Obstacles in 3D View, Track Log Editing, Optimized Downloads, and more in ForeFlight 13.6

Our July release features obstacles in our 3D View suite, editing recorded Track Logs, new VFR charts for several European countries, optimized downloads in Pack, and much more.

Obstacles in 3D View

Identify potential hazards along your route and establish a mental picture of final approach with the new Obstacles layer in 3D View.

Every view within the 3D suite (3D Airports, 3D Anywhere, 3D Preview, and 3D Review) supports three types of obstacles: buildings (shaped like rectangles), towers (shaped like cylinders), and windmills. All other obstacle types use the tower model by default.

3D Preview helps you identify potentially hazardous obstacles within 1 nautical mile of your route. Obstacles within 1000′ vertically will appear with yellow stripes and obstacles within 100′ vertically will appear with red stripes.

3D View with Obstacles and more is included in ForeFlight Performance subscription plans.



Track Log Editing

Edit recorded Track Logs to more accurately line them up with the beginning and end of your flights and automatically update draft Logbook entries.

Tap the Edit button on the bottom-right corner of the Track Log Graph, then drag the blue bars to the left and right to move the track log’s start and end points.

Track Log editing is non-destructive, so you can revert your changes or make additional edits by tapping the Edit button and adjusting the blue bars again.



New Rogers VFR Chart Coverages

New Rogers Data VFR 500k charts for Serbia and the Baltics are now available as add-ons to any European ForeFlight subscription.

All of the new charts are included at no additional cost in the Rogers Data Full Europe chart combo add-on. Serbia is included in the existing Southeast Europe chart combo. The Baltics are available by themselves in a new chart combo.

Learn more about the European charts and data available in ForeFlight here.



Jeppesen Chart Index Numbers

View the chart index number along with a chart’s name for linked or purchased Jeppesen coverages to quickly find the right procedure. You can find these chart index numbers in Airport Procedures, the Maps Sidebar, and the Plates view.

To display chart index numbers, enable the new setting switch at the bottom of More > Jeppesen.



Optimized Downloads in Pack

Packing before your flight now requires a smaller download for weather by only downloading the Icing, Turbulence, and Cloud Coverage layers for areas that overlap with your route.

Both the U.S.-only and Global versions of each layer are packed for flights within the U.S., giving you more forecast information for inflight reference while drastically cutting down the download size.



Background Downloads Setting

Optionally disable background downloads to prevent them from being interrupted due to a slow or spotty internet connection. Find this option in More > Settings > Downloads.



Notification Preferences

Opt in to receive notifications about new feature releases, special offers on subscriptions, events, training, and more by enabling Marketing Push Notifications in More > Account > Notifications.

Dynamic Winds and Temperatures, Taxi Routing, Airport 3D Runway Lighting, and more in ForeFlight 13.3

One of our most feature-packed releases ever, ForeFlight 13.3 includes new Dynamic Winds and Temperatures map layers, the introduction of our ForeFlight Labs program for cutting edge features with Taxi Routing as the first experiment, Runway Lighting in Airport 3D, new ways to import and organize documents, support for background downloads, and more.

Dynamic Winds & Temperatures

View global forecast wind speed, direction, and temperatures at multiple altitudes and times using these stunning animated weather layers. Both the “Winds (Temps)” and “Winds (Speeds)” layers use colorful heat maps covering the globe to represent their primary forecast values at the selected altitude and time.

Wind Temperatures on the left, Speeds on the right. Use the slider to view both.

Overlaid on each layer’s heat map are smoothly-flowing particle animations representing wind direction and speed, providing an intuitive view of large-scale weather patterns in relation to the layer’s primary forecast value (wind speed or temperature). Use the Time Slider to view wind forecasts in a ~24 hour period, and move the Altitude Slider to view winds from the surface up to 63,000 ft.

The new Weather Layer Legend just above the time slider dynamically adjusts its range of values as you view different altitudes to only show the colors and associated values that are present at the current altitude, a feature unique to these two layers.

Both layers are saved when you Pack for a flight so you can view them offline, but ForeFlight only downloads the portions of each that cover your route to limit the download size.

Both layers are available with ForeFlight Performance subscription plans. BUY NOW



Weather Layer Legend

Easily interpret ForeFlight’s graphical weather layers with a new color legend just above the time slider.

The legend appears when any of the following layers are enabled: Radar (Composite, Lowest Tilt, ADS-B, Sirius XM), Enhanced Satellite, Color IR Satellite, Icing and Turbulence (US, Global, ADS-B, Sirius XM, 557WW), Clouds, and the new Winds (Temps) and Winds (Speeds) layers.

You can disable the legend by deselecting “Map Legend” in the Map Settings menu.

