Weather operations pushes info via app, social media
June 13, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 14, 2012) -- The job of a pilot can be stressful enough without the hazards of weather to worry about.
To make sure Aviators are aware of those hazards, Fort Rucker weather operations is making it easier for pilots and Aviators to get weather updates by using existing technology, according to Cindy Howell, weather forecaster for Fort Rucker weather operations.
"We're trying to utilize free technology to further our cause and get information out to pilots and other customers," she said, adding that there are three main things that will be utilized to achieve this: Facebook, Twitter and a mobile app.
"Facebook is a big one," said Howell. "Every morning we post a five-day forecast and we outline the hazards for the day for Aviators."
These posts are currently on the weather operations Facebook page, but starting June 19, Howell said that they will begin posting all mission execution forecast, amendments and all watches, warnings and advisories.
June 19 will also mark the day that weather operations will join Twitter to use as another medium to get information out to Aviators, according to the weather forecaster.
"We're brand new to Twitter and we'll do the same type of postings to Twitter as we will on Facebook," she said. "The cool thing about Twitter is that you can set it up so that you can receive a text alert and the information can be pushed to you, which we think can be very valuable to Aviators.
"Utilizing social media is a need because the technology is there and it's just another method to reach people," said Howell. "People check their Facebook all the time and people are receiving texts all the time. If that little beep makes you go in and check the latest weather data, then that's great."
The third technology that Fort Rucker weather operations will be utilizing is a mobile weather app that will be available June 19 that is tailored specifically to pilots and Aviators and will show all the MEFs, amendments, watches, warnings and advisories that are important for them to have, according to Howell.
The concept for the app was thought up months ago, said Howell, and with the help of TTC, Inc., the company that programmed the app, the weather app will soon be available for people to use.
"We've got to leverage technology," she said. "We've got a lot of young student pilots coming in and even the more advanced pilots are trying to embrace technology." She added that the app will be free and is available on both Android and iOS platforms.
The goal of utilizing these technologies and social media is to make it easier for pilots to get their weather forecasts, check for updates and check live radar with observations.
One of the ways the mobile app makes getting information easier for pilots is by offering a scrolling banner, much like a news ticker that updates immediately when any warnings, watches or amendments are issued, said Howell.
"The scrolling updates will keep pilots and Aviators updated with the most recent information and updates to the weather," she said.
The information that Fort Rucker weather operations puts out, like the MEF, is put out three times a day for the seven different areas of operation, and covers 32,000 square miles of airspace, she said.
"We cover up to Montgomery, almost to Mobile, down the Florida coast and all the way to Valdosta, Ga.," said Howell. "It's quite a large flying area … that we have to forecast for each and every flight period," adding that the three flight periods are the a.m., p.m., and night-flying.
"We're really excited about [these changes] and we want people to know that nothing about the way we've been doing business has changed," she said. "We're still going to do the normal methods. This is just to go above and beyond."
To get the most recent weather updates, MEFs and amendments, visit facebook.com/ftruckerwx, or follow Fort Rucker weather operations on Twitter at @ftruckerwx.
To download the weather app, visit www.ftrucker.mobi.