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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 4 July 30, 2008     

XM /Sirius satellite radio merger should not affect inflight weather services
By Peter Lert

The FCC last week approved a merger between XM Radio, the company whose satellites provide inflight weather data for virtually all the avionics systems offering this capability, and its sole competitor, Sirius. While some (including public interest groups and NPR, which has two Sirius audio channels) opposed the merger on the grounds that it would result in a monopoly, others suggest that this may be the best way to assure the continued viability of satellite radio services (both for music and for weather and other data) as a whole.

XM’s weather content is provided by WxWorx and can be displayed on systems ranging from the most elaborate all-glass cockpits to dedicated portable GPS systems (such as Garmin’s GPSMap 496 or Bendix/King’s new AV8OR handheld) or even PDAs running appropriate software. An XM spokesperson said that among the many conditions placed on the merger was the requirement that all XM and Sirius services would remain available to current subscribers. While dual-standard receivers capable of decoding both the XM and Sirius digital signals will be offered to the consumer market in the near future, all existing units, including both portable and permanently installed WxWorx receivers should continue to receive their respective subscribed content (both data and music).

XM also announced new weather products added to their Aviator package and a new Aviator Pro package with additional information appropriate for corporate jets or other high-performance aircraft. Enhancements to the Aviator package (which already includes such things as NexRad, text and graphic METARs and TAFs, SIGMETs, and AIRMETs) are PIREPs (pilot reports), AIREPS (similar, but more detailed data from aircraft inflight), and aviation weather watches from the Storm Prediction Center.

 The new “Aviator Pro” package includes all WxWorx products from their other packages plus high-level turbulence (from 21,000 to 45,000 feet), a 24-hour severe thunderstorm outlook, text discussion of major storm systems, current icing conditions including supercooled large droplets, visibility, and hurricane tracks. The Aviator package costs $49.99 per month; Aviator Pro costs $99.99 per month.

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