Learn more about weather layers in the ForeFlight Legends Guide in Documents > ForeFlight, or view it online here.



Introducing ForeFlight Labs

ForeFlight Labs is a collection of cutting-edge capabilities that need your feedback before becoming fully-fledged features!

These features are disabled by default, but you can enable them independently in More > Account under the ForeFlight Labs banner.

Like other features, those added to ForeFlight Labs may be limited by subscription plan level, so the ForeFlight Labs section will only be visible if at least one of its features are available with your subscription plan.



ForeFlight Labs: Taxi Routing

Chart a course to or from the runway with an interactive and contextually-aware taxi route bubble editor. Available as a ForeFlight Labs feature with ForeFlight Performance subscription plans (BUY NOW). Enable Taxi Routes in the ForeFlight Labs section of More > Account.

Tap the new Taxi Route button in the Maps FPL window, the Plates view, or tap the bubble for any airport in your route and tap “Edit Taxi Route” to open the Taxi Route Editor for that airport.

If you are at the airport then ForeFlight will set your current position as the starting point; otherwise, select from a list of runways and FBOs to set your starting point, then select a destination runway or FBO from the same list.

ForeFlight will automatically create a taxi route between the two points which you can edit by tapping taxiway names, hold short and crossing locations, back taxi or runway taxi instructions, and other options.

The dynamic Taxi Route keyboard and bubble editor allow you to quickly add, remove, and rearrange route elements as your clearance is read out to you, with dedicated Clear, Undo, and Redo buttons for flexible editing.

Your finished taxi route is displayed directly on the moving map as well as on the airport’s diagram in Plates. Tap the route on the map to clear it or make additional edits.



Download in Background

ForeFlight can now download charts and data even when the app is in the background, allowing you to use other apps on your iPad or iPhone without interrupting the download process.

ForeFlight can download but not install data when backgrounded, so the next time you open the app it will take a couple minutes to install the new data before all downloads show as completed and the data become available.

Items that are downloaded but not yet installed will show a full progress bar until installed.

iOS may pause the background downloads if you sleep the device while low on battery power, so we recommend connecting to a power source if you plan to sleep the device while downloading.



Airport 3D Runway Lighting

Prepare for a night approach or establish a mental picture with toggleable Day/Night modes and realistic Runway Lights in Airport 3D.

Use the Day/Night toggle in the bottom-right corner of Airport 3D to dim the surrounding terrain and expose the airport’s runway lights.

Runway edge lighting is supported for most paved airports around the world, while larger airports may also display touchdown zone lights, PAPI lights, displaced threshold lights with approach light system if available, centerline lights, end light flashers, and more.

Airport 3D is available with ForeFlight Performance plans. BUY NOW



New Ways to Import Documents

Easily import documents into ForeFlight and add them to custom binders using a dedicated Import button and intuitive drag-and-drop gestures.

The new + button in the Imported Drive’s toolbar allows you to add files from the iOS Files app, your Photo Library, or by taking new photos with your device’s camera.

On iPad you can also drag-and-drop files from other apps that support the gesture into the Imported Drive by opening both apps in split screen and dragging files over to ForeFlight. Import multiple files at once this way by tapping additional items while still holding the initial file to “stack” them, then drag the stack over to ForeFlight and release it.

This drag-and-drop workflow (including the “stacking” gesture for multiple files) also works within any Document Drive to add documents or entire folders to a custom binder. Simply drag the documents and/or folders over any binder in the Catalog on the left and release to add them to the binder, or drop them on the Add New Binder button to create and name a brand new binder containing the selected items.



Link Multiple Jeppesen Accounts

Connect more than one Jeppesen account in ForeFlight for expanded access to chart coverages, or combine linked coverages with those purchased through ForeFlight for even greater flexibility.

Combine your chart coverages from a linked Jeppesen account with those purchased directly through ForeFlight.

Individual customers can sign into multiple Jeppesen accounts by tapping “Add Jeppesen Account” in More > Jeppesen after adding the initial account. ForeFlight Business account administrators can sign into and manage multiple Jeppesen accounts on the web at plan.foreflight.com/account/jeppesen.

Individual customers can also combine their chart coverages from a linked Jeppesen account with those purchased through ForeFlight, allowing access to special coverages that may not be available through ForeFlight and enabling more flexible chart management. BUY JEPPESEN CHARTS NOW

Learn more about Jeppesen charts in ForeFlight at foreflight.com/jeppesen.

Improved Traffic Alerting, Specify Approach Minimums on the Map, and More in ForeFlight 13

ForeFlight 13 brings Improved Traffic Alerting Behavior, the ability to specify Approach Minimums on the Map, NOTAMs via Jeppesen, and more.

