I've been spending quite a bit of time in Wichita lately, doing Enhanced Vision System testing. We need very specific combinations of ceiling, visibility and type of weather, so we end up doing a lot of running around the country looking for weather. At the start of the program, that was a very hit or miss process, as it was pretty much impossible to keep your eye on the way the weather was evolving once you walked out to the aircraft. We would launch off to one of the coasts based on forecast and actual weather, and invariably the weather we wanted was somewhere unexpected by the time we got there. Very frustrating.

Bombardier installed a WX Worx XM satellite weather system prior to this last test phase. This is the first time I have seen such a real-time weather data link system in action, and I am very, very impressed. We were looking for heavy snow last Friday. Sure enough, a band of heavy snow went through Wichita. But it took so long to get de-iced that the visibility had improved before we could get airborne. The WX Worx display was showing the band of heavy precip on radar, and the 5 minute loop showed it moving towards Topeka. We landed at Kansas City, waited an hour, then took off for Topeka. We got there before the snow did, so we set up in a holding pattern at 5,000 ft at the Final Approach Fix, which was about 5 miles from the runway. We could watch the heavy precip on the radar updates, and sure enough, the snow arrived at the FAF, but there was enough resolution on the display to show that it hadn't arrived at the airport yet, which was only 5 miles away. We watched the snow crawling towards the airport on every 5 minute update. Finally the tower reported that the snow had arrived, just when the WX Worx showed it hitting the airport. Great system!

I will eventually purchase a real time weather system, and right now the XM stuff is the front runner.