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Do not be intimidated by the name of the weather source, especially if your primary flight activity is airplanes and not rotorcraft. The National Weather Service’s Aviation Weather Center (AWC) developed the HEMS Tool (HEMS stands to Helicopter Emergency Med Services). It “is a display which aggregates a variety of weather products into one, quick-glance automated graphic,” the NWS stated in a March 31 announcement about the enhanced HEMS Tool.

This tool is meant to complement traditional weather briefings and not replace them. The HEMS Tool’s “quick glance” presentation is possible because it overlays ceiling, visibility, wind, relative humidity, temperature, weather forecasts, navaids and airports.
The NWS recognized that HEMS Tool had a wider user base than it name implies. This includes firefighting, crop-dusting and drone operations.

As we reported when introducing the long-established HEMS Tool to many GA pilots in 2018, the tool, in its role as a source of supplemental information, can provide just that extra bit of information a pilot needs when trying to make the best possible go/no-go decision–particularly useful for low-altitude operations.

Rune Duke, AOPA senior vice president of aviation security, airspace, traffic and aviation security, said that “The AWC’s Graphical Forecasts for Aviation” is a fantastic interactive weather tool that general aviation pilots are familiar with. We have been working with the AWC, and other groups, to get feedback on the HEMS Tool in order to increase its utility and appeal. We are grateful to the FAA and AWC for their efforts in this area. We look forward hearing from pilots about these new improvements.

According to AOPA’s 2018 Weather Survey, 28 percent of respondents knew about the HEMS Tool. Initial results of AOPA’s 2020 Weather Survey indicated that awareness had increased by 12 percent.

“We will continue to communicate the benefits of this weather tool with general aviation. Duke stated that it was important to emphasize its ability to provide information at low altitudes between airports, where it can be hard to decipher.


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