Flybubble Weather: Fly more, with less!

We’re delighted to offer you Flybubble Weather, the innovative online freeflight forecasting tool developed by Caedmon Mullin and the Flybubble Crew. It’s designed to get you more airtime by making the flying decision simple.

You wanted more airtime – here it is! Flybubble Weather is a free soaring forecasting tool that simplifies your planning for a great day up in the sky. Pick the right day to go paragliding or hang-gliding. Get to the right site. Find more flying.

Currently supporting only the UK and Ireland.

Fly more, with less!

Flybubble Weather has been created to help freeflight pilots fly more, with less.

Less complication. Less time. Less waste. Less frustration. Less friction with family, friends and work. Fewer wasted journeys and unfruitful visits to sensitive flying sites. Less pollution. Less wear and tear on your vehicle – and your sanity!

Save time, money and nerves whilst also benefitting the environment – and the freeflight community!

How it works, for you

The unique aspect of our system is that it knows the range of “flyable” conditions at each flying site.

The criteria can be updated, so the forecasts will improve over time to provide a reliable match between the forecast model and what really happens on the sites.

While we do our best to make sure the forecasts are as accurate as possible you should always assess the conditions when you arrive at launch and decide for yourself if it’s safe for you to fly.

Designed for all freefliers

Flybubble Weather has been designed for paragliders, paramotors, mini wings, speed wings and hang gliders.

To allow for the different average flyable wind speeds for each wing type, you can set your wing type.

NB: Pilots must only ever fly sites they have permission for. For example, due to their engine noise, powered aircraft like paramotors are not usually allowed to fly from the same sites as unpowered aircraft. Doing so will likely endanger the site!

Limitations

The website only shows flying sites that are open to both hang glider and paraglider pilots. Some restricted, hang gliding only flying sites are not listed, so you’ll have to make your own judgement about them. Checking nearby flying sites that are flyable in similar conditions can help.

NB: The inclusion of a site on our website in no way gives you permission to fly it, for site info find the local club.

Getting started

Visit flybubble.com/weather to get started.

Happy flying!

Tip: To make a shortcut for your mobile phone, tap on Menu (top right) and tap Add to Home Screen. For your PC, try Bookmarks (Add New) or Settings (Startup: Open Current Page) or keyboard shortcut Ctrl+D.

Instructions

Flybubble Weather has been designed to be as user friendly and intuitive as possible. To help everyone get the most out of it we’ve provided detailed instructions below.

Overview page

As the name suggests, this gives an overview of the flying sites and soaring forecast for the displayed area. For example:

Overview screen | Flybubble Weather free flying soaring forecast

NB: The inclusion of a site on our website in no way gives you permission to fly it, for site info find the local club.

For your convenience, the website uses one of either your device location or the last flying site you visited on the site to centre the map, if your web browser allows it.

This page can also be used to quickly and easily find flying sites, and access the flying site pages.

Find flying sites

You can find flying sites in two ways:

  • Search
  • Flying site pins

Search

Flybubble Weather search box

Start typing the flying site name in the search box. Suggestions will appear below as-you-type.

Select the flying site you want from the dropdown.

Tip: If you enter a site name in the search box and it doesn’t appear in the dropdown then either the spelling we have differs (we use the club site name) or it’s not in our database. Try different spellings or finding its pin on the map.

Flying site pins

Flybubble Weather map flying site pins

Pan and zoom the map to find the pin for the flying site you want. Click on its pin.

Either of these will take you to the flying site page.

NB: If you think a flying site is missing that should be included, see the ‘Feedback, requests & bug reports‘ section below.

Set your wing type

Use the Wing Type toggle (hang glider and paraglider icon buttons beside the search box) to set to your preference (light blue), to reduce the chances of a wasted trip (blown out or too light).

Wing Type toggle | Flybubble Weather free flying soaring forecast

Select the paraglider symbol for paragliding on full size paragliders or flying larger mini wings.

Select the hang glider symbol for hang gliding or flying smaller paragliding mini wings or speed wings to increase the flyable wind ranges (14-33 kph RASP).