Improved Traffic Alerting Behavior

Inflight Traffic Alerts warn you of potentially dangerous traffic earlier, with two different alert levels giving you more time to see and avoid nearby traffic. 

Inflight Traffic Alerts require a connected ADS-B receiver such as Sentry. Enable or disable Inflight Traffic Alerts in More > Settings > Alerts.

The new alerting behavior takes into account each aircraft’s speed and direction of flight relative to your own, allowing ForeFlight to evaluate potential threats more reliably and alert you more quickly.

Traffic Alerts are broken up into two stages of warnings. The alert system first highlights approaching traffic targets in yellow if a target’s path will intersect a threshold of 2nm horizontally and 1200ft vertically of your ownship in the next 45 seconds. If the target will intersect a 1.3nm horizontal and 1200ft vertical threshold in the next 25 seconds, ForeFlight will highlight the target red and display a visual and audio alert.  This allows you to spot dangerous targets more quickly and make adjustments. 

Since ForeFlight uses aircraft speed and direction to calculate it’s future positioning, an aircraft that is further away from you but moving fast can be alerted before a target nearer to you.

Red traffic targets that are no longer an immediate hazard will turn yellow for 15 seconds to ensure that you have a chance to see the target on the map.

Turn on Distance Rings in Map Settings (gear icon in the maps view) to get a better sense of how far away targets are from your aircraft. 


Specify Approach Minimums

Specify an altitude minimum in Procedure Advisor when adding an IFR approach to your route to display the minimum directly on the map for quick reference during final approach. Approach Minimum labels are available with ForeFlight Performance plans.

After choosing an approach in Procedure Advisor, enter an approach minimum in the Altitude (MSL) field on the left before adding the approach to your route. ForeFlight approximates the corresponding AGL altitude and displays it below the field.

Once you add the approach to your route the minimum appears as a prominent magenta label at the very end of the route on the map.

You can change or clear the Approach Minimum value without reopening Procedure Advisor by tapping the approach’s name in the Flight Plan Editor and tapping Change Minimum.


NOTAMs via Jeppesen

NOTAMs and NOTAM-derived information in ForeFlight now come from Jeppesen’s high-quality NOTAM data feed, resulting in greater accuracy and broader international coverage.

While many other NOTAM providers only include NOTAMs designated as “international”, Jeppesen’s feed integrates the full set of domestic NOTAMs from many countries that are often excluded from other NOTAM feeds. ForeFlight uses Jeppesen-sourced NOTAMs for Airport NOTAMs, Graphical NOTAMs on the Maps view, ForeFlight’s Graphical Briefing, and more.


Daily/Hourly Weather Improvements

Daily/Hourly Weather now shows the forecast quantity of precipitation per hour (if greater than 0.1 inches) next to the probability of precipitation in the upper-third of the Daily Weather window. You can change the quantity of precipitation units to millimeters in More > Settings > Units/Time > Precip Amount. Daily/Hourly Weather also displays each day’s sunrise and sunset times near the top of the appropriate Hourly Forecast column in the center third of the window. 


Auto-Center Internet Traffic

Easily keep track of any Internet Traffic target with the new Auto-Center button in the Traffic Information popup. With the Traffic map layer enabled and while connected to the internet, tap on any traffic target and tap the reticle button to center and lock the map on the traffic target. Disable Auto-Center mode by tapping the button again or tapping elsewhere on the map.

Searching for a traffic target by registration or call sign will also enable Auto-Center by default when you select it from the search results list.

Daily/Hourly Forecasts, Parachute Jump Areas, and more in ForeFlight 12.11

ForeFlight 12.11 brings Daily/Hourly Forecasts for an all-purpose look at the weather, Parachute Jump Areas and Airport Hotspot details on the Aeronautical Map, and more.

Daily/Hourly Forecasts

Get a detailed 10 day, hour-by-hour forecast for anywhere in the world for flight planning or just keeping tabs on daily weather.

Daily/Hourly Forecasts are available with all ForeFlight subscription plans except for the discontinued Legacy Basic ($74.99) and Legacy Pro ($149.99) plans for individuals.

You can access Daily Forecasts from the Daily tab in the Airport Weather view, which provides a tappable summary of each day’s forecast; 

from the Add to Route popup after tap-holding anywhere on the map; 

from the Nearby Airports list in the top-right corner of the Airports view, which shows the forecast for your current location; 

and from ForeFlight’s Quick Actions list after tap-holding on the app icon, which provides an even faster shortcut to view your local forecast.

The Forecast window is divided into three rows: Daily Forecasts at the bottom, Hourly Forecasts in the middle, and Hourly Forecast details at the top. The row of Daily Forecasts provides graphical depictions of each day’s general weather, as well as daily temperature ranges. The multi-colored band along the very bottom of this row depicts changes in flight category throughout each day, with green, blue, red, and magenta representing VFR, marginal VFR, IFR, and low IFR, respectively. Tap on any Daily Forecast to automatically scroll to it in Hourly Forecasts and select a morning forecast period.

