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.