The transition to graphical forecasts for aviation (GFAs) for the continental U.S. is set to be complete Oct. 10, 2017, when the current textual area forecasts (FAs) will be discontinued.
The move, in a transition phase since July, is expected to result in improved weather information from forecasters with the National Weather Service Aviation Weather Center, according to FAA officials.
“The majority of the weather elements contained in the FA are already available through other NWS products,” agency officials said in a notice highlighting the change. “To maintain continuity of service, the GFA will ensure the availability of equivalent information, in addition to adding graphical displays of the predominant weather, sky cover, and wind speed and direction.”
GFAs are web-based displays that provide observations and forecasts critical for aviation safety. GFAs cover the continental U.S., from the surface up to 42,000 feet mean sea level (MSL).
Wind, icing, and turbulence forecasts are available in 3,000-foot increments from the surface up to 18,000 feet MSL, and in 6,000-foot increments from 18,000 feet MSL to 42,000 feet MSL.Turbulence forecasts are also broken into low (below 18,000 feet MSL) and high (above 18,000 feet MSL) graphics.
Maximum icing and maximum wind velocity graphics are also available. Data is time-synchronized and is available in hourly increments for up to 14 hours in the past and 15 hours into the future.
“This is a huge step forward,” says John Kosak, Air Traffic Services project manager for weather for the National Business Aviation Association. “The graphical forecasts provide much finer resolution than any text-based forecast ever could.”
Kosak represented general aviation and business aviation as a member of the FAA’s Collaborative Decision-Making Weather Evaluation Team.
The GFAs will replace the textual FAs only for the continental U.S. The FA for Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean will not change.