Four preflight features we like in Stratus Insight
Earlier this year, Appareo introduced Stratus Insight, a rebranded electronic flight bag app based on the popular Aerovie platform. This full-featured app takes aim at market leaders like ForeFlight and Garmin with a long list of capabilities, including charts, flight planning, checklists, and a digital logbook. Every app has its own perspective and idiosyncrasies, and Stratus Insight is no exception. Some of the unique features and design choices work well; others are a little confusing. Here are four we really like.
Radar is the one weather product that almost everyone looks at, from student pilots to ATPs. But the radar we typically review is history, a picture of what has already happened. Stratus Insight takes the next step, providing a forecast radar layer right on the main moving map. This is derived from forecast models, so it’s hardly a guarantee of what tomorrow’s radar image will look like, but it’s useful as a guide. We’ve been using it for a few years and the accuracy has steadily improved. It’s valuable for planning whether you need to take off by noon or 4pm tomorrow, for example. At the very least, a clear radar picture in the morning that turns into a riot of red and yellow in the afternoon should send you looking for more information.
To use this, go to the Map page in Stratus Insight, and tap the second button from the left at the top of the screen. This will bring up the Overlays menu. Choose Radar Forecast from the menu and you’ll see a familiar radar map appear, complete with a play button to animate the image.
Once the Radar Forecast layer is turned on, you can tap the play button to animate the radar overlay, or tap the +1 button to advance one hour at a time. You can also tap the gear button to bring up the overlay settings menu. From here you can choose between the HRRR and the NAM, two different weather models that drive Radar Forecast. The end result is similar, but comparing the two options can help you get a complete picture of what the weather might actually be.
Vertical Weather Profile
So many weather reports are issued with the ground in mind, but as pilots we fly in three dimensions. That’s why we like the profile view on the Map page so much—you can get a great feel for what altitude is best for your flight.
First, make sure you’ve entered your route into the FPL box. Then tap the cloud symbol at the top of the screen (seventh button from the right) to bring up the Vertical Weather Profile screen. This shows your route of flight, with a terrain map along the bottom and airport weather below that. Tap the Overlays button at the top left to turn on various weather products, including AIRMETs and SIGMETs.
Our favorite two products here are the CIP/FIP icing forecasts and the wind component. These give you a really good overview of where the ice-free air is and what the best altitude is for wind. You’ll also see a red dotted line, indicating the freezing level. For IFR flights in the winter, this is essential information. Tap the +2H button to advance the forecast two hours ahead—an important step on a long flight, since the forecast is only valid for a certain time.
Fuel stop search
If you’re headed out on a long cross country, how do you know where to stop for fuel? Stratus Insight makes this easy. If it calculates you won’t have enough fuel for your planned flight, a red gas pump icon will appear in the FPL box. Tap this and the app will zoom in on the area of your route where a fuel stop is advised. The app will highlight some options, complete with current weather report, instrument approach procedures available, and how much fuel will be on board at landing. Tap an airport to get more information or to add it to your route.
Alternate airport alert
Similarly, Stratus Insight has a handy alternate airport tool. If your destination airport weather conditions require an IFR alternate, you’ll see a red ALT in the FPL box. Tap this and the app will zoom into your destination area. Like the fuel stop tool, this highlights airports nearby and pop-up boxes show current weather.
Stratus Insight is clearly designed to answer pilots’ questions before they even ask them. Do I need to stop for fuel? The app will suggest it. Do I need an alternate? The app will show some options. There are even pop-up alerts if your route of flight might encounter thunderstorms or IMC (note the warning triangles at the bottom of the FPL box above). This is a welcome development—pilots need more guidance and information in context, with less raw data streams.
There are some parts of the Stratus Insight user interface that are a little confusing. For example, many information boxes appear as pop-ups on the screen that require you to tap an X to close it (which is sometimes hidden by other menus). But overall, this is a novel approach to flight planning and it’s worth a look for any pilot shopping the EFB app market. Download the app here.