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Weather Services: Weather Briefings

This week, we’re thinking about weather briefings. This post comes from the FAA’s Aviation Weather Services, available from ASA in print, PDF, and in a combo-pak with Aviation Weather.

Prior to every flight, pilots should gather all information vital to the nature of the flight. This includes a weather briefing obtained by the pilot from an approved weather source via the Internet (see paragraph 1.3.2) and/or from a FSS specialist.

To provide an appropriate weather briefing, specialists need to know which of the three types of briefings is needed—standard, abbreviated or outlook. Other necessary information is whether the flight will be conducted VFR or IFR, aircraft identification and type, departure point, estimated time of departure (ETD), flight altitude, route of flight, destination, and estimated time en route (ETE). If the briefing updates previously received information, the time of the last briefing is also important. This allows the briefer to provide only pertinent data.

The briefer enters this information into the FAA’s flight plan system. The briefer also notes the type of weather briefing provided. If necessary, the information can be referenced later to file or amend a flight plan. It is also used when an aircraft is overdue or is reported missing. Internet data is time-stamped and archived for 15 days. Voice recordings are retained for 45 days.

Standard Briefing
A standard briefing provides a complete weather picture and is the most detailed of all briefings. This type of briefing should be obtained prior to the departure of any flight and should be used during flight planning. A standard briefing provides the following information in sequential order if it is applicable to the route of flight:

  • Adverse Conditions.
  • VFR flight NOT RECOMMENDED (VNR).
  • Synopsis.
  • Current Conditions.
  • En Route Forecast.
  • Destination Forecast.
  • Winds and Temperatures Aloft.
  • NOTAMs.
  • Prohibited and Special Flight Rules Areas.
  • ATC Delays.
  • Other Information.

Abbreviated Briefing
An abbreviated briefing is a shortened version of the standard briefing. It should be requested when a departure has been delayed or when specific weather information is needed to update a previous standard briefing. When this is the case, the weather specialist needs to know the time and source of the previous briefing so the necessary weather information will not be omitted inadvertently.

Outlook Briefing
An outlook briefing should be requested when a planned departure is 6 or more hours away. It provides initial forecast information that is limited in scope due to the timeframe of the planned flight. This type of briefing is a good source of flight planning information that can influence decisions regarding route of flight, altitude, and ultimately the “go, no-go” decision. A follow-up standard briefing prior to departure is advisable since an outlook briefing generally only contains information based on weather trends and existing weather in geographical areas at or near the departure airport.

The FSS’ purpose is to serve the aviation community. Pilots should not hesitate to ask questions and discuss factors they do not fully understand. The briefing should be considered complete only when the pilot has a clear picture of what weather to expect. Pilots should also make a final weather check immediately before departure if at all possible.

Check back here Thursday for a new CFI Brief!

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