Welcome, to the first article of The Student Pilot Digest! As the international pilot shortage continues to intensify, join us every Monday for weekly blogs that focus on helping you complete your training and get you into the flight deck to start the career you have always dreamed of! These weekly blogs will focus on areas pilots commonly struggle with, feature stories from those already in their dream career and provide advice on how you can become the aviation professional you aspire to be!
Today, we will be focused on weather and planning for your next flight. Where do you get your information from? Who would you contact for expert advice? Why is it so important to make sure you are fully prepared for a flight?
Weather plays one of, if not the, most important roles in aviation. As a pilot, you understand that weather has made your flights fun, memorable, scary and potentially caused you to wish that you were still sitting on the ground. For me, I experienced that on my fourth solo. Let’s go over some of the important aspects involved in preparing for your next flight.
For those with little or no flight training experience, this is a vital topic for you to learn. Your instructor, pilot examiner, and all of us at Young Aviators could not stress enough just how important it is to understand the weather conditions you’re about to fly in. Weather is pretty unique, and understanding the characteristics and basis for how it affects us as pilots is important.
Let’s look at how to begin planning for your next flight. For myself, I start my day off picking up my phone and checking out The Weather Channel app for a very brief overview of what I might expect for that day. Afterwards, I pull up my ForeFlight app, checking the local radar and taking a look at the METAR and TAF for my area. You can also find METAR and TAF information on the Aviation Weather website.
After checking the weather on my phone, and getting ready to leave, it’s time to head to the airport. Once I have gotten to the airport, I head straight into the Flight Planning room to use my iPad or a computer. I go to the Aviation Weather website and take a quick look at the METARs (Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine) and TAFs (Terminal Area Forecast) again, look over Prog Charts and check out the winds and temperatures along my desired flight paths and altitudes.
Finishing up with those, it’s time to call a Leidos Flight Briefer and request what’s called a Standard Flight Briefing with TFRs to make sure I fully understand what the weather is doing where I intend on flying. Also, a Flight Briefer will have the most up-to-date information and can inform you of any forecast adverse weather conditions you may not be able to find on your own. Their phone number is easy to remember too! 1-800-WXBrief.
Once all of your weather briefings are complete it’s time to get your aircraft fueled, preflighted and ready for departure.
Now, here are some very important tips from myself and every other pilot out there:
- Always check the ASOS/AWOS at your airport. Don’t be the pilot that asks for an airport advisory.
- When flying into a non-towered airport, do not ask Unicom for the “active runway.” That is not a position you should put someone who is not an air traffic controller in. Plus, what if they’re wrong?
- At a non-towered airport, never assume that just because other pilots are using one runway over the other that the wind is actually favoring that runway. You don’t want to be landing with the wind behind you.
Planning your flight and making sure the weather is in your favor is something every pilot should take to heart. Of course, this article does not fully cover every aspect of weather and planning for your next flight, however, hopefully this will give you a sense of what steps I take in preparing myself for a flight.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s article and plan to join us back here next Monday for: Is Your Fuel Gauge Lying to You?