October 2008 Issue
Cell-Phone Weather: No Perfect Solution Yet
Garmin and ForeFlight take top honors for bringing weather and flight planning to the palm of your hand, but no single service hits all the high notes.
Collecting, assimilating, and safely deciding what to do about weather is one of the hardest things we pilots do. But it seems like every computer platform to do this has a drawback. Weather terminals at FBOs are handy but require lots of clicks. I might drill down through many pages for METARs—a U.S. map, region map, and a state map—then scroll a long alphabetical list of stations. I go to more screens for TAFs, winds and temps, PIREPS, forecasts and satellite images. Then I try to picture the data on my route. For airport info, I pull out a book. Flight planning software puts all the weather around one route. But it requires a computer, software and, often, arduous setup and learning. Fine for home or office, but not ideal on the road. There are Web-based products to overlay METARs, TAFs, PIREPs and winds graphically on a route map. But evolution of cell phones into hand-held computers means there’s an even more convenient option. Here are the four leaders in cell phone weather. Note that your phone determines your choices or, perhaps, vice-versa.
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