Sweet Sixteen and Firefox

9:05 PM

I'm sort of a weather geek, and had I chosen to be a TV new weather guy, you can bet I'd use aviation weather sources on the Internet to pinpoint my accuracy. You KNOW that if the talking weather heads would just take a quick gander at a METAR once in a while, they wouldn't earn their nickname around my house as the weather "guessers".

As a pilot, I have spent many nights scouring the web for the best aviation wx sources I could locate. I have bookmarks on top of bookmarks, tabbed collections and archived spreadsheets full of URLs. But whilst you think Dano is just looking at all the pretty pictures, oh, no, there is plenty of yummy meat on these pages to keep any pilot happy:

While I will never come out and tell any pilot how to obtain a flight briefing, I will say this: Unless you are very, very good at online weather interpretation, get a phone briefing. But if you can acquire all that you need to know to make a safe flight, and you are going over a familiar route, and if you know that you are doing, then you can try crafting your own briefing, if you so dare. But please, please don't come crying to me when you bust a TFR and get grounded...if you don't know exactly where to look for current FAA TFRs, and if you don't know your FD from your FA, better call the briefer.
I currently fly these days with my own briefings on VFR trips when the wx is obvious, and on longer flights, I utilize a phone briefing. When it is clear and a million between Eugene and Fresno, I can determine winds aloft, destination wx at ETA and search the TFRs myself. But as I begin to fly in, over and through IMC, I had better know exactly where to find the freezing levels...or I might die. Bet the farm that if there are clouds and mountains involved, I'm going to be on the phone before Katy's Lycoming gets fired up.

Recently, I added one of Firefox's famous "add-ons" to my favorite browser, a sexy little thing called Tab Catalog. What it does is something I've been searching for:
When you group a number of bookmarks into one folder that resides on your irefox toolbar, you can open those URLs in new individual tabs with a small "open all in tabs" link at the bottom of that list. As the pages start loading, you can hit the pre-determined "hot key" (mine is Escape) in Tab Catalog to bring up one screen with all those pages loading in perfect little browser windows. Click any one of them and you get back to the full window for that site. Too. Cool.
So with a couple of clicks, I can bring up my 16 critical weather sites as a good briefing. As some slower ones load, I can go look at the text weather sites...surfing through them all quickly and efficiently. Here are my favorite 16 sites:
KEUG WX via Weather Underground
California, Oregon and Washington METARS
Pacific Northwest NEXRAD via DUATS graphics
Freezing Levels via Weather Underground, ADDS and AWC CIP
Forecast winds aloft via NWS
Graphical AIRMETS via NWS/AWC
GOES Infrared Satellite via NOAA
Oregon Forecast Discussion via NWS
Current TFR search via FAA
Current and Forecast Jet Steam via Weatherbank
KHIO weather via Weather Underground
San Francisco Area Forecast via NWS/AWC
So if you are bored with having one dull page loading at a time, and if you use Firefox, try Tab Catalog on for size. And as with everything Firefox, if you don't like it, the uninstall is quick and painless.

And before you think any of this is a replacement for a real briefing:

1-800-WX-BRIEF is also 1-800-992-7433 for the telephone keypad impaired. And if you have a really cool aviation weather web site, click the yellow feedback button at right to let me and my readers know about it!

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