Understanding ForeFlight alerts and notifications
One of our favorite features in ForeFlight is its ability to continuously monitor your position, altitude and flight profile to provide a number of in-app audio and visual alerts. These are designed to keep you aware of potential hazards and improve situational awareness in-flight and on the ground. Here we’ll go through each alert function based on phase of flight to explain its purpose and configuration options.
Let’s first take a look at the preflight alerts generated from the Flights section of ForeFlight.
Weather is dynamic and can change quickly in between the time you retrieve your weather briefing and actually takeoff. To fill in this gap and keep you informed, ForeFlight can send notifications to your iPad and iPhone when new information is available that might impact your flight.
After filing a flight plan in the app via Flight Service, two hours prior to your scheduled departure time ForeFlight will begin monitoring your route of flight and provide weather and other alerts relevant to your filed flight plans (requires ForeFlight Basic Plus or higher subscription). This feature is automatic.
ForeFlight notifies you if there are updates to: TFRs, airport/runway closed/unsafe NOTAMs, urgent PIREPs, SIGMETs, Convective SIGMETs, AIRMETs, Center Weather Advisories (CWAs), and Severe Weather Watches/Warnings that affect your filed route.
When one of these alerts becomes available, you’ll see a red badge on the Flights button at the bottom of the screen. Go to this section of the app and select the upcoming Flight in the left column. Tap the “New Msg” button at the top right of the flight plan to view a summary of the alerts. A thumbnail of each alert’s graphic is shown to the left of the alert.
IFR Expected Routing
After filing an IFR flight plan in ForeFlight the app will acknowledge the receipt of a flight plan, and it can also notify you of your expected routing from ATC (requires Basic Plus or higher subscription). When this information becomes available, ForeFlight’s servers send a notification and email of that route information directly to your devices.
This alert includes the option to load that route right to your active flight plan on the Maps screen. ForeFlight also sends you a message if they do not receive an expected route for your flight from ATC.
ForeFlight in-flight alerts constantly monitor your location to provide time-sensitive information while in the airplane. Each can provide both visual and aural alerts and can be configured in More > Settings > Alerts.
ForeFlight provides a visual and audio alert system that triggers when you taxi near or onto a runway. This system uses GPS and geographic runway safety areas to alert you as you approach or enter a runway environment. As you near the runway the system will provide an “Approaching” alert which includes the name of the runway. Upon entering the runway itself, the system will provide an “Entered” alert, which includes both the name of the runway and the length of runway remaining in feet, rounded to the nearest hundred.
The system runs automatically in the background, regardless of which part of the app is currently visible. ForeFlight Mobile must be running and visible on the iPad screen for the system to function. This feature is available for all ForeFlight subscriptions and nearly every airport in the US is supported.
TFR Alerts monitor your GPS position and track for nearby known TFRs and provide visual and audio alerts to warn you if your present track will take you inside (or over/under) a known TFR within the next 5 minutes, even if you don’t have the TFR map layer turned on. Four different alerts are possible based on your position relative to the TFR: “TFR Ahead,” “TFR Below,” “TFR Above,” and “Inside TFR.”
If ForeFlight detects that you will enter or pass within three nautical miles of an active (or soon-to-be-active) TFR within the next five minutes it will issue a “TFR Ahead” alert, or “Upcoming TFR Ahead” if the TFR is not yet active. A TFR’s altitude (MSL or AGL) is taken into account when determining if you will enter it, and an adjustable altitude buffer is provided in More > Settings > Alerts so you can customize how close your altitude must be to the TFR for the alert to activate.
The altitude buffer has settings for 500’, 1000’, 2000’, and 5000’. If you are outside a TFR’s altitude but within the selected buffer altitude, ForeFlight will issue “TFR Below” or “TFR Above” alerts as you pass respectively above or below the TFR. If you enter a TFR within its altitude range ForeFlight will issue an “Inside TFR” alert. You can also choose whether you want to include the Washington, DC, Special Flight Rules Area and Flight Restricted Zone in these alerts. These areas are like permanent TFRs, so some local pilots may not want an alert every time they enter this airspace.
Pilots flying with a Scout, Stratus ADS-B receiver or SiriusXM SXAR1 satellite weather receiver will get continuously updated TFR information in flight. If you’re not flying with one of these datalink systems, make sure to use the Pack feature during preflight to ensure ForeFlight has the latest TFR data stored in the app.
In addition to receiving in-flight datalink weather, a big benefit of flying with the Scout or Stratus ADS-B receiver is that you will also receive nearby traffic. A nearby traffic alert will be displayed if your aircraft is moving at over 40kts and an ADS-B traffic target comes within 1.8 NM horizontally and +/- 1,200’ vertically of your aircraft’s position. The pop-up includes “clock” direction and relative altitude information to help you locate the target.
If ForeFlight detects that your aircraft is equipped with ADS-B Out, an audio alert will also be issued with the same information as the visual pop-up. If no ADS-B Out is detected, you will not receive traffic audio alerts, but you will still receive the visual pop-up. Check out this article for more information on using the Traffic feature in ForeFlight: How to get the most out of ADS-B traffic in ForeFlight.
