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).
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:
- You can mark the conditions generically as VFR, MVFR, IFR, or LIFR.
- 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.
- You can warn passengers to check for weather-related delays based on some of the above, combined with how busy the airport is.
- You can tell passengers whether there might be a bumpy ride on approach or climb-out
- You can check the available runways to see if there will be strong crosswinds.
- 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.
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.