Weather: United States, Canada, Mexico

America weather

Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher

Flying Experience
I hold a Commercial pilot license with Instrument and Glider ratings and have been flying since 1979. I flew a Mooney M20F and later a Mooney 231 for several years flying mostly for business, averaging over 200 hours per year. The Mooney was sold in 1990 and I didn’t fly until 2005 when I started flying our Europa. I now have 850 hours in Europa and 3000 hours total.

Special Skills/Experience
My wife Heather and I built our Europa together. It was a great experience and very helpful having two viewpoints to interpret the manual and two sets of eyes inspecting the work. Heather became the expert on fiberglass work and finishing, I did most of the electrical design and fabrication and we did assembly together. Heather holds the Repairman Certificate for our Europa and conducts the annual Condition Inspection. She holds a private pilot license with Glider rating but has chosen to retire from piloting since I enjoy that a lot and she finds it tedious. We plan our trips and outings together. In the air we work as a team and find it very effective and fun.


Locality
We live just outside Kalamazoo, MI which is in the southwestern corner of Michigan, about halfway between Detroit and Chicago. Our weather is greatly influenced by Lake Michigan. Our Europa lives in a hangar at Almena Airstrip (near the town of Paw Paw, MI) identifier K2C5, about 10 miles from home. Almena is a grass strip, 3300 ft long but trees at both ends force displaced thresholds so the usable length is closer to 2100 ft.


Aircraft and Current Status
Ours is kit A185. It is a XS mono-wheel with a Rotax 914 turbo and Airmaster prop. We built it per the manual with very few modifications. It is IFR capable with Garmin 430 GPS, Nav, Com and dual screen GRT Sport EFIS. We did not fit an autopilot and we find hand flying easy, even for long trips. We have nearly 900 hours on it. We have a set of glider wings to build but we prefer to fly and travel, so our progress on them has been limited. We have completed Mod 78, the ailerons and air brakes and attached the outboard sections.

 

Americas@theeuropaclub.org

 

David Joyce has a page on the Europa Club website with links to weather sites in Europe.   He asked if I could put together a similar page for US and Canada weather. 

 

FAA provided weather briefings:  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides National Weather Service (NWS) weather observations and forecasts to pilots through its contract with Leidos www.1800wxbrief.com

Most briefings take place by computer using the internet however, telephone briefings (1800wxbrief) are available and are useful when you do not have internet access.  Leidos maintains a log of your visit for proof that you received a briefing.  Using the Leidos website is an easy way to input flight plans.

 

The Leidos site has been updated to present information in a more graphic form. You input a flight plan and the site will provide weather for that route during the period of time of your flight.  It can suggest different departure times to avoid weather, suggest altitudes for minimum headwinds, and can show graphically where on the route expected hazards are, the time they are expected and your projected location at that time.  There is a header which breaks briefing items into categories such as adverse conditions, SIGMETS, drone activity, etc. and if there are no items that pertain to your route during your planned time, the header marks that category so you don’t need to spend the time to look there. There are videos on the site for help as well as a couple of AOPA videos available.  

 

US Weather Sources (free, no charge)

 

www.weather.gov and within that, www.aviationweather.gov have all the available NWS weather products.  I especially like the standard briefing page that reminds me of items to check, such as TFRs.  I also read the forecast discussion pages, where the meteorologist explains why he forecast as he did and what portions of the forecast area may be affected.

 

http://www.vansairforce.net/  With as many Van’s Aircraft RVs as there are, this site is a treasure of information of all sorts.  I learn about avionics, painting, places to fly, fly-ins etc.  There is a separate weather tab which has current weather and forecast weather from a variety of sources such as our National Weather Service, The Weather Channel (popular weather), WSI (a high end weather provider intended for corporate users) and UNISYS (more of a research oriented weather provider).  There also is a link to SkewT plots.  

 

http://www.usairnet.com  gives ceilings and tops forecasts for the next 3 days.

 

Long Term Forecasts (free, no charge)

 

When planning a trip, often one wants to evaluate what the weather will be in advance of the trip and also during the return from the trip.  Most of the “official” sources do not offer this information.  Long term forecasts are available from:

 

http://coolwx.com/ gives an 8 day forecast for any location in the world

 

https://www.windy.com/ offers 14 day forecasts world wide

 

www.weather.gov  offers seven day forecasts from each of the 122 US NWS offices.  

 

www.weather.com , www.accuweather.com and www.wunderground.com are public weather sites that offer extended forecasts and historical forecasts.