The row of Hourly Forecasts in the middle provides more details about each forecast period in its own column. Tap on each column to view complete details about it and highlight the appropriate cell in the Daily Forecasts row. 

The timestamp in the top-right corner of the window shows how long ago the entire 10-day forecast was downloaded. When you Pack for a flight ForeFlight downloads the latest Daily Forecasts for any airports included in your route, which you can then view offline for up to 24 hours after packing.

ForeFlight also uses Daily and Hourly Forecasts to improve the accuracy of Takeoff and Landing Performance calculations, which are available with ForeFlight Performance plans. When other sources of weather like METARs, TAFs, or MOS forecasts are unavailable for a given airport or time, the text just below the Weather section states that “general forecast data” is being used, which ForeFlight derives from the Daily and Hourly Forecasts.

Parachute Jump Areas

View Parachute Jump Areas in the US directly on the Aeronautical Map and tap-hold on them to view additional information. 

Tap Details in the Add to Route popup to view a PJA’s information, including its name, associated airport or aerodrome, upper and lower altitude limits, active hours, and more. You can disable PJAs using the Parachute Area switch in Map Settings > Airspace, or by disabling all airspace.

Airport Hotspot Details

Tap on airport hotspots on the Aeronautical Map to view each one’s description so you can be better prepared for taxi.

The hotspot popup includes each one’s name, airport, and a description of the hotspot with any remarks. If there are multiple overlapping hotspots where you tapped, a disambiguation popup allows you to choose which hotspot you want to view information for. 

Recommended Route Constraints: Include Track

Guide ForeFlight’s Recommended Route while planning oceanic flights by requiring it to follow a particular oceanic track using the new “Include Track” Route Constraint. The Recommended Route with Constraints is included in ForeFlight Performance plans.

With Route Advisor open, tap the Constraints button in the top-right to edit constraints, then tap Include Track at the bottom of the list. Switch between westward and eastward tracks using the toggle at the top of the window, and tap any track name from the North Atlantic Tracks or Pacific Organized Track System to select it. 

Tap out of the Constraints view and ForeFlight will attempt to generate a Recommended Route that includes the track you selected. Learn more about Route Constraints for the Recommended Route here. 

Runway Slope Details

ForeFlight now displays a runway’s slope alongside other details in the Airport view’s Runway tab. You can also view Runway Slope in the Airport popup on the Maps view. 

Download and Pack Tweaks

Both the Download and Pack views have improved and consistent interfaces that display the combined size of pending and in-progress downloads. In Downloads, the Pause and Download buttons are now grouped together in the bottom-right corner, while the Delete button is accessible in the top-right corner.

G-AIRMETs in ForeFlight

In 2008 the FAA’s Aviation Weather Center began phasing out AIRMETs (Airman’s Meteorological Information) in favor of G-AIRMETs (Graphical AIRMETs). In anticipation of the switch to exclusively using G-AIRMETs, ForeFlight recently made the change to displaying G-AIRMETs in the AIR/SIGMETs/CWAs layer in the Maps view. 

AIRMETs and G-AIRMETs have their differences, but since they are made from the same data, they are consistent in their messages. Why are G-AIRMETs used and how does that affect pilots using ForeFlight? 

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Most pilots will notice that G-AIRMETs in ForeFlight don’t contain the same text that is usually associated with AIRMETs. That text usually indicated geographical information for the AIRMET and since G-AIRMETs are graphically depicted AIRMETs, the additional text is not needed. In the past, ForeFlight would parse this geographical description to display it on the map the same way we display G-AIRMETs, resulting in no noticeable change to pilots. 

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Additionally, AIRMETs are limited by a character count, making it difficult for forecasters to fully convey weather conditions. Some forecasters have been forced to combine geographical areas of the forecast or cut out sections of the text to get their message through the FAA system. 

AIRMETs provide geographic data using VORs to describe the area of weather conditions, while G-AIRMETs use lat/long coordinates and can use many more points to describe an area (due to the lack of character limit), giving pilots a more accurate geographical depiction of weather. 

The FAA issues G-AIRMETs in 3 hour blocks and AIRMETs in 6 hour blocks that blend the data into one image. This means that multiple G-AIRMETs issued for different times could be turned into a single AIRMET lasting for much longer than required, possibly preventing pilots from flying in an area that would be otherwise cleared with G-AIRMETs.

