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Frequently asked questions

Some answers to your questions about our new, enhanced service:

1. I already use General Aviation briefing services, what will I need to do?

You will need to re-register - there is a link in the old GA product or you can register online. You will need to register as a new user.

2. Why have you changed the product?

The product was refreshed and launched in June 2015 in line with our technology strategy, to enable wider access to the product. Since then, we have listened to customer feedback and released some more features and additional content in October 2015. This latest release includes more content and functionality primarily around being able to search for TAFs and METARs globally, improvements in the print functionality, clearer menus and navigation, and enabling the map to work on mobile phones.

3. How will I be able to register for the new service?

You need to go to our General Aviation Services and create an account to gain access to the free service. You will need to register a user name and password.

4. How do I upgrade?

When you are using the GA product, you can upgrade to premium and pay online with your credit card. Your subscription is for one year and we will remind you to renew one month before your subscription expires.

5. How much does it cost to upgrade and what will I get for my money?

We are holding the price for the premium product, so it costs £57.60 inc. VAT per year to upgrade your subscription. The premium product contains additional content. Read more here Why upgrade to Premium?

6. How can I see the regional bulletin lists of TAFs and METARs like in the old product, and also be able to print them out?

All of the TAFs and METARs can now be accessed from the top menu on the home page. From here you can select to see preset regional lists, or to create your own list of favourites. In order to print your list, please use the printing functionality in your browser. We have optimised the print settings to ensure that the lists print out as economically as possible, and that the preset METAR lists will print on a single side of A4 paper.

If you wish to search for your own locations you need to know the ICAO codes. In the global search box enter the ICAOs for the locations you are interested in separated by a space or a comma. Unfortunately we are unable to guarantee that our database will be able to provide data for every location in the world.

7. Can I use the General Aviation briefing services when I'm flying abroad? I go to international aviation events and want to be able to set my altimeter for whichever country I am in eg. USA?

The General Aviation mobile website is primarily designed to support UK Aviators flying from the UK. It allows access to some European weather data and should be used in conjunction with the services provided the local regulated provider. We have now added in access to global TAFs and METARs in the TAFs and METARs menu.

8. How do I set my own map view?

Within the map layer picker there is an option to save up to 10 of your favourite map views. This means that you can save the map view you use most frequently instead of a full map. This functionality does not enable you to save a map view with open layers on it.

9. How do I see balloon locations on a map?

This release now clearly defines balloon and aerodrome content, which you will see in the top menu selector on the home page. Select "Balloon locations" to search for site specific ballooning forecast information, or to view the regional ballooning charts. In the "Settings" then "Preferences" menu we have given you the option make the balloon locations page your preferred landing page when logging into the GA website. Please note this does not stop you from accessing the Aerodromes pages.

10. Where are the mesoscale products in the new GA website?

These products are in the premium version of the product only. We have changed the map layer selector to enable map functionality on a mobile phone. We have also attempted to make the selecting of map layers easier and more intuitive than before. To find the forecast (mesoscale) map layers: open the map layer selector, and select "FORECAST PRECIPITATION" or FORECAST VISIBILITY & CLOUD" and then make your choice. The original "mesoscale" layer from the old GA site is called "Cloud fog and precipitation" and is in the Forecast precipitation category.

11. What is the yellow envelope at the top of the product?

This is for notifications which you should read. We use this functionality to issue notices about changes to the product you ought to know about, or when we are investigating a problem for example. The envelope goes white after you have read the notices.

12. Why have you changed the appearance of the wind arrows and fletches?

Customers had fed back that they found them to be cluttered and when shown with temperature in particular, difficult to read. We have decluttered them and coloured them in order to more clearly differentiate the wind speeds.

Wind fletches are colour coded according to their speed (see the key on the map for further information). Wind arrows are also colour coded - they are black when the wind speed is below 15kt and red when they are more than 15kt. You may notice occasions where there are both black and red arrows showing 15kt. This is due to the rounding of data and will show whether the wind speed is slightly higher or lower than 15kt.