 

http://weather.unisys.com/.  offers detailed forecasts based on each of three different computer models

 

Flight Planning and Weather (free, no charge)

 

There are many on line services and apps that help you plan a flight by presenting a map with a course line and the associated forecast weather.  Most allow you to input aircraft performance data which is used to generate nav logs (chart of waypoints with estimated time enroute and fuel usage) and select the best altitude to fly (least headwind).  Many require log in so that a record of the briefing is kept.

 

www.fltplan.com  allows one to enter a performance profile that changes with altitude.  For turbo equipped aircraft, you can input your actual TAS at different altitudes and that is used when calculating the best altitude based on winds aloft forecast.  You can also file flight plans here. And your visit is logged.

 

www.airnav.com  allows you to plan a flight based on shortest distance or lowest fuel cost and suggests fuel stops based on aircraft performance and fuel type (100LL, MOGAS, or Jet A).  I will often start here when planning a long trip.  You can select information on specific airports and bring up a sectional map of the surrounding area.

 

Flight Planning and Weather (fee, subscription)

 

Weathermeister www.weathermeister.com  provides NWS weather in different format – good winds aloft information

Skycharts www.skycharts.net   iPad app that has charts and approach plates for the US and charts for most of the world (no approach plates).  You can enter two waypoints and it will plot the path on the chart. When connected to internet, it will display METARS and TAFs.

Foreflight www.foreflight.com has become the most popular in the US.  It provides weather, flight planning and much more.    

Wing X ( www.hiltonsoftware.com  )

Garmin Pilot ( www.garmin.com/garmin-pilot )

FltPlan Go ( www.fltplan.com ) mobile device version of FltPln.com

iFlyGPS ( www.iflygps.com )

SkyVector ( www.skyvector.com ) it appears that SkyVector offers world wide data

Naviator ( www.naviatorapp.com ) For android devices, world wide data.

AOPA Flight Planner www.aopa.org/flightplanner.  -requires AOPA membership

 

How we plan a trip

 

We use our iPad for charts and approach plates in our plane.  The data resides on the iPad, no internet connection is required.  The app we use is FltPlnGO.com.  This gives us our charts in the airplane with our GPS location shown on them (we also have a GRT EFIS which has a moving map).  We flight plan with FltPlnGO on the iPad or FltPln or AOPA Flight Planner on our home computer to see our route of flight. Since we have our airplane data loaded, we can see the time and fuel burn for each leg of the trip.  If we will have to stop for fuel, we can see airports close to the route that might be suitable.  If there are no airports with MOGAS close to the route, we look for airports close to a town or a major highway so that we can stop and use the courtesy car to get to a gas station where we can fill our portable gas bags.  We often use www.airnav.com  to get the phone number to call the airport ahead to see about courtesy car, close by gas station, etc and to review comments from others that have used the services at that airport. www.airnav.com  also will allow you to plan a route selecting the desired fuel type (MOGAS or 100LL or both).  We consult http://www.flyunleaded.com/mapusairports.html  which is a website that shows the location of unleaded MOGAS.  We usually call ahead to verify the information is correct and current.

 

Canadian weather:

 

NAV CANADA is a private, not-for-profit Corporation responsible for the Air Navigation Service (ANS) in Canada, including aviation weather services.  NAV CANADA user fee for use of the ATC system is $72/ year or $17.85/quarter year (CDN$).  They will send an invoice in the mail.

 

NAV CANADA provides a variety of aviation weather information in both text and graphical format for use in flight planning.  Much of this information originates from Environment Canada and is provided through an agreement between the two organizations.

 

The website is https://flightplanning.navcanada.ca  and offers similar services as the US LMFS website including weather and flight plan filing.  One needs to be aware that flight plans may be treated in a different fashion than other jurisdictions when it comes to Search and Rescue notification. If you file a flight plan, you can specify your departure time and time enroute - a SAR communications search will be initiated automatically 60 minutes after your ETA if you have not closed your flight plan. You can specify a longer SAR notification time when opening the flight plan if you feel your ETA may be inaccurate, particularly if you have in intermediate ground stop where a delay may be encountered.

 

Telephone briefings are available at 1-866-WX-BRIEF.

 

Flight plans may filed by telephone or on-line.

 

VFR flight plans are required when outside 25 nm from your home base.

 

FltPlnGO ( www.fltpln.com ) has Canadian charts available at no cost.

 

Foreflight ( www.foreflight.com ) has Canadian charts available as part of the subscription fee.

 

http://www.aopa.org/Flight-Planning/Canada  AOPA general information about flights to Canada

 

Mexican weather:

 

https://sites.google.com/site/acnetworkweather/home  This site has current and forecast aviation weather.

 

http://www.aopa.org/Flight-Planning/Mexico   AOPA general information about flights to Mexico