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7 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Weather Products

Boldmethod

With so many weather products available, it can feel overwhelming to make decisions for your flight. Once you know how to effectively navigate your way through the information, you'll have the confidence to make the right weather decisions.

1) Work big to small

It's oftentimes most efficient to start with large scale information and then work down to local reports and forecasts. A good place to start is with mass disseminated media like the weather app on your phone, or the US imagery charts and radar in ForeFlight. This is enough for you to develop a big picture idea of the current weather conditions.

Personally, when I decide to look at the weather in more detail, I work my way through prognostic charts, radar imagery, hazardous weather advisories, and then to station-specific products, like METARs and TAFs.

By standardizing your approach to weather factors, you can produce a more consistent decision-making process.

ForeFlight

2) Cross-check across products and stations

Every region has its own weather phenomena and quirks.

When you're making a weather-related decision, use multiple weather products (METAR, TAF, PIREPs). If you have questions about an area's weather, call a weather briefer. They're experts in regional aviation meteorology.

Don't make a go/no-go decision on just one source of information.

ForeFlight

3) Know how long your product is valid for

Make sure you're using weather products during their valid times. If you are unsure of how long your product is valid for or, call flight service (or try our online weather courses here).

ForeFlight

4) Use the forecast discussion tool

This tool is a hidden gem. Each weather forecasting office (the people who make TAFs) writes a general forecast of the conditions to expect within the region. It describes the reasoning behind the day's forecast, and it can give you a lot of insight into what's happening over the next several days.

ForeFlight

5) Create weather checkpoints along your route

It's not uncommon for pilots to only check the weather 3 times throughout a flight: weather briefing, departure ATIS/AWOS, and arrival ATIS/AWOS.

With new services like FIS-B and NEXRAD in the cockpit, you can keep an eye on the weather through every phase of your flight.

Setting pre-planned weather checkpoints along your route of flight allows you to gather the most up-to-date weather information about your destination, alternates, and route of flight.

This can be as simple as writing "wx" next to a prominent checkpoint or fix on a chart or navlog.

ForeFlight

6) Be skeptical

When you're looking at your weather products, avoid looking for reasons to fly. A good question to ask is: "what here makes me not want to fly?"

This process helps eliminate expectation bias, and it stops you from minimizing the potential hazards of weather. Look for red-flags, not green lights.

ForeFlight

7) Call a weather briefer if you have questions

The convenience of electronic briefings is great. However, as a newly certificated pilot, I prefer talking to a weather briefer because it allows me to loop in an experienced professional to bounce ideas, concerns, and questions off of.

With that said, this isn't an either-or situation. If you're concerned about interpreting the weather, or you have a question about a weather product, briefers are there to help.


Want to learn more about reading and interpreting aviation weather products? Check out our online course here.


Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a private pilot from Southern California. He is currently studying at Purdue University, where he is working on advanced pilot ratings. You can reach him at nicolas@boldmethod.com.

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