Aug. 29, 2019
The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS), which launched the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) tool for the continental U.S. in October 2017, recently expanded the coverage area to include the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and the New York Oceanic region, including Bermuda.
“This is good news for business aviation,” said John Kosak, weather program manager at NBAA Air Traffic Services. “More business aircraft operators can now use the graphical forecasts, which provide much finer resolution than any text-based forecast ever could.”
The GFA is a robust graphical product that lets operators view current weather observations and forecasts. Operators can see up to 17 hours of past observations to help them spot trends and can look up to 17 hours into the future for all of the forecasts, which are updated hourly.
“The forecasts cover all the old text-based favorites, including ceilings, cloud bases and tops, visibility, precipitation, winds, ice and turbulence,” Kosak said. “Operators can move through the altitudes in several of the categories, and can zoom in and out to see detail in specific areas of the map.”
During an experiment at the NWS’ Aviation Weather Center (AWC) in Kansas City, MO, this month, general aviation pilot participants gave positive feedback about the GFA, saying the enhanced information will improve their ability to make critical decisions. But they expressed a need for more user-friendly capabilities, including making the tool easier to navigate on mobile devices and explaining when and how they might want to use the tool. Officials at the AWC said they will continuously upgrade the GFA to better serve general aviation.
Kosak, who represents business aviation in the GFA rollout process as a member of the FAA’s Collaborative Decision-Making Weather Evaluation Team, said more coverage area expansions are in the works. The NWS has begun experimenting with the GFA for much of the Pacific, including Hawaii, on a testbed web page. Experimentation for Alaska is expected to start in 2021.