One of the first things that I found daunting about becoming a pilot was calling Flight Services for a weather briefing. This should seem like a simple thing, after all, they’re there to help you and provide critical information regarding your flight. Figuring out the weather should seem harder than calling a briefer, but honestly, I felt intimidated when speaking with a briefer.
The document from faasafety.gov, called “How To Obtain A Good Weather Briefing“, helped me immensely, especially when I coupled it with what I had learned from my CFI during ground school. I built myself a little cheat sheet that I keep with my pre-flight documents. This cheat sheet contains the pertinent information that the briefer is looking for. After using this cheat sheet for the first time, the briefer told me that the information I provided was excellent, and he gave me a few suggested tweaks, which I have included in subsequent briefings. I no longer feel intimidated by calling Flight Services and I actually look forward to that part of my flight planning now.
My cheat sheet contains:
Flight Service Station: 1-800-WX-BRIEF (800-992-7433)
- Qualifications (student / private / commercial)
- VFR or IFR flight
- Tail # OR pilot name (I give the tail #)
- Aircraft Type (I say “PA-28 Cherokee”)
- Departure point (I give the ICAO location code, for example I say KRME “Kilo-Romeo-Mike-Echo”, no one has corrected me on this)
- Estimated Time of Departure (if giving in local time, use AM/PM, if giving in Zulu, use military time)
- Proposed Flight Altitude
- Route of Flight (I’ve used “pattern work” or “to our west practice area, 20 miles to the west of the airport”)
- Destination (ICAO location code or “round trip”)
- Estimated time en route (they prefer it in HH:MM, for example, 1 hr 30 minutes instead of 90 minutes)
Having this information in front of me before making the call has considerably boosted my confidence level and I believe it making things more coherent for the briefer when they’re putting together your weather briefing. The suggestion to pre-formulate this information came from one of the CFIs at school and I must admit it was a most excellent suggestion.