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Since G-AIRMETs use smaller time increments, ForeFlight provides a time slider at the bottom of the Maps view when you enable the AIR/SIGMETs/CWA layer. Scrub the time slider to view G-AIRMETs that will be active at different times in the future. If you have another time-based weather layer turned on, ForeFlight will replace the time slider increments with the other layer, letting you view G-AIRMETs that are active at the time of the other layer’s frame. If you combine the AIR/SIGMETs/CWA layer with a longer term forecast layer like Surface Analysis or Icing, you’ll find that the G-AIRMETs will disappear if you move the slider past the expiration time of the final active G-AIRMET.  

Weather in Profile View, Overheat Alerts, and More in ForeFlight’s 12.6 Release.

ForeFlight 12.6 includes weather in Profile View, iPad/iPhone Overheat Alerts, additional Internet Traffic details, and more.

Weather in Profile view

ForeFlight’s Profile View includes selectable Icing and Turbulence forecast layers, providing a cross-section of weather in addition to terrain, obstacles, and airspace along your route. Icing and Turbulence in Profile View are included in ForeFlight’s Performance Plus and Business Performance subscription plans.

Create a route on the Maps view then tap Profile in the bottom-right to open Profile View. Profile View shows a side-on view of your route in relation to terrain, obstacles, airspace, and now weather.

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One major change to Profile is the addition of a layer selector that allows you to toggle different layers within Profile View, including Airspace, US or Global Icing, and US or Global Turbulence. Profile View uses the same color scales as the overhead map to depict varying intensities for each layer at multiple altitudes in relation to your route line.

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Tap the Profile Layer Selector, and tap a weather layer to display it in Profile. In addition to Airspace, Profile View can display one Icing layer and one Turbulence layer simultaneously. Each selected layer shows how long ago the current forecast data was issued. All four weather layers use the same data as their corresponding layers on the overhead map, providing multiple perspectives of a single forecast. ADS-B, XM, and military Icing and Turbulence layers are not supported in Profile View.

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Rather than using a time slider to show different forecast periods like the overhead map, Profile View combines any forecast periods that will be active during your flight into one seamless display. The waypoint markers in Profile View include estimated crossing times, allowing you to easily determine the forecast period shown at each waypoint and view the same forecast on the overhead map. Changing the selected aircraft or performance profile will display different icing and turbulence data in Profile view based on the route’s new enroute time.

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If a portion of your route’s planned active time lies beyond a weather layer’s forecast range, Profile View will display a hatch pattern to indicate where data is not available (visible on the right side of the screenshots below). It will also provide warnings letting you know which forecast data is not available for some or all of your flight. This hatching also appears if you disconnect from the internet without downloading weather data via Pack. With the data downloaded, Profile view’s inflight mode also supports all four weather layers, allowing you to view current and future forecast periods in relation to your current altitude and heading.

Another way to use Profile View with or without a route entered is by placing two fingers on the overhead map to bring up the Ruler, then move your fingers to reposition it. Using the Ruler with Profile View provides a cross-section of the terrain, obstacles, airspace, and selected weather layers at the Ruler’s current position. Profile View shows only the current forecast period for Icing and Turbulence layers when using the Ruler.

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Overheat Alerts

ForeFlight warns you if your iPad or iPhone is in danger of overheating with a prominent visual and audible alert, allowing you to take steps to cool the device and potentially avert a shutdown during a flight.

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Manage all alerts in ForeFlight in More > Settings > Alerts. The alert is triggered when ForeFlight detects that your device is dangerously hot and at risk of overheating and shutting down. If your device heats up too quickly, your iPad or iPhone may still overheat and shut down before ForeFlight can display the alert. The alert will not sound more than once per hour, even if your device returns to a high-temperature state after initially cooling down.

Removing the iPad or iPhone from direct sunlight and turning an air vent towards it are the best ways to quickly cool it down. Other ways you can cool your device down include removing your device from its case, closing unused apps, and unplugging it from its charging cable. A number of powered cases that cool the iPad using fans are also available from Sporty’s and other vendors. 

Additional Internet Traffic Details

ForeFlight’s Internet Traffic layer provides additional information for aircraft markers, including its expanded call sign, ETA, departure, and destination if available.

Turn on Internet Traffic in the layer selector in the Maps view. Tap on any aircraft marker to view a popup with information about that aircraft.

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The popups for most aircraft on IFR flight plans show the departure and destination airports and filed ETA, while many aircraft on VFR flights provide only the departure airport. Some traffic targets provide no route details. If an aircraft is using a call sign, the popup will show its expanded name in most cases. Internet Traffic targets with blocked tail numbers will not report any route or call sign information.

Learn more about Internet Traffic here.

High-Resolution Basemap Improvements

ForeFlight’s High Resolution Basemap received some improvements to mountain peaks and passes. The Basemap identifies mountain peaks using a small triangle icon in place of the previous dot icon. The Basemap also displays many additional U.S. mountain passes with their associated elevations.

