Friday, 1 April 2011

AutoMETic for the people

If you're a GA pilot, like us, you are likely frustrated at the plethora of tools and resources out there -- some free, others paid -- to help you with your flight planning. Given all the available resources, you might reasonably ask "why can I not log on somewhere, put in my route, and get the weather forecast and PLOG ?"  The answer to that simple question, as far as we can tell, is "because such a site doesn't exist" (at least not for FREE). That in a nutshell has led to the development of this site: namely, to provide a web-based resource where pilots can access FREE tools to provide the key information they need to conduct their flight. Moreover, to be of any real use, the tools must work equally well from the desktop, tablet, or smart-phone. That is the challenge we have set ourselves.

Our aim is to provide a suite of tools to address these and other GA-oriented goals. All these tools are built "by pilots, for pilots" so you can be sure we have considered convenience and usability. If the tool isn't easy to use in the real world, we will not post it up.

Your patience is appreciated since (i) please remember these resources are being published FREE of charge to you; and (ii) we are obsessive about the need to make the tools usable not just functional. That means continuous tweaking, re-testing, re-tweaking until we get it it right.

First up will be a MET and PLOG web application (currently in final stages of testing) which will enable you to get current MET and generate PLOGs for any route in the world.

The application is aimed at GA pilots on VFR flights. Main features:
  • Ability to import a route from the open-standard GPX format ( Various third-party software tools support this format, such as Memory-Map ( For example, we are currently testing our app using Memory-Map software running on an Ipad: we enter the desired route (as a "route") in Memory-Map, and send it by email to FlyLogical (via the export-to-email button in Memory-Map). Our app then sends back (as email attachments) the current MET and PLOG reports for the route.
  • The PLOG computation for drift uses the current MET (from METARS, TAFS, and global weather forecasting software) to determine winds aloft for each waypoint along the route (we call this "AutoMETic")
  • The PLOG computations for magnetic heading use a numerical geomagnetic model to calculate the magnetic deviation for each and every waypoint for the current calendar date (i.e., it doesn't just perform some kind of lookup on previously-computed data grid which can grow stale when the magnetic field of the earth shifts as the years go by).
  • The PLOG calculations provide altimetry (transition levels, flight levels, etc) and performance  (density altitudes, freezing altitude, etc) calculations along the route (again using AutoMETic to determine localised temperatures and pressures for the basis of the computations).
  • The PLOG calculations provide solar angle calculations (azimuth and zenith) along the route corresponding to the dates and times along the route, enabling, for example, to determine if any of the flight is conducted in darkness, or if any of the flight will be conducted "into the sun" (possibly affecting visibility) etc.
  • The PLOG calculations include fuel consumption profile along the route (including consideration of fuel consumption for initial climb-out, and any en route changes in altitude) 
  • The PLOG calculations include range and endurance estimation for possible diversion from any point along the route, based on remaining fuel along the route.
  • Ability to specify wide range of parameters for the PLOG calculations including altitude profile along the route, airspeed profile along the route, date and time of departure (including UTC offset for local time), waypoint at which the stopwatch is zeroed (e.g., to enable PLOG times to be computed relative to a specified starting waypoint which can be different from the departure airfield).
  • Ability to save routes and parameters for convenience and later re-use (still FREE, but requires registration)
  • Ability to set and save preferences such as aircraft performance parameters (IAS, climb rate, fuel consumption, fuel capacity, etc) used in the PLOG calculations (still FREE, but requires registration)
  • Ability to set and save preferences for dimensional units (feet or metres for altitude, mph or kts for speed, mb or InchesHg for pressure, etc)  used in the PLOG parameters and in the generated output report (still FREE, but requires registration)
We are excited about the finalisation of this feature-rich FREE service which we will be publishing on this site imminently. 

Toes clear.