We plan, we look at charts, we talk to aviation weather briefers, but the weather is always changing. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some tool we could use in the cockpit to help us gauge these changes?
There is. It’s called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) In, and it provides pilots with the ability to display weather, traffic, and other data on cockpit displays, or wirelessly on a tablet. (See “The ADS-B Mandate,” sidebar.) ADS-B In receivers display the FAA’s Flight Information System-Broadcast data, which uses the 978 MHz datalink frequency to broadcast Nexrad radar images, METARs, terminal aerodrome forecasts, airmets, sigmets, convective sigmets, pireps, and winds and temperatures aloft, among other information. An ADS-B receiver can be mounted in the panel of the aircraft, or it can be a portable unit.
That’s a lot of great info, but prudent pilots must remember: Datalink weather isn’t instantaneous. Some radar images can take as much as 15 minutes to refresh. And 15 minutes is a very long time when you’re looking at troubling weather ahead.
Use datalink weather as another tool in flight, but don’t let it substitute for good preflight planning. Learn as much as you can about the weather you’ll encounter, and know where to go if conditions change and you need to divert.