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Comment period extended on area forecast replacementComment period extended on area forecast replacement

Pilots have had a lot to say about the graphical weather products designed to replace the area forecast in weather briefings—and now they will have another two months to submit comments as refinements and design changes come online.

The National Weather Service’s Aviation Weather Center, already sifting through 400 comments, has extended the public comment period on the experimental graphical forecasts for aviation until June 11. The prior comment period ended April 11.

“AOPA requested that the comment period be extended to accommodate additional enhancements, and for pilots to provide additional input,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. Users may submit comments by taking this online survey.

Many changes have been made in response to the mostly positive comments from AOPA and individual pilots.

“We are responding as quickly as possible to the feedback received so that we can continue to make meaningful improvements to this product,” Mike Bettwy, warning coordination meteorologist at the Aviation Weather Center, told AOPA. “Please evaluate the experimental website, complete the survey, and provide any comments.”

AOPA supports the transition requested by the FAA to a more graphics-based presentation of weather information to replace the 1930s-era area forecast. AOPA also has expressed concern that so far, the new tool has not proved entirely effective in guiding pilots on how to use its many features and interactive capabilities, Duke said.

The Aviation Weather Center plans to add tutorials to help users make the most of the graphical forecasts for aviation, he said.

A variety of other changes have been implemented or are being planned, including adding map background features such as air route traffic control center airspace boundaries. Also planned during future releases is the capacity for pilots to activate other background features such as those found on sectional charts. The next major phase of improvements coming online is expected in four to six weeks.

Other changes planned include adding a flight path tool allowing users to enter departure and destination information, which will appear on the map. This feature is expected to be implemented later this year.

As for technological tweaks, the Aviation Weather Center is working to make the graphical weather forecasts easier to use on mobile devices and make the tool easier to use on slower computers. Developing static images that a pilot could bring to the aircraft is another item in the works. These static images also will be utilized by flight service specialists when providing a pilot briefing.

Once the experimental graphical forecasts for aviation are approved for operational use, there will be at least a 90-day period during which textual area forecasts will still be provided, Duke said.

Another capability the Aviation Weather Center will be implementing is the ability for pilots to file pilot reports online through the site. This feature, which is separate from the graphical forecast, is going through final user testing. The online pirep tool should be operational this summer.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, FAA Information and Services, Pilot Weather Briefing Services

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