ClimaDrive Product Review
By Vic Baron
I met Chris several years ago when he was introduced to me by a mutual colleague. At the time, Chris was trying to commercialize ClimaDrive as an advanced weather-simulation addon for P3D and FSX to compete with companies like ActiveSky and REX. He eventually asked for an introduction to Damian Clark, CEO of ActiveSky, and I’m pleased to report that Chris was able to release ClimaDrive as valuable addon to ActiveSky. The product is aimed at the more serious simmer who wants a more real-world weather experience, and in my opinion, this product is ideal for the pilot-simmer or student pilot honing critical meteorology skills, which is a requisite responsibility of all licensed pilots.
ClimaDrive is built upon a weather database containing historical weather-information products going back to early 2015. The weather products include graphical and textual weather reports, including area forecasts, prognostic charts, significant weather charts, satellite, radar, winds, SIGMETs, AIRMETs, PIREPs, METARs, TAFs and even NOTAMs, and the user can generate aviation-standard, preflight weather briefings, the scenarios for which can then be flown in FSX and P3D using ActiveSky to produce the dynamic in-flight weather patterns of both visual and non-visual weather effects in-sim.
ClimaDrive runs in a web browser, presenting a flight plan form for the user. The user must specify aircraft type loaded from the local sim directory, departure airport, starting location on the airport, destination, cruise altitude, route of flight and three weather options: real-time, historical time and weather theme. I like to use the weather theme mode because ClimaDrive will select a historical date/time for me after I specify prevailing weather conditions (VFR, MVFR, IFR or LIFR), weather trend from departure to destination (degrading, improving or stagnant), time range, date range, wind strength and even thunderstorms present of absent. Users can also set a random weather theme so that ClimaDrive can be used as a stand-alone flight planner to test your skills at identifying weather that may or may not be too much for you to handle. Again, I see this as a vital training tool for instructor pilots and flight schools. However, ClimaDrive is currently limited to weather in the continental US, and to is not yet compatible with ActiveSky XP for X-Plane.
Some people like to fly in real-time weather for which ClimaDrive will certainly produce an aviation-standard weather briefing to be flown in-sim with ActiveSky controlling the dynamic weather effects in the simulator. Chris also tells me that the NTSB uses ClimaDrive to investigate weather-related flight accidents, so I’m certain that new users will be interested in recreating accident scenarios for them to fly in the safety of the simulator.
Overall, I think ClimaDrive is well worth the licensing price of $29.95 per year for a data service that provides the level of realism that Chris and his team has designed into the addon. There are several other nice bells and whistles that make launching and loading the sim easier too. With ActiveSky running in the background, ClimaDrive will generate a real-time or historical weather report from the web-based flight plan. At the bottom of the weather report, click “Go Fly” and ClimaDrive will launch your sim, set the correct weather mode and time in both ActiveSky and P3D / FSX, it will load the plan file into both ActiveSky and P3D / FSX, and it will start up P3D or FSX in your desired aircraft at your desired start location. This is just the first commercial sim offering from Chris and his team, and I expect expansions to ClimaDrive and other sim offerings to come in the near future.