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Download the High Resolution Basemap in More > Downloads > Download Settings. Turn on mountain peaks and passes in Map Settings (cog button on the Maps view) > Terrain > Peaks, Passes, and Cables.

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You can also change the size of the icons by turning on the Aeronautical Map in the layer selector, and adjusting the text size slider in Map Settings.

Y/Z Filing in Canada

Customers flying in Canada can now file flight plans under Y or Z flight rules through ForeFlight. Since these flight rules both include VFR portions, certain fields in the flight plan form that are required for Canadian VFR flights are also required for Y and Z flights, including Undercarriage, ELT, Arrival Report, and more. Cross-border flights from Canada to the U.S. or to airspace delegated to the U.S. by Canada for ATC traffic purposes do not support Y/Z flight rules.

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ForeFlight Adds New Forecast Graphics to Imagery View

We recently added two new collections of graphical forecasts to the Imagery view on mobile and web: Graphical Aviation Forecasts for cloud cover and surface conditions, and Ceiling and Visibility Analysis graphics.

Graphical Aviation Forecasts

While the Graphical Aviation Forecasts were already available as part of ForeFlight’s Graphical HTML Briefing, they are now even more accessible alongside ForeFlight’s other graphical weather imagery. The new cloud and surface forecasts replace the GFS MOS ceiling and visibility graphical forecast products, which NOAA discontinued in mid-December 2019. The GFS MOS textual products for ceiling and visibility are still available on NOAA’s site and in ForeFlight’s MOS airport weather tab.

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The Graphical Aviation Forecasts for both cloud cover and surface conditions are provided for CONUS and nine additional regions: Northeast, East, Southeast, North Central, Central, South Central, Northwest, West, and Southwest. Each region and forecast type includes graphics for six forecast periods: 3 HR, 6 HR, 9 HR, 12 HR, 15 HR, and 18 HR. Forecasts are typically updated every 3 hours.

The Cloud Coverage product depicts not only the degree of cloud coverage (few, scattered, broken, or overcast), but also cloud top altitudes and icing or mountain obscuration AIRMETs.

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The Surface product depicts even more, showing obscuration hazards and types (haze, fog, smoke, or dust/sand), weather conditions with color-coded probabilities (rain, snow, mix, or ice), thunderstorm probabilities, surface visibility, IFR or surface wind AIRMETs, and surface wind barbs with gust speeds indicated by red extensions on each barb’s tail.

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Ceiling and Visibility Analysis

The Ceiling and Visibility Analysis collection provides three graphics depicting Flight Category, Visibility, and Ceiling information for CONUS and 18 major subdivisions, each named after a city in each region. 

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These detailed graphics replace the single “Weather Depiction” chart that was previously available in the National > Featured section. Visit this page hosted by NOAA for information about the different symbols used in these forecast graphics.

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As with other graphics in the Imagery view, you can share, copy, or download the new forecast products using the Send To menu in the bottom-right while viewing them.

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A Closer Look at Global Icing, Turbulence, and Surface Analysis Map Layers

Available with ForeFlight Mobile 9.4, five new weather layers bring global Icing, Turbulence and surface pressure data to the map, with detailed Surface Analysis available to much of North America. These weather products significantly enhance local and global flight planning and your weather decision-making abilities. In addition, the recently introduced time slider provides frame-by-frame control over animation of the new weather layers.

The new layers are available both on mobile and web with the Pro Plus and Performance Plus subscription plans, as well as Business Performance, MFB Pro, and MFB Performance. If you don’t have one of those subscription plans, click here to upgrade and unlock these powerful weather layers.

Layer Animation Time Slider

The animation Time Slider tool provides better control over weather layer animation, as well as more clarity on the age of the weather product you are viewing. The slider automatically displays when you select any Radar, Satellite, Icing, or Turbulence layer.

Weather Layer Time Slider

In addition to the familiar play/pause button, the Time Slider allows frame-by-frame control over the animation. The slider’s position on the time scale indicates the valid time for the currently displayed weather graphic. Tapping to the right of the slider head advances the layer by one time step, while tapping to the left of the slider head retreats the layer by one time step. Alternatively, tap-hold and move the slider head left and right to manually control animation speed and enable back and forth (rocking) animation, a useful capability when analyzing local storm cell changes on radar.

The time scale changes as appropriate for each weather product displayed. Forecast-based weather layers, such as the Icing and Turbulence layers, use a white vertical bar to indicate the present time, splitting the time slider into two parts: forecasts that are valid for the past (gray line) and for the future (white line).

Products that indicate past information only, such as the radar and satellite layers, are presented with a gray time scale with the product age, relative to the current time, displayed with each frame. The absolute time is displayed in a callout with each frame as you manually scrub left or right, as well as to the left of the time scale.

