A new app has launched designed to make weather decisions easier for pilots.
“Our goal with WeatherSpork was to integrate weather data in a way that makes it easy to interpret and provides the user with a quick way to assess the weather,” explains Scott Dennstaedt, a long-time CFI and former National Weather Service meteorologist and the force behind AvWx Workshops.
While there are a lot of weather resources available to pilots, most just throw a lot of data at a pilot and say “you figure it out,” he notes.
“That’s been the paradigm since the Wright brothers,” he said. “It’s basically been ‘here’s all the different weather products you have to look at,’ and the pilot has to be smart enough to integrate all that data and make a decision based on what they see.”
“But WeatherSpork is different in that it integrates all the weather data available to pilots in a way that makes it easy to interpret and provides the user with a quick way to assess the weather,” he says.
“We wanted to do it a little differently than most other apps,” he explains. “I think most apps don’t really have an understanding of the time component. Weather is four dimensional, and the time component is really the problem. I’ve said many times to my students over the years that I can teach you all about weather, but I’d rather teach you how to manage your schedule.”
According to Dennstaedt, WeatherSpork can show you the best time to depart with its Wheels Up Departure Advisor. The advisor lets pilots adjust takeoff time and the app will then show you the weather along your route.
“The app looks at that for you and says, ‘Okay, if you depart at this time, assume that you have a certain ground speed, and you get to your destination at this time, this is where you’ll find the best opportunity to get through Point A to Point B and minimize your exposure to adverse weather,” he explains.
This allows pilots to stack the deck in their favor, he says.
“This generally works pretty well because most pilots don’t want to fly in challenging weather,” he says. “They want to fly in weather that meets their risk level, and the goal for us at WeatherSpork is to make that abundantly clear.”
“The goal is to set the stage for a much better opportunity for a flight,” he continues. “Most pilots are not on a scheduled mission like airlines. We have flexibility to go at different times or say, ‘Look, the window is not there. I’m not going on this trip, at least not in my airplane. I’ll take the airlines to get there.’”
The initial focus for the new app is VFR into IMC.
“That kills more pilots than anything else, so we’re really attacking that first because we can make a big difference by doing that,” he says. “We do that by giving a visualization to a pilot in many different ways. We have the ability to show a profile view along the route, so they can pick a departure time and put their route in, and that will basically show them what’s happening from the surface all the way up to the top of the atmosphere along a route.”
This allows pilots to see the vertical extent of the weather, so they can find a good route to get on top of the weather.
Also available is the Meteogram view (below), which shows what’s going on at a particular location, such as an airport, over the next three days.
There are also the Grid views, which plots weather along your route.
“You can see what you’re dealing with,” he says. “Your departure airport may be fine and your destination may be fine, but as a VFR pilot, if you’re seeing a lot of magenta along that route, that’s probably not a good strategy to work through.”
The app gives pilots a look out to three days to help them decide the best opportunity for the best weather.
The two developers worked to make the app very simple to use, according to Dennstaedt.
“It should be something that somebody can pick up in two or three minutes and figure out how to use,” he says, adding that it’s also a “very complex product, but the complexity is under the hood.”
What that means is if a particular weather symbol appears on the app, that’s a sign that the folks behind WeatherSpork have made an assessment of the weather risk, he explains.
That, he says, is the “secret sauce” of the app: “We’re gelling all this information together into something that’s fairly concise and easy to read and interpret, so folks can see what they’re up against literally within a couple minutes.”
Released March 1, WeatherSpork — like its namesake, the spork — is a multi-faceted tool. Besides providing weather data and assessments, it also provides training on weather scenarios.
“I’ve been putting out a bunch of videos on how to use it in real scenarios,” he says.
WeatherSpork subscribers also get access to a variety of workshops and other weather training from AvWx Workshops for the $79 yearly subscription fee.
“We allow them to drill down in the areas they want to, so if there’s folks that are a little weather savvy, this will become a tool where they can just dig in and look at all the details if they want to do that. I have a bunch of customers who love the challenge of this, and they want to be technical. They’re scientists and engineers. They really want to get their hands dirty, and that’s great, but there are a lot of pilots who just don’t want to get into that kind of detail. They need something that does the work for them in weather analysis.”
A CFI for almost two decades, Dennstaedt also travels the country holding weekend weather bootcamps. He notes he’s added the WeatherSpork app into the training process as one more tool for pilots to use.
“Our goal is to make the weather piece much, much easier to use,” he concludes.