Just raised the roof on WeatherSpork!

With WeatherSpork version 4.3.0, you now have the option of selecting FL450 as the upper limit on the clouds and weather display.  The upper limit on earlier releases was restricted FL200.  This will allow you to see winds (speed and direction) as well as clouds and advisories (G-AIRMETs and SIGMETs) that extend higher in the flight levels or FL450.

To change the altitude limit, go to the Route Profile view and simply tap or click on the black route button at the top.  That will bring up the Route Profile settings.  Scroll down in the settings window (shown below) to find the Maximum Altitude setting and select FL450 and tap or click Save. The other selections of 6,000 ft MSL, 12,000 ft MSL and FL200 will remain available.

This enhancement only affects the Route Profile view.  The Meteogram view will still remain limited to a maximum altitude of FL200.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

An introduction to Model Output Statistics or MOS

A majority of certificated pilots have never heard of Model Output Statistics or what is referred to as MOS (pronounced moss).  MOS isn’t new and has been around since the 1960s, but is just starting to be leveraged by many pilots.  Back in 2016 the FAA added a brief description of MOS to the Aviation Weather Services advisory circular AC 00-45H Change 1 so it is now officially recognized by the FAA as supplemental guidance for preflight planning. WeatherSpork makes heavy use of this automated guidance which drives the signature feature in WeatherSpork called the Wheels Up Departure Advisor (WUDA) found in the Map, Grid and Route Profile views.  MOS is also used by meteorologists as one of several tools to issue terminal aerodrome forecasts (TAFs).

This video below was an audio and screen recording of a presentation given by Scott Dennstaedt to a local flight school in Charlotte.  Watch this video to learn a bit more about MOS and its advantages as flight planning guidance.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Thunderstorms a threat? Use WeatherSpork to plan your departure, Part 1

It’s that time of the year again.  Snow is finally beginning to melt in the northern tier of states and temps in the deep south are topping 90 degrees on a regular basis.  Moreover, G-AIRMETs for for airframe ice begin to morph into convective SIGMETs.  WeatherSpork is your best tool to find that perfect time to depart…or that perfect time to head to your comfy chair, put your feet up, relax and get caught up in a good novel.  Here’s a 30 minute video that will show you some of the advantages of using WeatherSpork to plan your departure when thunderstorms are in the forecast.  Enjoy!

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

A shortcut from the Route Profile to Airports view

In WeatherSpork we will be adding a number of shortcuts to cut down on the number of clicks or taps needed to navigate to other important guidance within the app.  Here’s a video that demonstrates one such shortcut to get to the Airports view for a specific station identified as a fly-by airport in the Route Profile view.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Don’t forget the big weather picture!

One of the slickest features of WeatherSpork that many of our members are raving about is the vertical depiction within the route profile and meteogram views.  The route profile like the one shown below is an incredibly useful tool to visualize how the weather will impact your route in four dimensions (fourth dimension being time).  However, one of those dimensions is pretty narrow.  The corridor used in WeatherSpork only considers a narrow slice of the atmosphere.  It’s important to acknowledge that this tiny corridor is like driving down the road looking through a straw.

It’s very possible that your route could be bumping up against some serious weather.  Just by shifting your route by 75 to 100 nm may put you in that weather.  Or perhaps you end up running late;  a change of just two or three hours might also cause you to be in weather you hadn’t planned to encounter based on the original narrow corridor shown in the vertical profile.  These vertical views have such a huge glance value, that they can easily lure you into the trap that everything looks great until you stray from the original plan.

My advice is simple; don’t forget the big weather picture.  Looking at the surface analysis, prog charts. constant pressure charts and convective outlooks are still a must.  You can find all of this other great guidance in the WeatherSpork Imagery view such as this 500 mb chart below.  Don’t know how to interpret some of these charts?  No problem.  WeatherSpork has dozens of online workshop available that explain how to use much of the guidance found in the Imagery view.  Or for a more personal touch, consider one-on-one online training or attending one of several live workshops through our partner AvWxWorkshops.com.  This unique training will challenge your most basic understanding of the weather.

SLD added to CIP/FIP severity Imagery

The Imagery view in WeatherSpork includes the latest automated analyses and forecasts for airframe ice.  These are referred to as the Current Icing Product (CIP) and Forecast Icing Product (FIP), respectively. Both the analysis and forecast have three basic components to include probability, severity and supercooled large drop (SLD) icing.  Based on WeatherSpork customer feedback, we have recently added the SLD threat to the icing analysis and forecast severity charts like the one shown below.

What is SLD?