Providing full manual control over the weather layer animation and easily reading relative age and absolute time for each weather product frame provides better insight to how the weather is trending.

Surface Analysis

The Surface Analysis layer adds a global surface pressure overlay, displaying isobar lines and associated pressure values in millibars. For much of North America, the isobar lines are complemented with depictions of surface fronts, troughs, and high/low pressure center markers. Besides displaying the current surface analysis, the forecasted surface analysis can be viewed for up to two days into the future using the Time Slider.

The Surface Analysis product and its forecast is a collaboration between multiple weather centers and is primarily based on the National Weather Service Global Forecast System (GFS) and the North American Mesoscale (NAM) models, with additional guidance from the European ECMWF and the United Kingdom’s UKMET models. Surface features (fronts, troughs, pressure centers) are analyzed manually by a NWS meteorologist, and are therefore only available for the North America region.

Surface Analysis features follow the standard depiction convention as outlined in the table below:

View global isobars and more detailed weather features for the U.S.

Icing

Icing severity data for the United States has been available in the ForeFlight Mobile Imagery view since 2015. Now, icing severity is available as a dynamic weather layer in the Maps view in ForeFlight Mobile and on the web. And not just for the US, but for the entire world.

You will now see two icing products in the Maps view layer selector: Icing (US) and Icing (Global). Both serve the same purpose, but are based on different weather models.

For the US coverage, the Forecast Icing Product (FIP) is a Numerical Weather Prediction model that employs a 20km grid in the horizontal and a 1000 ft grid in the vertical (from 3000’ to FL450) to calculate icing severity and the potential for SLD (supercooled large droplets). The FIP model is run hourly and forecasts are available out to 18 hours.

For a fast analysis of conditions at each altitude, you can quickly scrub between altitudes using the Altitude Slider in the lower right corner of the Maps view. The Altitude Slider is also available on the Turbulence layer.

Altitude Slider

Altitude Slider

Please note that SLD threat is currently only available to customers flying with the SiriusXM SXAR1 aviation receiver and who are subscribed to the SiriusXM Pilot for ForeFlight plan. SLD threats are depicted with red squares.

The Global Icing product is based on the Global Forecast System (GFS) weather model with a coarser horizontal and vertical grid and is run four times per day (every 6 hours). Global Icing forecasts in ForeFlight are available out to 24 hours.

Because of the coarser grid, as well as the less-frequent model runs of the GFS, it’s worth comparing the two icing depictions side-by-side. The difference in horizontal resolution and model update frequency between the US icing layer (left) and the global icing layer (right) is evident. When operating within the limits of the US icing model coverage area, the US icing layer should be referenced instead of the global layer to take advantage of its frequent updates and finer horizontal and vertical grid resolution.

Regardless of whether you have US or global icing selected, each layer uses the same color scale to depict conditions of no icing, light, moderate and heavy icing, as shown in the legend below:

Icing intensity is based on how long it would take for ice to build up on an airfoil

It’s important to note that the icing severity is roughly based on the accretion rate of ice on an airplane. The severity levels are defined by how long it would take for ¼ inch (65mm) of ice to build up on an airfoil. Time ranges are given for each level because the build-up rate depends on variables like airfoil properties, airspeed, and atmospheric conditions.

Since the icing forecasts are produced with no human modifications, they are intended for flight planning purposes only and should always be used in combination with AIRMETs, SIGMETs and PIREPs.

Turbulence

Similar to the Icing map layer, there are two new Turbulence map layers, one for the United States and the other for Global coverage.

The US turbulence product is based on the Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG). The GTG and the associated Eddy Dissipation Rate (EDR) data scale used by GTG were both covered in detail in a previous ForeFlight article. It’s worth re-reading that post to brush up on the turbulence product, especially how the relationship between EDR and in-flight turbulence intensity changes based on aircraft weight. The information in that article applies equally to the US and global turbulence layers.

The US turbulence layer data are still based on GTG-3 with an available lead time of up to 18 hours. This layer displays the maximum EDR of clear air turbulence (CAT) and mountain wave turbulence (MWT). It is not intended to predict convection and thunderstorm turbulence sources, but may provide some guidance if the storm event is widespread. Furthermore, the graphics represent a snapshot at that time and not a forecast for a time range. Finally, it is important to realize that turbulence is a dynamic event and rapidly changing conditions may not be accurately reflected.