Set the day and time

By setting the day and time (top dropdown boxes) you can quickly jump around to check up to 5 days ahead.

Setting the day and time - Flybubble Weather free flying soaring forecast

Tip: You can also advance the time by an hour by clicking on the map (avoiding the site pins). This works both on a non-touchscreen PC and a touchscreen device, such as a smartphone or tablet. On a PC you can advance or retreat the time using the left and right arrow keys. 

Set the wind speed units

Set your preferred wind speed units:

Flybubble Weather set wind units kph knts mph

  • kph = kilometres per hour
  • knts = knots
  • mph = miles per hour

Map: flying sites (pins)

The map shows the flying site pins overlaid on Google Maps. For example:

Flybubble Weather map flying site pins 2

The flying site pin colour indicates whether it’s expected to be flyable (or not):

  • Green means it’s expected to be flyable.
  • Orange indicates marginal flying conditions.
  • Red means it’s not expected to be flyable.

Marginal flying conditions could be due to top-end wind strength—at 10 m AGL or aloft—or very low cloudbase, for example. For more detail see the section ‘Low cloudbase or strong winds aloft?‘ below.

Zoom

Zoom the map in and out using the plus and minus buttons, bottom right:

Tip: You can also zoom using your mouse wheel (hold the Ctrl key and scroll the mouse wheel up and down to zoom in and out) on a PC, or your fingers on a touchscreen device such as a smartphone or tablet.

Pan

On a PC, you can pan the map around either by left mouse button click and hold anywhere on the map and drag, or right click anywhere on the map and then use the arrow keys.

On a touchscreen device such as a smartphone or tablet, use your fingers and follow the on-screen instructions.

Toggle full screen view

Toggle the map full screen view using the hatched square icon, top right:

Flybubble Weather map toggle full screen view

Map overlays

The map can be shown with one of two overlays: the default is ‘Wind at 10m’; the other is ‘Stars (thermals)’.

Map overlay: Wind at 10m

By default the map shows the ‘Wind at 10m’ overlay. For example:

Wind at 10m map | Flybubble Weather free flying soaring forecast

The lines and arrows indicate the forecast general air flow and wind direction at 10 metres (30 feet) above ground level (AGL).

There is also a coloured key to indicate the wind strength, bottom left.

Wind strength colour scale

The colours indicate the forecast wind strength:

  • Lighter blue to darker green usually means good for soaring on paragliders.
  • Darker blue is very light–probably too light–for soaring.
  • Light green is top end (breezy) for paragliders.

Anything above that (yellow, red, dark red) means blown out for paragliding.

Map overlay: Stars (thermals)

Clicking the ‘Stars (thermals)’ button changes the map to the forecast thermal strength overlay. For example:

Stars (thermals) map | Flybubble Weather free flying soaring forecast

This is based on the thermal probability and modified by the foot launched preference for lighter winds. It gives you a quick overview of the expected thermal strength in different areas.

Thermal strength colour scale

Dark blue (lack of colour) indicates no or negligible thermal activity forecast.

If any thermal activity is expected then there’s a 5 scale to indicate their forecast intensity:

  1. Light blue, very gentle thermals.
  2. Green, gentle thermals.
  3. Yellow, moderate thermals.
  4. Orange, moderate to strong thermals.
  5. Red, strong thermals.
Thermal strength: what’s good for me?

Stronger thermals are good for getting high and going XC but also indicate stronger turbulence.

So, whilst a hotshot XC hound, focused on flying big distance, might want to see orange or red, a pilot wanting more predictable, smoother, safer flying conditions might prefer to see yellow, green or blue.

Airspace and NOTAMs buttons

It’s also possible to display airspace or/and NOTAMs on the map and download the current airspace/NOTAM selection, ready to add to your flight instrument. For more info on this see the ‘Airspace & NOTAMs‘ section below.

Flying site pages

The individual flying site pages give more detail for each site. For example:

Site detail page | Flybubble Weather free flying soaring forecast

NB: The inclusion of a site on our website in no way gives you permission to fly it, for site info find the local club.

