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WX Watch: Apps on paradeWX Watch: Apps on parade

A roundup of eight aviation weather apps

What did we do to get weather information before smartphones? Calling Flight Service or going online were the most popular—or only—options. But now we carry the weather with us on our iPhones, Androids, or tablets, giving us on-the-go accessibility to a wide range of aviation weather information. There must be hundreds of aviation weather apps out there, and if you’re like me, you have more than one of them running on your smartphone.

They vary in content and quality, of course. One pilot’s cherished go-to app may be another’s dud. With that in mind, here are brief rundowns of some of the aviation weather apps on my iPhone. One caveat: Unlike some apps that include flight planning and performance functions—such as AOPA Go (free to members, by the way), FltPlan Go, or ForeFlight Mobile—these offer weather information only. Another caveat: These and other aviation weather apps provide supplemental information. They’re not substitutes for an official, FAA-endorsed weather briefing.

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Radarscope ($9.99 annually; add Pro Tier One for an extra $9.99 per year; Pro Tier Two for $14.99 per month or $99.99 annually) This full-featured radar analysis app is useful in both warm and cold seasons. It displays many datasets of Doppler weather imagery from the nation’s network of WSR-88D ground-based radars. Most of us are familiar with composite (full vertical coverage) and base (single-angle coverage) reflectivity images, and this app lets you study them closely. Severe weather warning boxes are also plotted. Other nice features include echo top and precipitation depictions, which identify areas of snow, ice, rain, and large droplet precipitation. For other products, like storm relative velocity (to locate couplets of adjoining red and green returns that indicate potential tornados), a familiarity with radar weather is helpful. With the Pro Tier One subscription you get lightning plots, 30-frame loops, and crosshairs to target specific areas within storm cells. Pro Tier Two provides serious weather geeks with archived radar data, Storm Prediction Center outlooks, and hail contours. Yes, it’s pricey, but when trying to make that go/no-go decision, the radar data is more complete and interactive than anything you’ll find on the Aviation Weather Center and many other aviation weather websites.

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WeatherSpork (Seven-day free trial, then $79 per year). This is by far the most comprehensive aviation weather app I’ve seen to date. A main menu lets you navigate a graphics-heavy information package that includes radar and satellite imagery, SkewT LogP charts, surface analysis charts, and much more. There are even easy-to-interpret meteograms for each airport you select, along with text-based model output statistics (MOS). Don’t know how to interpret these? Not to worry. Meteograms have a movable vertical scale with callouts for each weather variable, and there’s a MOS decoder. Color-coded planview maps plot the weather along your defined route, and there are even links to brief educational videos.

AirWx ($4.99). This app gives METARs, TAFs, pireps, winds aloft, and notams for airports around the world. For $9.99 annually, you can have terminal procedures. For quick access, each airport identifier is presented as a shortcut, with color-coded weather conditions (VFR, IFR, LIFR) and a wind arrow.

AeroWeather Pro ($3.99).This app is good for long cross-country flight because it lets you arrange airports in sequence. It gives weather as well as notams and runway information. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

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Windy (free). The price is right, and the app shows way more than the wind. Radar, satellite, temperature, pressure, precipitation, dew point, freezing level, cloud tops and bases, lightning, visibility, wave heights, and even air pollution variables are depicted. For forecasts, you choose between the GFS (Global Forecast System), NAM (North American Mesoscale), and ECMWF (European Community Medium Range Weather Forecast) models. Output from these models is plotted on simplified meteograms, giving you a visual concept of cloud and wind conditions. There are no airmets or sigmets, the location info isn’t in the METAR or TAF formats, and I wish it showed fronts. Even so, you can ballpark them using isobars. Of course, wind data is a big feature. Tap anywhere on the map and wind barbs are plotted simultaneously for each forecast model’s output.

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SkewTLogPro ($14.99). Here’s another visual approach to the weather. The SkewT LogP chart is a traditional means of analyzing the atmosphere and this app gives you plots for anywhere on its map. Just touch a location and a SkewT chart pops up. You can see the winds aloft on a scale at the right side of the chart, red and blue lines showing the vertical profiles of the temperature and dew point, and a blue shaded line depicting the freezing level. It takes some effort to learn how to interpret the SkewT LogP chart, and using this app is one way to become familiar with it. Using its map, you can plot a route and the app will give you charts along the flight path. Charts for 17 hours into the future are available with a finger-swipe. Many find the SkewT LogP chart an impenetrable mystery, so this app probably isn’t for them.

WeatherMap ($2.99). Here you see eight days’ worth of worldwide surface weather. Tap anywhere on the map and you’ll see a simplified meteogram. Screen views can show either precipitation, clouds, temperature, pressure, or winds—or an overlay of all those elements. This is an excellent way to view medium-range forecast weather, anywhere in the world.

MyRadar Weather Radar Pro (free with ads, $2.99 with no ads; with premium features, $6.99 per year). This is the place to see animated fronts, Doppler weather radar imagery, airmets, sigmets, and even TFRs—although I’d still check for TFRs the old-fashioned way. Other map layers include wind, cloud, temperature, and weather watches and warnings. With the premium features option you can get hurricane tracking, a “professional” radar imagery pack, and Apple Watch compatibility. For an additional $24.99 per year you can have sectional and IFR high- and low-altitude charts. If there’s a weakness, it’s the lack of METARs and TAFs. But for the money, it’s one of the best bets out there for synoptic-scale forecast weather two days out.

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Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.

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