Nate Johnson on Weather and Smartphones

Nate is the impressive weather producer for WRAL TV in Raleigh. His blog posting here. Nate talks about pilots, weather, and smartphones. I’d like to relay an experience of my own from just last week.

There were thunderstorms occurring around Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport and I noted the captain looking at his smartphone at the gate. I asked which program he was using for radar. I knew it was one that had a built-in delay of 5 to 7 minutes which could be critical in a thunderstorm situation. I also gave him some additional apps that might be helpful. While I’m not fully comfortable with flight crews using smartphones for radar, if they are going to use it, the radar should be as timely and detailed as possible. 

As we taxied out, I could see cloud-to-ground lightning striking the ground. It was one of the few times I have been nervous before a take-off. We got into position at the end of the runway, paused a few minutes (yes, minutes)… and pulled off the runway. It was an hour and forty minutes before we took off, which was exactly the right thing to do.

To what extent my suggestions might have assisted, I don’t know. But, I thanked the crew for a great job when we landed in Houston and they seemed appreciative.

One thought on “Nate Johnson on Weather and Smartphones

  1. Mike,

    Thanks for the kind words and the link. The more I think about it, the pilot/iPhone example, as "curious" as it is from an FAA/ATC standpoint, is the exception that proves the rule. If there's anyone outside of meteorology proper qualified to interpret radar imagery, commercial airline pilots — many of whom fly planes with radar systems built into the nosecones — would be. The issue is that the ad suggests that anyone with an iPhone would be able to pull some weather data and re-route air traffic (or otherwise predict potentially dangerous weather patterns), and that is simply not the case.

    @nsj