Understanding and evaluating aviation weather before and during flight is a key component in ensuring your own safety, the safety of others aboard the aircraft and the safety of other pilots around you. We’ll be taking a closer look at weather planning and decision making and what that looks like for an aviator.
Aviation Weather: Preflight and Briefing
Prior to any flight, it’s a pilot’s job to conduct a preflight. During this time, you’ll look at the aviation weather conditions and check if it’s safe to fly. This will help ensure you’re prepared. The FAA Flight Service Station (FSS) is one of many sources for weather information.
There are several types of preflight briefings: Standard Briefing, Outlook Briefing and Abbreviated Briefing.
A Standard Briefing provides the information in the sequence below:
These are weather conditions that might impact you and lead you to change your flight route or cancel the flight.
This is a statement as to the cause of the weather relevant to your flight route.
Current conditions are a look at the current weather, within two hours of departure, including Pilot Weather Reports (PIREPs) and radar weather information related to your planned flight.
This is a summarization of the forecast conditions and your route in order.
The forecast for your destination is provided based on your planned ETA and any expected changes will be noted within an hour before arrival time.
This is a summarization of forecast winds aloft for the route. Temperature information will be given if asked for.
- Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs)
“Current” NOTAMs – a notice which alerts pilots of potential hazards – that that apply to the flight route will be given.
An Abbreviated Briefing is supplemental information for electronically acquired data. You’ll use this kind of briefing when you need a few specific items or when you need to update a prior briefing.
Make sure to give the briefer necessary background information, the time you received the previous information and the items needed. You’ll also need to identify the information you have to limit the briefing and be notified of any changes. The briefer will give the information in the sequence used in a Standard Briefing.
For one or two items, the briefer will guide you if poor conditions are present or forecast. You can request additional detail. Details on these conditions will be provided at your request. Dial an automated weather system to update the weather at a certain airport.
An Outlook Briefing needs to be requested when the time of departure is six or more hours from the briefing time. This type of briefing is for planning purposes. The briefer will give the pilot forecast information relevant to the flight. It’s important to obtain a Standard Briefing or Abbreviated Briefing before departure to acquire items like current conditions, adverse conditions, forecasts, NOTAMs, winds aloft, etc.
Once you’ve been briefed, it’s important to examine the weather information.
Aviation Weather and You
As a pilot, it’s incredibly important to look at wind, moisture and temperature, as they can all affect flight in some way, causing visibility issues, turbulence and overall performance.
Based on what the weather is telling you, you’ll need to do some self-assessing and determine whether or not your pilot skills and/or aircraft are strong and capable enough to fly in those circumstances. You should also be sure to keep the following in your plan:
- Ensure you have plenty of fuel
- Avoid terrain and obstacles
- Know the safe altitude of the flight
- Know where to find good weather and the details associated with getting there
- Use your GPS to your advantage
Always use your best judgement so that you can continue flying safely.
There are many aviation weather information sources to use during your flight:
Listen to what’s being broadcasted. You’ll be given updates as you fly that should match the information you were given during preflight.
Simply taking a look at and analyzing your surroundings is beneficial in ensuring your safety. Does what you see correlate with the forecast?
- Weather Avoidance Equipment
This is another tool used for weather awareness. It uses satellites to transmit data, such as Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD), Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Report (METARs) and Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAFs).
- Enroute Flight Advisory Service (EFAS)
This is a service for assisting pilots with weather advisories applying to the altitude and route of flight.
Stay updated with ATC. This is available on aeronautical charts.
You have a variety of different ways to keep up with the weather during your flight. Be sure to remain informed at all times.
Keep Your Aviation Weather Knowledge Sharp
Once you’ve landed safely after a flight, make sure to review. Recall the weather conditions of the flight, take note of how you handled those conditions and how they affected the flight.
Since weather directly impacts pilots, it’s important to be able to identify what to do in any situation. Observe the weather often and know what to do if the weather changes while flying. It’s up to you to keep yourself and your passengers safe.