Cloud Topper app helps you determine cloud tops in flight

Cloud Topper helps you determine cloud tops up ahead in flight.

Cloud Topper helps you determine cloud tops up ahead in flight.

How many times have you been en route on a cross-country and wondered what the tops are on some cumulus clouds up ahead? Of course deviating around them is an option for ensuring a smooth ride, but that also adds extra flight time. What if you could tell in advance whether or not your current altitude was high enough to clear the tops? Now you can, with an inexpensive iPhone/iPad app called Cloud Topper Pilot Sight Level.

Using your iPhone or iPad’s internal camera, gyro and accelerometers, the app helps you hold the device level, and displays guides on the screen that to help you gauge whether or not your current flight path will clear the tops. You can also enter the approximate distance from the cloud tops and the app will calculate your height above or below that cloud. This readout is corrected for the curvature of the earth, adding a bit of accuracy when measuring distant clouds.

We’ve used this app to both clear afternoon cumulus clouds at 8,000 feet, and to top thunderstorms in the flight levels, and it works pretty well. Of course you don’t want to rely on this app as your sole source for making an in-flight weather decision, but it sure is a nice tool to have on your iPad or iPhone to help with decision-making.

Cloud Topper Sight Level is available in the app store for $0.99.

5 replies
  1. John Moeckel
    John Moeckel says:

    Hi,

    Just purchased the Cloud Topper App. There are no directions on how to use.. It could be very intuitive when in the plane.. But a couple of instructions on how to use would be helpful..

    Assumptions:
    I assume the middle line is level to the airplane to the cloud.. then you can simply see that the cloud is visually above or below you?? Then if you key in distance then it will give you info about if you are above or below the cloud,, how, which box? How do you know the distance to the cloud, besides guessing..

    Thanks for your help,,

    John

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      There is a small Miles box on the right side of the screen. Tap this and you can enter the number. There’s no magic for guessing distance–just something you have to play around with. As you use the app though, you will get better at it.

  2. Dave
    Dave says:

    Your discussion implies that a camera is needed.
    If so, then the app will not work with an iPad 1

  3. B-Unit
    B-Unit says:

    John,
    I also own cloud topper. The app has instructions built in. Look for the small icon under the angle readout. The icon is the standard Apple stylized “i” symbol. Click on that and you should find all he info you’re looking for. BTW, all you’re assumptions are correct. In the jet I fly we can see cloud distances on the radar, and with our XM weather uplink. Without this info you have to estimate, but even without a distance entered, the sight level is still very effective. Just tilt the iPad till the angle readout is zero. Clouds above the line you will hit, clouds below you will miss. We use this app all the time. Hope this helps.

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