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Comments sought on graphical replacement for area forecastsComments sought on graphical replacement for area forecasts

Pilots are getting their first look at the graphics-intensive weather products designed to replace the venerable—but textual—area forecast, and the National Weather Service is inviting users to tell them by April 11 what they think of the updated approach to aviation weather briefings. 

AOPA is encouraging pilots to review the experimental graphical forecasts proposed to replace “FAs,” as area forecasts are known, and comment on them through this electronic survey by April 11. The National Weather Service has an information page that details what the new product offers, which can be useful when reviewing the new product’s capabilities.

Area forecasts, which originated in the 1930s, will probably be discontinued later this year for the lower 48 states. They will continue to be available, for the time being, for Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico coverage areas. AOPA reported on the National Weather Service’s plan to replace the area forecast last October. 

“The FAA recognizes that given modern advances within NWS, the legacy text FA is no longer the best source of enroute flight planning weather information,” said the National Weather Service’s Jan. 11 announcement of the availability of replacement weather products. “Based on comments received by FAA and NWS on this proposed change, NWS plans to discontinue production of FAs once the Experimental Graphical Forecasts for Aviation product is approved as operational and when all concerns identified within submitted comments have been addressed.”

The FAA must also delete references to the area forecast from aviation regulations and other official published information.

“AOPA has been very supportive of moving away from text and toward graphical weather,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. “Graphics allow a pilot to make better analysis of the weather along their route of flight, and are generally more user friendly than long blocks of text.”

Graphics are also better for in-flight use, “as they tend to provide the pilot more information more effectively and quickly,” he added. “It is also notable that with this new product the NWS will be able to update their forecasts dynamically, which will improve the accuracy of the forecasts and increase their utility to pilots.”

AOPA and the Air Safety Institute will review and submit comments on the proposed graphical alternative, and the association encourages members to assess them as well, Duke said. The National Weather Service will be updating the graphic product as comments are received, which could lead to the product being changed several times throughout the comment period, he noted.

Please share the comments you provide to the National Weather Service via the electronic survey by April 11 with AOPA.

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, Pilot Weather Briefing Services, FAA Information and Services

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