A Comprehensive Guide to Types of Weather Briefings

A Comprehensive Guide to Types of Weather Briefings

By Lisa Thornton, CFII & Airline First Officer

As pilots we are required to adhere to rules and regulations outlined by the FAA. One responsibility we take on before any flight, under visual or instrument flight rules, is ensuring we have gathered all information pertinent to the safety of that specific flight. Knowing the current and predicted weather along our route of flight is part of that responsibility as a Pilot in Command.

When making your go/ no-go decision, it is important to observe current weather and trending weather along the entire route of flight. You’ll want to take note of any weather changes up to an hour past when you intend to end the flight.

It can be overwhelming as a new pilot to decipher what is a decision-making weather factor and what is a “good to know'' piece of information. Because there is so much information to sort through, the FAA has published a guide, P-8740-30 “How to Obtain a Good Weather Briefing”, that can be accessed for free on their website. I would highly recommend reading through the PDF prior to taking on your first major trip as PIC. 

Three major types of briefings are recognized by the FAA and are offered on the listed platforms below. 

Outlook Briefing

If your flight is 6 or more hours in the future, the Outlook report will provide you with the best forecast data applicable to your proposed departure time. While helpful from a big picture point of view, Outlook reports are best guesses and are meant to be followed up with a detailed brief closer to time of departure. Remember, if your departure time changes this is no longer accurate information. 

Standard Briefing

If your departure time is less than 6 hours in the future, a Standard report will provide you with the most accurate data and can be quite detailed. Standard reports include: current conditions, adverse conditions, NOTAMS, winds aloft, enroute forecast, destination forecast, and alternate forecasts. 

Abbreviated Briefing

If your departure time is fast approaching and you have observed weather changes yourself, or you simply want to triple check your decision to take off, an Abbreviated weather brief is the perfect tool to provide you with a snapshot of limited specific information. You request an Abbreviated brief either online or over the phone and are able to state the specific areas you would like to be updated on. 

From apps you can download on your phone, to approved websites, and even in person conversations with professionals, these weather briefings can be obtained in various ways. 

When pulling a weather brief, do so through a platform that you can record you visited. If you do find yourself in a conversation with the FAA, you will want a record proving you did your due diligence in preparing for the flight in mention. 

Below is a list of my favorite practices for pulling a weather brief. 

(*Sources automatically record the time and date you obtain a weather briefing.) 

Prior to departure:

* Foreflight or  * Garmin Pilot App

* 1800wxbrief.com

* Calling a FAA weather briefer at 1-800-992-7433

* Company provided flight release 

(Make sure you check the weather/ time of flight is updated to actual flight time.)

Checking the ATIS on frequency inside the cockpit

Don’t forget to use your eyes! Walk outside and see current conditions for yourself.

In flight:

Using the radio in your aircraft to speak to someone at a nearby FSS can provide you 

with real life, current weather conditions coupled with PIREPS pertinent to you.

Asking ATC for any recent PIREPS. 

(Pay it forward and provide your own when you observe weather changes in flight.)  

Preparing for a flight as Pilot in Command comes with a lot of responsibility. Knowing and understanding the weather for each intended flight is just part of that responsibility. The good news is, there are many tools at your disposal to help you prepare. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call the weather briefer on the number above.

Be safe, do your research before each flight, and remember to have fun. 

May you find nothing but blue skies and tailwinds on your next great adventure.

By Lisa Thornton, CFII & Airline First Officer

Check out Lisa's website: www.goingmissed.co

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