The 500’ AGL alert is a simple callout that triggers when you descend through 500’ AGL after having been above 1,000’ AGL. The alert will only sound once every 60 seconds and is automatically disabled if your groundspeed is less than 40kts.
The Sink Rate alert warns you when your downward vertical speed exceeds a certain amount, which varies based on your height above ground so as to warn you sooner at lower altitudes.
At all altitudes, the descent rate required to trigger the alert must be maintained for five seconds, and the alert will only sound once every 30 seconds. This alert is automatically disabled if your groundspeed is less than 40kts. Here are the criteria for triggering the alert:
- Above 2,500’ AGL (or when AGL is not known), the alert is triggered if your descent rate exceeds -4,000′ per minute.
- At 2,500’ AGL, the alert is triggered if your descent rate exceeds -3,000’ per minute.
- Between 2,500’ AGL and 500’ AGL the descent rate required to trigger the alert decreases linearly along with altitude, down to a threshold of -1,500’ per minute.
- At 500’ AGL the alert is triggered if your descent rate exceeds -1,500’ per minute.
The Cabin Altitude Advisor helps to keep pilots flying at high altitudes more aware of cabin pressure status and any unplanned changes. If your iPad/iPhone is equipped with a barometric pressure sensor (iPhone 6/iPad Air 2 or newer), or is connected to an external device that provides that capability (such as a Stratus 2S or Garmin Flight Stream 210), ForeFlight will monitor your cabin’s pressure altitude and provide alerts when you pass 12,000’ MSL and 25,000’ MSL. The audio and visual alert triggers once every 30 minutes for each altitude.
One of the newest alerts is a handy one for any pilot flying with a portable device like a Stratus ADS-B Receiver or a SiriusXM SXAR1 weather receiver. If the WiFi connection is lost, you’ll see a pop-up alert that “Stratus has disconnected.” This is a good reminder to check your device, and not to count on the weather display since it might be out of date. Note that this alert will only trigger if your groundspeed is above 40 knots, to prevent nuisance alerts after a flight.
Flight plan notifications
If you’re flying with a Garmin Flight Stream in the panel, ForeFlight can send and receive routes from your panel-mount GPS. If you choose to “Auto-receive panel flight plans” from the Settings page, the app will automatically notify you when a new flight plan route has been activated. This confirms that ForeFlight has updated the active route, and should be a reminder to double check your FPL window.
Destination WX Frequency
In an effort to reduce workload during the arrival, ForeFlight will display a pop-up alert with the destination weather frequency (ATIS, AWOS, or ASOS) as you near the airport.
The callout requires that the last item in your route be an airport (there must be more than one item in your route) and that the airport has a weather frequency. The callout occurs at a certain distance from the airport, which is greater at higher altitudes – at 5,000 feet or below the callout occurs at 20nm from the airport.
Unlike other alerts, the weather frequency popup does not disappear after a few seconds – it will remain on the screen until you dismiss it by tapping on it. The callout will not occur more than once every 20 minutes for the same airport, but if you change the destination airport then the callout can occur again in less time for the new airport.
Audio alert tips
It can be tough to hear the audio alerts from your iPad’s speaker while wearing an ANR headset with the engine at full power. To make these audio alerts more useful, consider connecting your headset to your iPad using either Bluetooth or an audio cable; here’s how to do it.
Close VFR Flight Plan
If you activated a VFR flight plan using ForeFlight Mobile and have not closed the plan 20 minutes after your calculated ETA (Departure time + ETE), ForeFlight will send a push notification to your devices reminding you to close your flight plan. You can close the plan using the “Close” button on the Flights page, or by calling 1-800-WX-BRIEF.
If the plan still has not been closed 30 minutes after your calculated ETA (Departure time + ETA) LMFS will send ForeFlight an “OVERDUE” status update, and ForeFlight will then send another push notification to your devices reminding you to close your flight plan immediately.
If you want to test the volume level for audio alerts, go to Settings->Alerts and turn off (then back on) the switch labeled “Speal All Alerts”. That will cause ForeFlight to speak, letting you check that the audio is working as you expect.
I just started flying after a 30 year pause in my training and my stars has the world changed with this new electronics… my license is from the 70’s and a NDB was a great nav aid then … WOW…..just did a long cross country with ForeFlight and I am elated ! I’m still a bit behind but catching up fast.
I really like those alerts with one exception. Some bright mind over at foreflight decided to make the entire DC sfra a tfr all the time. This has caused numerous confused atc controllers when I queried them about it and it also desensitized me to the red circle
That’s what the additional SFRA setting is for. You can customize that a little.
The Destination WX Frequency feature is a great idea. I suggest expanding the function to provide frequencies for other NAV/COM facilities, both for the destination and while en route. It could help prevent inadvertently using the wrong CTAF to announce arrival or turn on the lights. Yes, just like the WX frequency they can look up the frequency they need but when approaching an airport for an unplanned landing (when the kids forgot to visit the bathroom) it would be a great help. While the engineers are at it, why not link the frequency directly to the radio, or for that matter link the radio to the GPS to give a warning when selecting a frequency which is out of range.
One feature missing is User Definable alerts allowing you to for example set an alert to remind you to execute a task once you are at a waynpiint or within x mile before or after a waypoint.