Weather and other features


#1

Tried to comb through the forum to see if anyone else addressed my issues, but didn’t see them. I got the email notification about the flight planner, logged in, put in my profile data. That was a little time consuming, but sample plans came out surprisingly accurate against actual flights I’ve flown, so the POH is more accurate than I though, and FlightAware did a great job in the calcs (mostly). A couple things, though, I noticed while playing around:

  • Didn’t see any weather information displayed on the proposed routing pages, or on nav log pages, or any links to weather of any kind. Thought that was to be included.
  • Would like the nav log page to either open up in a new window/tab, or provide a convenient “back” button/link to get back to list of proposed altitudes or routes. Right now, it takes me to another page and I’m stuck there. From there, I can’t file, check weather, change my mind and choose another route or altitude. If I use the browser back button, I have to start all over and re-enter my flight, re-calc, etc.
  • True airspeeds and ground speeds en route can be a little curious, especially if you choose a direct route. For the most part, the planner seems to go with the max true speed for your aircraft at that altitude and whatever the winds are at the departure. At one point, I produced a sample flight plan, KSTL->KCHS direct, at 11K feet, that came up with something like 181 kts TAS, which is some 20 knots faster than ANY speed I put in my profile, so not sure where that came from. And of course, the ground speed was even crazier. I’d love to see 200 kts in my aircraft, but alas, short of strapping on a turbo and an oxygen tank or getting a 50 kt tailwind, that would never happen. What would be more accurate, particularly for a direct routing, would be to create “sample” waypoints along the way (every 50 miles?) and lookup winds aloft at those points to get a more accurate average speed. While winds at 10k might be blowing 40 tailwind at departure, that might change to a 10 kt headwind 400 miles away.
  • I did see this mentioned elsewhere and would also love to see it: IFR enroute and VFR sectional charts with my selected route overlayed, and even handier would be an overlay of NexRad and metar or other weather (VFR, MVFR, IFR, LIFR) symbols scattered/overlayed on the map. Other weather niceties I’d love to see overlayed on a chart with my route are things like satellite images, pireps, airmets/sigmets, etc. I’m not aware of any tool today that can show me all that at once. Currently, I have to look at half a dozen images/sources and combine it all in my head. Bringing this all together would be a beautiful thing.
  • I really like the bundled chart option for departure and destination, but it would be handy to also include bundled charts for your alternate as well. I didn’t see that anywhere.

Great job, though, guys, and looking forward to future enhancements.


#2

The METAR/TAF for the origin and destination are displayed in the navlog (we’ll add the alternate too, if specified). We’ll add a link to our weather maps too.

I think the real solution here is for us to make the back button work, although we’ll use a new window if we can’t get that to work. What information from the nav log would you like to see before choosing the route/altitude combination to file?

The bug here is that in any segment that contains a descent, the speed displayed is for the descent. For direct routes, this results in higher than expected (and higher than average) displayed speeds. When we do our calculations, we reevaluate winds and aircraft performance (based on altitude/temperature/weight) every few miles (varies depending on phase of flight), but we only show the totals to the users for each leg.

We’re going to add FlightAware maps with your route and nexrad soon.

Good catch, we’ll add those.


#3

Wow! Quick response. Sorry, I missed the metar/taf data on the nav log. Guess I was busily admiring the rest of it. However, since we’re here to give feedback and can ask for all sorts of goodies on a free planning tool, why not enhance the nav log with the following:

  • Pick “waypoints” along the route every say, 50 to 75 miles, and provide metar/taf data along the way. This is similar to a feature DUATS provides to give you an idea of weather enroute.
  • Decode the METAR/TAF data and/or translate it to local timezone. The latter isn’t a big deal, and some pilots might prefer not to do that, but decoding makes for a quicker study of the weather enroute.

Speaking of picking waypoints, since there’s a descent profile on-hand for the aircraft in question, and we know what the field elevation and cruise altitude is, we could pick a waypoint as a “start of descent” point. Other flight planners do something similar, and would resolve the cruise speed calculation issue where a descent is concerned.

As for being able to pick a route and altitude and see the log, then going “back” and choosing something else, turns out my back button does work. It was just kinda slow, as if the server were re-calculating the flight plan options again. I guess I was wanting to see the nav log and associated charts/weather related to my choice. And, if I don’t like what I see, go back and pick something else without having to re-calc a whole plan. For example, I might think I want to cruise at 11K because winds and fuel burn are favorable, only to find out once I see the weather (assuming enroute metar/taf are available), that there’s icing in clouds which start at 9k. Therefore, I would go back and choose a higher/lower altitude. This is something I do now using DUATS. I start with a preliminary flight plan, then tell it I want a flight briefing for the route, then change my mind when I see something in there I don’t like. Trouble with DUATS, though, is this is an iterative process, all text-based, lots of reading, and a lengthy planning process. It would be nice to be able to display multiple route options with as much graphical weather data as possible so I can make a route decision quickly. Guess that’s where I was going with that idea.

One day, someone will build a flight planner that marries up with something like Google Earth and all sorts of weather data overlays and give me a 3-D approach to flight planning that shows me what I’d be dealing with and where other options might lie. I’d be able to glance at it quickly and go nope, mountains there, or icy clouds there, or storms there, or yep, clearer skies and nice tail wind there. Until then, though, I’ll take enroute charts with overlays. :wink:

Again, though, overall, nice product for beta. Looking forward to future goodies.


#4

For things like icing, we really should add the airmet/sigmet charts to our weather maps page.

We are working on better decoding of metars and decoding tafs (for suggesting alternates).