13. Why has the map layer picker changed?

It was necessary to make significant changes to the map to enable it to be used on mobile devices, and we took the opportunity to re-order the map layers to make them more intuitive and to make it easier to find the information you require.

14. Why is the password requirement so specific?

Our web delivery platform, which serves not just public content but also commercial services, aims to provide the key security principles of:

  • Confidentiality - the ability to hide information from those people unauthorised to see it.
  • Integrity - the ability to ensure the data is an accurate and unchanged representation of the original secure information.
  • Availability - the ability to ensure the information concerned is readily available to the authorised user.

Having a strong password policy is one of many mechanisms by which the Met Office provides the above principles and enables us to protect not only the users of our services but also the services themselves.

15. Why are the colour states in military METARs different to those that are shown in the GA product?

Military METAR reports also display a colour state - BLU, WHT, GRN, YLO1, YLO2, AMB or RED according to cloud base and visibility. These thresholds are different to the colours used to display the observations in the GA product. BLACK indicates the runway is unusable.

A summary of the differences is shown in the table below:



Aerodrome Colour State



Surface visibility

Base of lowest cloud layer of 3/8 (or SCT) or more in heights above ground level

Surface visibility

Base of lowest cloud layer of 5/8 (or BKN) or more in heights above ground level
Blue (BLU) 8 KM 2500 FT 10 KM 1500 FT
White (WHT) 5000 M 1500 FT 5000 M 1200 FT
Green (GRN) 3700 M 700 FT 4000 M 600 FT
Yellow 1 (YLO1) 2500 M 500 FT    
Yellow 2 (YLO2) 1600 M 300 FT    
Amber (AMB) 800 M 200 FT 500 M 200 FT
Red (RED)

Less than 800 M

Below 200 FT or Sky obscured

Less than 500 M

Below 200 FT or Sky obscured

16. Please can you summarise how the wind gust values, in the ballooning forecast, are derived.

The wind gust values used in the ballooning forecast value, are calculated from a high resolution model and should give a good guide to gusts in the type of light wind conditions that balloonists are interested in.  However there are a few things to be aware of:

  • When the mean wind speed is >15kt the gust speeds shown tend to be higher than is realistic.  Please note that where you see gust speeds elsewhere on Met Office products they calculate gust speeds in a different way, which gives more accurate values at higher mean wind speeds.
  • The high resolution model used to calculate the gust speeds is able to forecast heavy showers/thunderstorms and downdraughts.  This means that from time to time there may be a unusually strong gust shown for a forecast site near to one of these forecast showers/thunderstorms when in general the forecast winds are light.  Please be aware that showers/thunderstorms may not always form in the exact location shown in the forecast, and the potential for these strong gusts will move with it.

17. When does the model data update on the GA website?

  • For the forecast "wind and temperature" type layers (in 3 hourly timsteps) it is supplied by a model that runs at 6 hourly intervals.  This means that the forecast data shown on GA will update at approx 04:00UTC, 09:30UTC 16:00UTC, and 21:30UTC.
  • For the other forecast map layers (e.g. forecast precipitation rate/type, visibility, and the cloud layers) the first 5 or 6 hours of the forecast is updated every hour.  For the timesteps that follow this the model data is updated every 3 hours, and will update at approx 02:30UTC, 05:30UTC, 08:30UTC, 11:30UTC. 14:30UTC, 17:30UTC. 20:30UTC, 23:30UTC.

18. How do I decode a synoptic chart?

Please see the information contained on How to read synoptic weather charts to help you.  

19. Why have you removed the 3-day planner from the new premium product?

The decision to remove this from the new product was based on usage analytics. This was a forecaster created product and based on usage, it was not cost effective to maintain. We hope that by extending the time steps of some of the layers you will still be able to access the information this product provided.

20. What are the wind/temperature profile validity and issue times? (Applies to ballooning only)

The graphics are valid for 0600 and 1800 UTC between 15 March and 15 October and for 0900 and 1500 between 16 October and 14 March.

