The modern era of GPS and the iPad has opened up a new world of technology options for pilots in the cockpit. The development of GPS allows pilots to know with absolute certainty their positions on earth at any given moment. And the advent of services like XM Weather and ForeFlight Stratus open up a whole host of new options for seeing the weather in real time.
But, of course, the addition of weather in the cockpit introduces a new host of challenges to the pilot. A pilot might not take a flight without weather on board, but would be more inclined to do so if they have access to weather information. But, to take advantage of these products, pilots must have a solid understanding of both the weather and the limitations of their on board weather products.
For example, both Stratus and XM offer radar data, but it’s often delayed by five to fifteen minutes. Pilots utilizing Stratus don’t have access to cloud heights, satellite coverage, or lightning. Fast-moving storms or quickly developing build ups that are delayed up to fifteen minutes can definitely put a pilot at risk if they aren’t paying attention to the conditions around them or the weather briefing they received (you did get a weather briefing, didn’t you?)
Still, the access to weather data in the cockpit and the availability of GPS navigation should encourage pilots to complete flights they might otherwise have scrubbed before. It’s not blanket permission to take risks, fly flights outside their capabilities, or fly into adverse conditions like convective SIGMETs or severe storms/icing. But pilots should embrace the new technologies available to them, use them to stay safe, and complete more flights as a result.