SLD stands for supercooled LARGE drop icing.  Many pilots like to say it stands for supercooled “liquid” drops. Yes, they are liquid, but they are missing the point. For icing certification standards a large drop environment is one that has a median volumetric diameter (MVD) of greater than 50 microns.  This means that if you could line up all of the drops in a cloud by its size and found the median size, that would be the MVD for that environment.  Just for reference, the average human hair is 100 microns in diameter.  So, just as a drop becomes visible to the naked eye, it’s considered beyond the certification standards of all aircraft.

SLD is shown as a red-hatched overlay on the ADDS icing severity chart like the one shown below. Keep in mind that the SLD analysis or forecast isn’t a calibrated probability.  In other words, SLD will be included even when there’s just a 5 percent chance of it occurring.  So it’s properly referred to as an SLD “potential” field.

Icing analyses

CIP (pronounced “sip”) is an analysis of the current icing situation.  This means that it is always valid in the recent past.  It is updated hourly and depicts the icing scenario at the top of the most recent hour.  It becomes available in WeatherSpork around 25 minutes past each hour.  For example, the analysis valid at 1600Z will be available at 1625Z.  You will find this SLD analysis in the Imagery view under Icing Analyses::Current Icing Product::ADDS Severity.

If you want to assess the actual likelihood of SLD valid at the top of the most recent hour, WeatherSpork provides a CIP SLD analysis as a separate field.  You will find this in the Imagery view under Icing Analyses::Current Icing Product::SLD Potential as shown below.  Warm colors such as red and orange represent a greater likelihood of SLD where as cooler colors such as green and blue are indicative of a low likelihood.

FIP, on the other hand, is the forecast counterpart and you will find this in the Imagery view under Icing Forecasts by Altitude::ADDS Severity. You can choose from a lead time of 2, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 hours as shown below and it will also have an SLD overlay hatched in red.

 

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

WeatherSpork’s simple design

WeatherSpork (@weathersporkapp) has a very elegant and simple design that is mission-oriented.  Even for the most technically-challenged pilot it will only take you a few minutes to harness its true power.  Furthermore, it’s designed to be nearly identical across platforms with very few exceptions.  So once you learn how to use the app on one platform, you are a guaranteed expert on the rest.

When you call 1-800-WXBRIEF or use many of the popular flight planning apps to get a weather briefing, they are typically focused on departing at a specific time in the future.  WeatherSpork, however, has been designed to be oriented around the mission.  This signature feature called the “Wheels Up Departure Advisor” leverages dozens of forecasts so you can quickly pick out the most favorable time to fly.  On the map, route and grid view, tapping on the Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) button at the bottom-center of the display will bring up the Wheels Up Departure Advisor.

Shown here is the Wheels Up Departure Adviser found in the Map view on an iPad.

Shown in green, blue, red and magenta on the Departure Advisor time line are the VFR, MVFR, IFR and LIFR flight categories, respectively, for stations (airports) along your proposed route.  This allows you to quickly see when the route will have the best weather…or perhaps the worst.  On a touch screen (or using a mouse), just press and hold down the filled circle (time selector) and drag to the right (and left).  As you advance the time, you’ll notice the station markers on the map will also change color representing the surface weather conditions (flight category) at the time shown above the time selector. Gray station markers indicate a lack of ceiling, visibility or sky coverage in order to determine the flight category.

Drag the airplane along your route with your finger or mouse to see how the forecast weather is expected to change while en route.

Once you’ve chosen your departure time (and picked up your finger) you can press and hold down the airplane (jet) located at your departure airport and drag that along your route.  As you move the airplane along your route, you’ll also see how the weather is expected to evolve while you are en route to your destination.  If you have elected to display SIGMETs and/or G-AIRMETs from the settings (gear button), they will also change based on their valid time as the airplane is advanced backward and forward in time. By the way, you don’t have to keep your finger directly on the airplane as you drag.  In fact, once you start to move the airplane with your finger pressed against the display, just shift your finger away from the airplane, while dragging.  This allows you to better see the markers along your route.  Give it a try!

We’ve got some real cool stuff planned for the Wheels Up Departure Advisor, so stay tuned to The Spork Report.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

 

Using WeatherSpork to brief a flight with a departure tomorrow

Let’s say you are planning to make a flight sometime tomorrow morning from Savannah, Georgia to Atlantic City, New Jersey. What will the weather be along that proposed route?  What’s the best time to depart?  And what might be the best altitude to avoid flying into adverse weather?  Can I fly this VFR or will it require an IFR clearance?  This video will demonstrate how to use just a few of the many rich features found in WeatherSpork that makes answering these kinds of questions quite easy.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

 

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