Both will be updated around 0230, 0830, 1430 and 2030 UTC.

21. What are the text forecast validity and issue times? (Applies to ballooning only)

(All times UTC).

Text forecast validity and issue times

(Summer) 15 March until 15 October

Forecast Issue time Periood of validity Outlook
Morning 2030 previous day 0500-1000 3 hour period to dusk
Morning 0230 0500-1000 3 hour period to dusk
Afternoon/Evening 0830 1600-2100 Dawn to 3 hours after dawn next day
Afternoon/Evening 1430 1600-2100 Dawn to 3 hours after dawn next day

(Winter) 16 October until 14 March

Forecast Issue time Period of validity Outlook
Morning 2030 previous day 0500-1000 3 hour period to dusk
Morning 0230 0600-1100 Midday to dusk
Afternoon/Evening 0830 1200-1700 Dawn to midday next day

22. When are the map layers and model data updated?

Map layer and model data layers
Map Layer Group Map Layer Name Spatial Coverage Timestep Periods & Intervals Model update times Time that the updated data becomes available on the website Resolution of the model used
Forecast wind and temp

Wind Fletches Surface

Global To T+36 hours at 3hr intervals, then 6hr intervals to T+120 hours 0000, 0600, 1200 & 1800 UTC approx 4.5 hrs after each model run i.e at: 0430, 1030, 1630 & 2230 UTC 17km x 17km
Wind Fletches FL020
Wind Fletches FL050
Wind Fletches FL100
Wind Arrows Surface
Wind Arrows FL020
Wind Arrows FL050
Wind Arrows FL100
Wind and Temp FL020
Wind and Temp FL050
Wind and Temp FL100
Temperature FL020
Temperature FL050
Temperature FL100
Forecast Precipitation Precipitation Rate and Pressure UK To T+36 hours at 1hr intervals Data in the first 6 hours updates hourly. The rest of the data is updated at 0300, 0900, 1500 & 2100 UTC The first 6 hours in the timeline will update at approx 27 minutes past the hour. The rest of the data will update approximately 3.5 hours after the model run 2km x 2km
Precipitation Type and Pressure
Cloud, fog and precipitation 0300, 0900, 1500 & 2100 UTC approx 3.5 hours after each model run
Forecast Visibility and Cloud Pressure and Total Cloud Data in the first 6 hours updates hourly. The rest of the data is updated at 0300, 0900, 1500 & 2100 UTC The first 6 hours in the timeline will update at approx 27 minutes past the hour.  The rest of the data will update approximately 3.5 hours after the model run
Cloud below 1000ft 0300, 0900, 1500, & 2100 UTC approx 3.5 hours after each model run
Cloud ground to 5000ft
Cloud 5000-15000ft
Visibility and pressure
Cloud fog and precipitation
Euro forecast Precipitation Rate and Pressure Euro approx 4.5 hrs after each model run
Precipitation Type and Pressure
Visibility and Pressure
Total Cloud and Pressure

Please note:

The data shown on the map will auto-refresh every 5 minutes from the time you load the map. On each auto-refresh GA will check whether new model data has come in, and if appropriate it will update the map layers with the new data.

Also, the time at which model data comes in day to day can vary slightly.  


23. Supported browsers

Please note:

When using the map feature on a mobile phone, this will work best in portrait mode.

On iOs devices, GA will work best when private browsing mode is NOT used.

Supported Browsers

Operating System Browser Internet Connection Screen Size
Windows 7, 8, 10 Latest version of: Internet Explorer 11, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 1 Mbps +  
Mac OS X 10.10, 10.11 Latest version of: Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 1 Mbps +  
iOS 8, 9 Latest version of: Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 1 Mbps + 4.0 inch +
Android Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow Latest version of: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 1 Mbps + 4.0 inch +

Note: Although other operating systems and browsers may run the application, they are not supported.

Please note: More FAQs will be added to this page on a regular basis. 

Last updated: Feb 9, 2017 8:25 AM