Soaring forecast table

The soaring forecast table shows the next five days at a glance. For example:

Soaring forecast table | Flybubble Weather free flying soaring forecast

  • Rows are the days. Columns, the time of day.
  • Green ticks mean flyable. Light green indicates ideal. Dark green means marginal.
  • Cardinal letters indicate the wind direction, based on a 16-wind compass rose.
  • Red stars indicate thermal rating. No stars, no thermals. 5 stars, strong thermals.
  • Weather. If it’s forecast to rain then a cloud and rain icon watermark appears in the box.

Click on a time box to update the rest of the page and synchronise the info.

Tip: Occasionally, if the forecast data is currently being updated, the map overlays will look ‘a bit off’ – you’ll notice the coastline doesn’t line up. Check back in a few minutes for the latest info.

Site topo map & key data

The topography map shows the main launch site and range of directions that are ideal (bright green) and possibly still flyable (dark green). For example:

Flybubble Weather topography map

Just below the topography map, key site data is shown

Key site data

  • Launch is the wind strength and direction at 10 m AGL.
  • Aloft is the average wind strength and direction in the thermic ‘boundary layer’.
  • Thermals is thermal star rating (strength).
  • Climbs is the likely top of your thermaling climbs, based on ‘Ht of Critical Updraft Strength’ (see RASP for more info).
  • Base is the anticipated cumulus cloudbase.
  • Weather indicates the likelihood of rain.

Tip: Comparing the wind at Launch to that Aloft helps you to judge if there is potentially dangerous wind above the site, or a big direction change (likely shear turbulence).

Embed a site on your website

You can embed a one day soaring forecast for each flying site on Flybubble Weather on your website, including a convenient link to the full 5 day forecast including RASP maps on Flybubble, FREE!

For example, for Devils Dyke near Brighton in the UK it looks like this:

NB: To be able to do this you need to know how to embed HTML code on your website. If you don’t then it’s probably best to contact your webmaster and ask them to do it for you or show you how.

If you know how to embed HTML code on your website then go to the flying site page and scroll down to find the section ‘EMBED THIS ON YOUR WEBSITE‘. Click on the ‘Get Embed Code’ button, which will open a box with the HTML embed code highlighted inside. Copy this code to your computer’s clipboard and paste it where you want it to appear on your website. Voila!

Other

For explanations about other features—e.g. the kph, knts and mph buttons, the map and controls, and Wind at 10m and Stars (thermals) buttons—see the relevant subsections of the ‘Overview Page‘ section above.

For info about the Airspace and NOTAMs buttons see the ‘Airspace & NOTAMs‘ section below.

What decides if it’s “flyable”?

Each site has a range of wind speeds and directions that we have been told it is flyable in (until we are told otherwise, these default to 7-25 kph with an ideal range of 11-21 kph).

These parameters are set relative to the forecast wind (on RASP) and not the real wind on site. In other words, if RASP says NW at 20 kph, is it likely to be flyable at the site?

Small sites are generally considered ‘flyable’ only when there is some wind. This also avoids the potential wasted time of going to a site with very light wind that changes direction.

Large sites where it might be possible to soar a cliff or glide to a thermal, might be ‘flyable’ with less wind.

If all the required criteria for a site to be deemed flyable are met e.g. the forecast wind and weather data are within the site parameters, it will shown as flyable (green).

NB: We use the common parlance term “flyable” only to mean that it might be “possible to fly” for someone and not that it will be “safe to fly” for everyone. When a site is forecast to be “flyable” this simply means that, based on the given weather forecast and flying site data, it looks like it will be “possible to fly” for someone. In no way does this mean that it is or will be “safe to fly” for everyone. As every pilot should know from their basic flight training, whether it’s safe to fly or not depends on many factors e.g. the actual wind and weather weather, site specifics, pilot experience, pilot skill, pilot state and pilot currency, equipment etc. One person’s “flyable” might well be another’s “unflyable”.

While we do our best to make sure the forecasts are as accurate as possible you should always assess the conditions when you arrive at launch and decide for yourself if it’s safe for you to fly.

Flybubble Weather: it's flyable

Low cloudbase or strong winds aloft?

Very low cloudbase or top-end wind strengths—at 10 m AGL or aloft—could result in marginal flying conditions.

