both icing and turbulence details were provided for the altitude shown in the marker.
Spreading the wealth
To keep everything consistent you will also see these standard symbols show up when tapping on the Map with the AIR/SIGMET/CWAs layer displayed. AIRMETs for turbulence and icing are displayed with their respective moderate symbol and SIGMETs for turbulence and icing will be displayed with their respective severe symbol. For example, in the list below, it’s very simple now to see that the last item in the popover is a SIGMET for turbulence.
Standard symbology is also used in the display of AIRMETs and SIGMETs for icing and turbulence.
Even though there’s now more information available at first glance, you will still want to examine the details of any relevant pilot reports by tapping on the specific markers. Like anything new, it may take a little while to get used to the new pilot report icons. But we feel that the use of standard symbology is critical for flight safety and these changes will provide less taps and a much higher glance value for determining the location and altitude of the most nasty weather being reported by pilots. Lastly, keep those pilot weather reports coming; they are important for all stakeholders in aviation safety.
With ForeFlight Mobile 7.4, SIGMETs issued beyond the U.S. border can now be displayed. These International SIGMETs are advisories that cover a wide range of hazards including convection (thunderstorms), severe turbulence, severe icing, tropical cyclone and volcanic ash just to name a few. In most cases these are displayed on the ForeFlight Map view as polygons similar to the way domestic AIRMETs, SIGMETs and convective SIGMETs are depicted. To help with all of these new advisories, we’ve also added the ability to filter this layer by the type of hazard.
The whole FIR and nothing but the FIR
Unlike advisories issued by forecasters in the U.S., International SIGMETs are not always well defined by the source. Occasionally the origin country may not provide the points that define the advisory area. For those situations, the entire Flight Information Region (FIR) is displayed on the Map as is shown below for a hazard within the Mexican FIR.
When the source of the SIGMET isn’t specific about the exact location of the hazard, the entire FIR may be outlined in red.
Similarly, when tapping on a SIGMET polygon, you may see “Unspecified Conditions” displayed in the title of the popover as shown below. This means the source of the advisory did not specify the details of the type of hazard. While ForeFlight will make an attempt to determine the hazard by parsing the raw text, there’s no guarantee we will be able to make that determination in every case. In these situations it’s strongly encouraged to review the raw text of the SIGMET for the details.
In some cases the type of adverse conditions are not specifically provided by the source government. For those situations, Unspecified Conditions will be shown. You are encouraged to read the raw text for those details.
No more clutter
Another feature added to ForeFlight Mobile 7.4 is the ability to filter the AIR/SIGMET/CWAs layer by hazard type. When this layer is displayed, you’ll notice four buttons at the bottom of the Map view labeled Ice, Turb, IFR and TS representing hazards associated with airframe icing, turbulence, IFR conditions and convection, respectively. Tapping on any of these buttons will add or remove advisories for that hazard type from the Map. For example, the Turb, IFR and TS hazards have been filtered with only the Ice hazard displayed as shown below. Please note that these selections are preserved. Therefore, if you’ve removed the layer from the Map or closed the app, the next time you view the AIR/SIGMET/CWAs layer on your device, the hazard selections you made earlier will be restored.
When the AIR/SIGMET/CWA layer is active, use the buttons at the bottom to hide or display the advisories by hazard type.
The only hazards that are never filtered are those SIGMETs issued for tropical cyclones, radioactive cloud or volcanic ash like the one shown below. These SIGMETs often persist for days or even weeks at a time once they are issued.
Not all hazards can be filtered. These include volcanic ash, radioactive cloud and tropical cyclone advisories.