The big aviation apps provide a one-stop shop for preflight weather, and include the majority of the graphic text and weather products you should be looking at before each flight. One forecast that we think should be integral to your pre-flight weather checks is the Area Forecast, which is not directly accessible in most apps. To view this text forecast in an app like ForeFlight or WingX Pro you first need to enter your flight plan data and then retrieve a full weather briefing, which includes an Area Forecast. There are times though that you may not want to go through all these steps just to glance at the forecast, and for that there is the dedicated Area Forecast app.
Why bother with an Area Forecast?
Area Forecasts, commonly referred to as an FA, are issued 3 times daily and provide forecasts for large regional areas. While the Terminal Area Forecasts (TAFs) are your go-to forecast for the departure and destination airports, Area Forecasts fill in the gaps with wind, cloud and precipitation forecasts for areas and airports not covered by TAFs. They are also the only text weather product that forecast the cloud tops for statewide regions–very useful during the winter icing season.
Area Forecast app
Pilots will appreciate the simplicity of the Area Forecast app, as it does one thing and does it well. The slide-over menu allows you to select a region and view the respective forecast. At the bottom of the screen you’ll find a visual display of when the forecast was issued (zulu and local time), the age of the forecast and when to expect the next one. This can be very helpful for student pilots and those new to FAs to help with interpreting the valid times of both the clouds/weather forecast and the 6-hour extended outlook.
Area Forecast is a free app for iPad and iPhone available now in the app store. The app also offers a few premium features that remove the product ads and converts the zulu times displayed in the actual text forecast to local times for a one-time fee of $4.99.