If cloudbase is forecast to be within 150 ft of launch, the flying site pin and ‘Base’ number will go ORANGE. If it’s predicted to be at or below launch, the site will be RED (unflyable).

Similarly, winds stronger than 24 km/h (forecast) aloft is shown as ORANGE. When it gets to 30 km/h+ (forecast) aloft, it goes to RED (unflyable) because in our experience there is very little chance of it being safe, but there have been many days we’ve noticed it still being flyable in the ORANGE zone. But it’s close to being blown out, so we thought you’d like to know. Remember this is ‘wind aloft’ (Boundary Layer average), not the ‘wind at launch level’ (Surface + 10 m, RASP models the terrain). The launch level has lower cut-offs, which we adjust for each site.

Hang gliders have higher filters of 36 km/h ORANGE and 45 km/h RED for wind aloft.

For example, here The Blorenge flying site is orange due to forecast winds of 24 km/h aloft:

Flybubble Weather marginal conditions

NB: Since The Blorenge is a relatively big hill (for the UK) it’s likely to get blown out much sooner (with lower wind speeds) than a much smaller hill. It would most likely be blown out in the example above, for example!

Airspace & NOTAMs

It’s also possible to display airspace or/and NOTAMs on the map and download the current airspace/NOTAM selection, ready to add to your flight instrument.

Airspace

Tap the Airspace button to show the overlay, then increase the height to show relevant info up to this height.

Flybubble Weather: airspace detail

For XC flying, the minimum recommendation is 3500 ft, but if the day is good you’ll need to check higher.

In the example above, most of the sites near Brighton have no XC potential because the wind direction will take you straight into the big red prohibited airspace areas around the London airports.

Leaving the airspace layer activated helps you identify the best XC opportunities as you move through the week.

NOTAMs

Once you’ve decided on your site and day, make sure you tap on the NOTAM button to get a complete picture of the airspace. NOTAMs (or ‘notices to airmen’) are temporary additional airspace restrictions, usually covering a small area over limited time periods. They are very important! Often warning you of skydiving activity, formation flights, unmanned aircraft, lazer testing, you name it. Things you’re better off avoiding.

Flybubble Weather will detect any NOTAMs that cover your site when you’re on the Site Detail page, and you’ll see a handy warning pop up. Click on the grey or red NOTAM area to get more information. For example:

Flybubble Weather: notam detail

Flying during the week?

Let the Royal Air Force know you plan to fly during the week using the CANP for free fliers website.

NB: Only do this midweek flying, not weekends.

More info on a flying site?

If you are going somewhere new, you are required to do some research. Most flying sites are privately owned land with negotiated access conditions. If you Google “Paragliding [site name] site guide” you will usually find the local freeflight club responsible for controlling access. Getting in touch with the locals is a great way to avoid risks and make friends.

NB: The inclusion of a site on our website in no way gives you permission to fly it, for site info find the local club.

Which sites are best for big XC?

To help identify flying sites with good cross country (XC) potential, and see what’s possible from them, check out PG XC Flight Browser, a paragliding XC data visualisation and analysis site created by Neil Charles.

Feedback, requests & bug reports

This is a labour of love for us and we’re always working on making it better because we want you to fly more. We’ve updated a lot of site information and continually improve the system as we receive feedback. We’re most interested about the match between forecasts and flyability, so if you get to a ‘flyable’ site and it isn’t so, let us know! 

The site database needs updating, and will improve with time. If you’d like to help, get in touch.

Tip: Sometimes the pins go clear and the time slots will show ‘no data yet’, especially when RASP is updating early in the morning. Please be patient, as soon as the new spot data is provided we update Flybubble Weather. In the meantime, use the coloured maps (which update first) to puzzle it out for yourself.

What’s next?

We will continue to enhance the flying forecast tool, and we welcome your suggestions. It is currently restricted to the UK as it benefits from the RASP forecast model which we have found to be excellent for paragliding and hang gliding.

We hope you get lots more airtime with Flybubble Weather 

It’s what Flybubble is all about: helping you fly more, safer and better!

 

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