Pilot advice on OurAirports?

I’m still hoping to do a responsive redesign on OurAirports if I can wedge some free time into my schedule. I’ve also been thinking about how to make the site less CRUDy (browsing lists of things) and more generally useful (helping people do stuff).

Advice

Yesterday, I was playing around with a new METAR parsing class, and I realized how easy it would be to start offering advice to people based on the weather and other information. The advice would be fairly generic, and couldn’t (in most cases) take into account local special conditions, but there’s still a lot you can do with a small amount of information:

  1. You can mark the conditions generically as VFR, MVFR, IFR, or LIFR.
  2. You can warn pilots to keep an eye open for icing (freezing precip or low ceiling in low temps), wind shear (big difference between winds aloft and surface winds), strong winds, unforecast fog (small temp/dewpoint spread), unforecast convective activity (high dewpoint), etc.
  3. You can warn passengers to check for weather-related delays based on some of the above, combined with how busy the airport is.
  4. You can tell passengers whether there might be a bumpy ride on approach or climb-out
  5. You can check the available runways to see if there will be strong crosswinds.
  6. In a fancy implementation, you could look at the surrounding DEM and suggest whether the ceiling might be low enough to hide surrounding hills (etc.), even if conditions are otherwise VFR.

Is this a good idea?

Does this sound interesting to you as a private pilot, commercial pilot, or airline passenger? It wouldn’t be meant to replace real pilot weather briefings, but rather to give you a single-glance overview on your computer or smartphone screen before you start the real prep. For passengers, it would give them an idea of when to expect problems at airports, before the delays start showing up on the big screens.

Clippy

I was even thinking of creating two personalities, an Airport Old-Timer in a rocking chair on the FBO porch (pilot advice) and the Frequently Flyer in a business suit (passenger advice), but that feels a bit too much like resurrecting Clippy.

How else might I take OurAirports past a data repository to something genuinely useful to pilots and airline passengers? Advice is welcome, even from talking paperclips.

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About David Megginson

Scholar, tech guy, Canuck, open-source/data/information zealot, urban pedestrian, language geek, tea drinker, pater familias, red tory, amateur musician, private pilot.
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9 Responses to Pilot advice on OurAirports?

  1. Paul Tomblin says:

    Could you overlay weather info? Satellite, prog charts, or even something like the Canadian GFA? How about rudimentary flight planning?

  2. dpawson says:

    Yes… useful, but put on your litigious hat David? “That guy said X and it wasn’t true / …, I’m sueing him for all he’s worth” Guess you’d have to caveat it to death?

  3. Blake Crosby says:

    Why not ask the question of your users? Perhaps put up a survey, or send an e-mail asking for what they want to see in the next version.

    • ptomblin says:

      If you ask the users, there will need to be features for the most prolific commenters:
      – the “when the hell” guy
      – the pet scam victims in Douala
      – the Philippines immigration people.

  4. Pat says:

    The responsive design would be great and could benefit all users of openairplane.

    As for the weather/flight planning I think that sounds like self imposed feature creep. There are already so many great tools out there on the internet/devices. First make OA the best platform for renting and airplane out there. Add the candy and shiny things later.

    Keep up the great work btw! I am looking forward to getting checked out sometime soon.

    • Blake Crosby says:

      I agree with Pat. I don’t really think users of OA would even benefit from such a service (weather, etc..)

      Personally, I use OA to keep track of which airports I’ve been to and to leave comments about airports. That’s it. Sure, I may not be the “typical” OA user, but I would argue that is what the majority of users of the site do.

  5. Thank you all for your feedback.

    Dave: Yes, I did think of the “I might get sued” problem, but it’s there already — someone could claim that a loved one typed some (incorrect, user-contributed) coordinates into a GPS and then flew into a mountain. Agreed about disclaimers.

    Paul: There are a lot of good flight planning sites out there already. I’m not ruling it out completely, but I think OurAirports could play a better role as an honest open-data broker for all of them.

    Blake: right now, the member airport map accounts for only 0.17% of page views. The people who use the feature love it, but it’s not a significant part of the site’s traffic. These are the most-common destinations:

    1. Airport airline arrivals and departures: 45%
    2. Airport map (and most-recent comments): 13%
    3. Airport pilot info (weather, NOTAMs, frequencies, etc.): 9%
    4. List of airports in a state or province: 7%
    5. Local search results: 4%
    6. Other airports close to an airport: 4%
    7. Home page: 3%

    After that, it breaks into a very long tail. The fact that arrivals and departures account for so much makes me nervous, because it’s not original value added by OurAirports; it’s just a couple of iFrames embedded (as allowed) from FlightStats, and a third-party service can disappear at any time (as many Twitter client apps discovered).

    Because of that vulnerability, I’d like to refocus OurAirports on the areas where it really can add original value — my posting was wondering out loud if interpretive weather info could be one of those areas (with 68,000 pageviews a month already for the ugly, messy pilot-info page, there’s clearly some demand)

  6. John says:

    Hi, Looks like I’m late to this discussion having just discovered OurAirports. I’m a volunteer on the free open-source Avare moving map Android app. My daughter & family live in Edmonton, and I’ve been trying to get *any* sort of Canadian maps & airport data to use in Avare. Zubair, the developer of Avare, is about to alpha test Canadian topo charts for Avare and we may also use OurAirports data. If you’d like to help, or get in contact with us, please use the link in the Google Play Store for the Avare app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ds.avare

  7. Jack says:

    It would be gould if you could fix the search, for UK postcodes and addresses it’s been bringing up no results for nearly a week now.

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