A few years ago while hosting one of my #Oshbash social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, a couple of guys introduced themselves and gave me a handful of key FOBs that had the name of their aviation weather app on them…NavMonster. As there are seemingly thousands of weather apps out there (and I have tried many of them), I did not get too excited—seen one, seen them all, or so I thought.
That was, until later that night when I downloaded their app to my iPhone and gave it a test drive. When you first open the NavMonster app, you have only three choices to move forward (1) Specify Airport or Route, (2) Recently Selected Flights, and (3) Briefing at your GPS location. There are no settings, and nothing else on the first screen to distract you from your mission to simply get a very fast weather briefing. I chose to pick up the weather at my GPS location, as it is always a good idea to know what the sky is doing while in Oshkosh in late July each summer.
Before I could barely get my finger off the home screen button asking for the data, the next screen offered up everything a pilot needs to quickly get an accurate look at metars, tafs, Aviation Forecast Discussions, Winds Aloft, pireps, the Area Forecast, TFRs, Airport Delays, Prog charts, and radar imagery. It was all there in easy-to-read screens, all populated literally in less than three seconds. To say the app was fast would be a gross understatement.
I was sold. NavMonster was the real deal, a stripped-down, slick way to glimpse the weather in seconds. Since I first tested it, software developer pilot and NavMonster founder Marc Alexander and his team have continuously added features to the app, but only when they could perform various functions without slowing down the app’s speed, which is its signature attribute.
“NavMonster was started in 2005 as a simple tool to retrieve metars surrounding a residential airport community in Austin, Texas, that had no on-field weather,” Alexander said. “Tafs were added next, then pireps, and, one by one, the dataset grew to the full suite you see today. About a year later routes were added, allowing the app to return all this data across a great circle path, and that’s when the website went public. A few years later, it was clear that pilots were performing their “what if” planning enroute to the airport and not just at their desks. And that’s when we got busy on native iOS and Android apps.”
The way this free app displays the search results are a thing of beauty. It is very well thought out, and as an example, all metars along your route are decoded and presented in a nice clean table. All data is presented like this, quick to blow through, easy to understand, with some nice extras, like the list of airports along the route with clickable links to each field delivering info from the Airport/Facility Directory. Astonishingly, this much information is available to GA pilots at zero cost to download, with no subscription required.
As the app has matured, the feature set has grown as well. “We upgraded the Winds Aloft section to interpolate winds along your route,” Alexander said. “Instead of giving you winds ‘near’ the route, we now show winds “on” your route, complete with headwind colored in green and tailwinds cooled in red. It takes just a quick glance to select the best altitude for a long trip.”
Since NavMonster was developed by pilots for pilots, it goes without saying that finding that perfect $100 hamburger is always a consideration. A new feature soon to roll out on the app makes finding it much easier. “Finding food within walking distance of any airport is time-consuming and challenging, finding it along a route is even harder,” Alexander explained. “NavMonster is about to change that with our ‘0 AGL’ feature, listing FBOs, restaurants, lodging, and car rental business (sorted by their distance from the airport), along your route. The feature is helpful for selecting a rest stop on a long cross-country or finding a restaurant on a local flight. This feature is available on the website today for Texas airports, we’re about to open this up to all 50 states shortly, followed in January 2020 on the mobile apps.”
NavMonster’s website, iOS app, and Android app are all free. “We want every aviator to see NavMonster’s value for themselves, so we chose small and non-intrusive ads instead of subscription fee to remove any barrier from pilots giving it a try.”
If you want the fastest way imaginable to quickly check aviation weather any time in seconds, download NavMonster and you’ll increase your “big picture” knowledge of what you can expect on your next flight. Even if you are just going out to the kiddo’s soccer game, a few quick taps on your phone in this amazing app will give you everything you need to know to be prepared with sunblock or an umbrella.