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Remain weather-aware in the backcountry

As a backcountry pilot and CubCrafters Authorized Dealer, I often get the question of ‘why do you have a glass panel in a Cub, instead of a traditional six pack?’ My answer is that situational awareness is a huge factor in keeping me safe.  The avionics industry has done a magnificent job in providing us with the ability to see where we are, how we are flying, how our engine is running, how much fuel we have, and more that you could not get with steam gauges.

In my opinion, the biggest improvement that a glass panel brings is the graphic depiction of the weather, which, is a leading cause of airplane accidents.  No longer do I have to decipher long lists of hard to remember weather abbreviations, or even try to take a ‘plain text’ weather briefing and form some kind of mental picture of the air I’ll be flying through.  Now, I can see my airplane and the weather around it on my screen. How amazing is that?  I think we have already started to take that for granted.

During my trip last summer into the Idaho backcountry it became clear that SiriusXM Weather was the best way for me to stay informed about the weather in the air and on the ground.  My normal flight planning includes a sound understanding of what the weather is and will be doing. At some of the lodges and strips that we were visiting, there was no WiFi, no cell coverage, and certainly no ADS-B coverage on the ground.

SiriusXM became an essential tool for me to plan my flight and to be aware of the weather and airspace above me, as well as at my destination.  In just a few minutes on the ground, I was able to receive all the weather data from the SiriusXM satellites.

Before launching out of the deep canyons, I needed to know the what the cloud cover, precipitation, winds aloft and METARs and TAFs looked like in the immediate vicinity and at my destination.  The pictorial depiction and features that SiriusXM Weather provided made this simple. The current METARs and TAFs at my fuel stops and ultimate destination outside of the wilderness area were easy to read and interpret.

Even more important in the rugged wilderness, was to know what the winds aloft were doing locally and far away. It’s a rule of thumb that you don’t take off if the winds right above the mountain ridges are 20 to25 knots or more. The SiriusXM winds aloft feature provides that information and is simple to use.

And finally, and most importantly, we found ourselves last summer in a devastating wildfire situation in Idaho. Every day the fires were shifting and growing, and the resulting TFRs were popping up all over!   The TFR feature on SiriusXM Weather was indispensable and prevented us from popping up from the canyon and right into a fire TFR! 

The knowledge and situational awareness that SiriusXM Weather provided for each of my flights last summer, made me realize that weather is another key element in answering the question ‘why do I need a glass panel in my plane’!  I would never consider flying without SiriusXM Weather in the future.

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