By Fred Gibbs
Due to %$&**#@% computer problems, this month y’all will have to suffer through NO GAARMS REPORT. And, ironically, just like last month, as I sit here late February trying to type this article, the weather outside has Old Man Winter making a comeback! Winds are blowing 26 gusting to 35 kts, with gusts expected to get into the 45kt range and with the potential of a foot or more of snow through the next couple of days.
SO, FOR INFORMATION ON ALL ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED LAST MONTH, REFER TO JIM TIMM’S ACCIDENT SUMMARY HEREIN.
All my troubles started when my old computer decided it no longer wanted to work properly, or at all! I guess it really was time for my Windows 8 to go off into the sunset. So, I got a new computer, complete with Windows 10. NOT WINDOWS 11 at the behest of my IT guy – TOO MANY ISSUES WITH THAT RIGHT NOW. WINDOWS 10 will be a big enough change to tackle right now, and it has proven to be quite a challenge. I guess the older I get, and being a creature of habit, like following checklists, the fewer changes – especially software changes - the better!! I don’t quite know what I did to make my Windows 10 fight me, but it still is, and here we are…
GOODBYE AREA FORECASTS (FA),
HELLO AREA FORECAST DISCUSSIONS (AFD)
In case you haven’t noticed, the Area Forecast (FA) weather product NO LONGER EXISTS! It was the product you used to determine the weather conditions along your route of flight between reporting points that do have a Terminal Area Forecast (TAF). I am sure you all know the TAF product is only good for a 5-to-10-mile radius around that specific airport. But what about that 50-mile stretch between those 2 airports??? Now, back east getting multiple weather checks along a 50-mile stretch was not very hard to do. Heck, I could hit 5 airports in those 50 miles. But out here in the west, with vast distances between cities and/or airports, not so much, and, as you know, the weather can vary significantly along the way!
For example, take a flight from any airport in the Phoenix area up to Flagstaff: A 90 to 120 mile flight, with good VFR weather in Phoenix and IFR weather in Flagstaff, with 500 foot ceilings and ½ mile in SNOW!! It is critical to know the weather in between locations, but now that the Area Forecast (FA) product is no longer available, where do I go??
Well, here is the answer to that –
If you really want the straight, unadulterated National Weather Service product to meet that need, you need to go online to the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) site. Just search for AWC. It is the best site for almost all online weather briefings if you do your own briefings. I do not know if Foreflight does that…
Anyway, when you go to the Aviation Weather Center, you should see the page pictured below (figure 1) – this is the AWC home page. Across the top just above the blue line that says Aviation weather Center are several choices to select, i.e., HOME, ADVISORIES, FORECASTS, OBSERVATIONS, TOOLS, etc… Each of those has a drop-down window containing multiple weather products that fall under the caption. Below the blue bar are several tabs that have the similar data, but those products display reporting locations on the map underneath them. Simply click on the individual locations for the specific data. Play with it and you will be surprised at the amount of information that is available at your fingertips. The map usually opens with adverse conditions depicted graphically that include AIRMETs and SIGMETs. You can zoom the map in or out, and I usually just zoom in on Arizona to declutter the screen, but you can adjust the zoom (range) to depict your entire route of flight if you want. All the required data to meet FAR 91.103 Preflight Actions regarding weather is right there!
Anyway, with reference to this article on the Area Forecast data, the old Area Forecast (FA) is no longer available, but the NEW Aviation Weather Discussion (AFD) product that replaced it is. To find that product, simply click on Forecasts above the blue bar. You will get a drop-down window that looks like figure 2.
The big red arrow is pointing to the Aviation Forecast Discussion (AFD) product for all the forecast areas across the United States. (Ignore the brown box on the chart over the Flagstaff area – it is NOT related to the Area Forecast Disc.) Click on the box that says Aviation Weather Disc., and you get figure 3, below. Then when you click on a specific area, like northern Arizona, (the red arrow) you get the plain English text AFD product as seen inside the black box under the picture in figure 3.
(EXTRACTED FROM FXUS65 KFGZ 211658 CCA)
For the 18Z package...Increasing southwesterly winds by 19z with strong gusty conditions peaking near 45 kts and remaining throughout the TAF period. Mainly VFR conditions early on with increasing cloud cover from north to south throughout the day. Localized MVFR/IFR developing Monday evening, continuing overnight near KGCN-KFLG-KRQE line and northeastward. Reduced visibility expected primarily over higher elevations where there is snowfall.
NOTE: The Aviation discussion is not (necessarily) updated (with amended) TAF amendments. (MY COMMENTS)
So, there you have it, the NEW Area Forecast Discussion (AFD) product.
It should always be included in every weather briefing for every flight.
There are NOT a lot of FAASTeam safety programs on the schedule over the next couple of months around the state, but hopefully that will change in the near future. Simply log on to the Internet and go to WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV , click on “Seminars” and start checking for any upcoming seminars, but don’t expect a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there are a lot of great webinars online, each about an hour long, and worth credits towards your WINGS participation. You might find one that is really right up your alley or “tickles yer fancy”!!