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Pilots positive about switch to graphical weather dataPilots positive about switch to graphical weather data

The FAA’s project to eliminate the text-heavy area forecast by October in favor of digital-age weather information is on schedule, and pilots like what they see of the new weather presentation, according to a June survey.

The National Weather Service has turned graphical forecasts operational. Image courtesy of NOAA.

In April the National Weather Service’s Aviation Weather Center introduced an interactive graphical forecasting tool that will be the backbone of the new digital weather forecasts.

On July 10, the agency followed up with the launch of Aviation Surface Forecast and Aviation Cloud Forecast graphics that are “snapshot images” for use in weather briefings by flight service specialists, and by low-bandwidth internet users.

The static images, forecasting surface weather and cloud coverage, are provided every three hours, out to 18 hours. They were scheduled to become part of online weather briefings in late July.

“The products are valid for the continental United States (CONUS) and coastal waters used within the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) interactive web-based display which became operational April 13, 2017,” the agency said in a notice of the service upgrade.

The digital and text-based weather information will be available for pilot briefings until the National Weather Service issues a final notice of intent to discontinue the area’s forecasts, currently expected in October.

Reactions of pilots who have begun to use the digital weather products have been favorable, said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic, who presented findings of a June survey at a recent meeting of the Friends and Partners in Aviation Weather group.

“AOPA has received a very positive response from GA pilots regarding the graphical forecasts, and we already know many pilots are using them. The integration of multiple weather products and models allows pilots to interact with more information while seeing airports and navaids along their route of flight, which helps them build a mental picture of the conditions they will encounter,” he said.

Of pilots surveyed, 70 percent agreed that graphical products offer a great value. Interpreting a graphical weather product found favor with 81 percent of pilots surveyed, compared to 67 percent who described themselves as comfortable interpreting a forecast delivered as text.

Duke noted the need for the FAA to produce pilot guidance on the graphical weather, and for the digital information to be made “more mobile-friendly.”

The panel at which Duke presented the findings was attended by representatives of the FAA, National Weather Service, flight services contractor Leidos, and the National Business Aviation Association.

Duke encouraged pilots who have used the site to provide feedback. (Find the “about” pulldown menu on the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation web page and select “feedback.”)

“AOPA provided considerable input, but the association wants pilots to comment to the Aviation Weather Center should they have a suggestion on how to make the information delivery better,” he said.

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, Flight Planning

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