The global turbulence layer displays EDR derived from the GFS forecast model using a proprietary algorithm. This layer differs from the US GTG-3 derived layer in that the global turbulence data only forecasts CAT and not MWT. The forecast lead time can be up to 24 hours. The same reduced horizontal and vertical resolutions discussed previously in the global icing section apply to the global turbulence layer. Also, since the global turbulence layer uses GFS model data, the same reduced model run rate limitation applies (every 6 hours for GFS versus hourly for GTG-3), resulting in the US turbulence layer being updated more frequently. For all of these reasons, it’s important to use the US turbulence layer when operating within its coverage area.

Since the layer’s EDR scale is aircraft dependent, it is important to review the scale applicable to your aircraft category (the article linked above contains scales for light, medium, and heavy aircraft classes). The following color scheme is used in the turbulence map layer:

These new weather layers are an exciting and useful feature addition for our US and worldwide customers. Keep in mind that there is no human involvement in creating the turbulence and icing products and the information should be supplemented as much as possible with SIGMETs, AIRMETs, and PIREPs to understand the full weather picture.

Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) will become operational in April

Effective April 13, 2017, the experimental Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) produced by the NWS Aviation Weather Center (AWC) will transition to operational status. As you may have heard, the GFA was created in response to a formal request by the FAA to discontinue production of the textual Area Forecasts (FA). According to the NWS headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, “the requirements for the underlying meteorological information in the FA have not changed. The FAA recognizes that, given modern advances within the NWS, the legacy text FA is no longer the best source of en route flight planning weather information.”

The new graphical forecasts are designed to provide meteorological information equivalent to the textual FA. The GFA product includes observations and forecasts for the continental United States that provide data critical for aviation safety. The data is overlaid on high-resolution base maps that you can test drive here. Given this will be the replacement for the FA, it means that all of the forecasts will terminate at the U.S. borders. FAs for Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico will not be affected at this point in time.

For the time being, the legacy FA will continue to be generated in parallel with the GFA. The GFA is automated whereas the legacy FA is issued by forecasters at the AWC. At some point in the future, forecasters at the AWC will discontinue issuing this textual forecast. And don’t be surprised if the two forecasts contradict one another – let’s look at an example:

Below is the GFA valid at 23Z (issued at 2102Z) for cloud coverage along with tops and bases for the Northeast and Great Lakes. Notice that it forecasts just high cirrus clouds over a majority of Maine.

The GFA cloud forecast shows cloud coverage (color contours) as well as bases and tops. (click for larger image)

However, the legacy FA for this area shown below suggests a totally different forecast. This area forecast was amended by the FA forecaster for the eastern region at 1935Z. This forecast (highlighted below) suggests that after 21Z NW Maine is expected to have overcast clouds with bases at 2,000 – 3000 feet MSL. And NERN Maine is expected to have overcast cloud bases of 1,500 feet MSL. The forecaster also issued an AIRMET for IFR conditions covering most of the northeastern U.S.

000
FAUS41 KKCI 141935 AAA
FA1W  
BOSC FA 141935 AMD
SYNOPSIS AND VFR CLDS/WX
SYNOPSIS VALID UNTIL 151200
CLDS/WX VALID UNTIL 150600...OTLK VALID 150600-151200
ME NH VT MA RI CT NY LO NJ PA OH LE WV MD DC DE VA AND CSTL WTRS
.
SEE AIRMET SIERRA FOR IFR CONDS AND MTN OBSCN.
TS IMPLY SEV OR GTR TURB SEV ICE LLWS AND IFR CONDS.
NON MSL HGTS DENOTED BY AGL OR CIG.
.
SYNOPSIS...SEE MIA FA FOR SYNOPSIS.
.
ME NH VT
NW ME/NRN-SW NH/VT...OVC020-030 TOP FL250. VIS 3SM -SN BR. 21Z
OVC020-030. VIS 3SM -SN BLSN. WND N 20G30KT. OTLK...IFR CIG SN
BLSN WND.
NERN ME...OVC030 TOP FL250. VIS 3-5SM -SN. 21Z OVC015. VIS 3SM
-SN BR. 03Z OVC015. VIS 3SM -SN BLSN. WND NELY G25KT. OTLK...IFR
CIG SN BLSN WND.

Notice the Synopsis section simply says “SEE MIA FA FOR SYNOPSIS.” Most pilots were probably not taught that the FA has a 3,000 character limit. So, with a raging Nor’easter occurring in the Northeast, they didn’t have enough characters available for the Boston FA to provide a complete synopsis. In that case, the forecaster opted to place the Boston synopsis in the Miami FA.

For the potential of clouds in Maine, the legacy FA proved to be much more accurate than the new GFA. Most of Maine was experiencing IFR conditions as denoted by AIRMET Sierra shown here.

At this point in time, the AWC is not providing public access to some of the underlying data you may see on the webpage mentioned above. We are busy at ForeFlight trying to determine how to best incorporate these forecasts from the GFA once they become available. So stay tuned.

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.