Strategic Weather Planning: Preflight & Inflight Considerations
09 January 2024| By Just Aviation Team
Weather planning in aviation is a critical aspect that significantly impacts flight safety and efficiency. Ground operators play a pivotal role in preflight and inflight weather planning, ensuring that aircraft navigate through various weather conditions seamlessly.
Preflight Weather Planning
Preflight weather planning encompasses the preparatory phase before an aircraft takes off. Its primary objective is to assess weather conditions along the planned route and at the departure and destination airports. This assessment guides flight crews and ground operators in making informed decisions before departure.
- Weather Briefings: Ground operators conduct comprehensive weather briefings using various meteorological sources, such as METAR, TAF, and SIGMET reports, to analyze current weather conditions and forecasted patterns.
- Route Analysis: Detailed evaluation of the intended flight path to identify potential weather hazards like thunderstorms, turbulence, icing, and windshear. Ground operators select optimal routes based on meteorological charts and forecasts.
- Alternate Planning: Identifying and preparing alternate routes or airports in case adverse weather conditions or unexpected situations arise during the flight.
During preflight planning, adherence to regulatory requirements set by aviation authorities like the FAA and ICAO is crucial. Documents such as FAA Advisory Circulars and ICAO Annexes provide guidelines and standards for preflight weather planning.
Inflight Weather Planning
Inflight weather planning occurs during the actual flight and involves real-time monitoring and decision-making based on weather conditions encountered en route. Its primary goal is to ensure safe navigation through changing weather patterns and make adjustments as necessary.
- Inflight Weather Data Systems: Aircraft are equipped with weather radar systems that detect and display real-time weather information to flight crews. This data aids in making immediate navigational decisions.
- Collaborative Decision-Making (CDM): Continuous communication between flight crews, ground operators, and air traffic control (ATC) facilitates the exchange of updated weather information, enabling informed decisions during the flight.
- Adaptive Routing: Pilots may deviate from the planned route to avoid adverse weather conditions encountered in real-time, ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers and crew.
Inflight weather planning operates under the framework established by aviation regulatory bodies. Compliance with established guidelines ensures that inflight decisions align with safety protocols and operational requirements.
Aviation Weather Center (AWC)
The Aviation Weather Center (AWC) stands as a cornerstone service within the National Weather Service (NWS), dedicated to furnishing a vast array of comprehensive and user-friendly aviation weather information. Functioning as a vital hub for aviation-related meteorological data, AWC offers an extensive spectrum of crucial weather reports and forecasts essential for safe and efficient flight operations.
Among its repertoire, the AWC provides access to current METARs (Meteorological Automated Reports) that detail real-time weather conditions at airports, facilitating accurate assessments of immediate weather phenomena. Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs) are also disseminated, offering forecasts specifically tailored to individual aerodromes, aiding flight crews and ground operators in planning for anticipated weather changes. In addition to these essential reports, AWC furnishes SIGMETs (Special Meteorological Information) and specialized Sigmets, which highlight hazardous weather conditions affecting
Steps of Weather Decision Making
Weather decision making is the process of applying weather information to flight planning and execution. Weather decision making involves the following steps:
Preflight self-briefing is the first step of weather planning, where the pilot gathers and reviews all the relevant weather information for the intended flight. Preflight self-briefing should include checking the current and forecasted weather conditions at the departure, destination, and alternate airports, as well as along the route of flight. Preflight self-briefing should also include checking the NOTAMs, TFRs, and PIREPs that may affect the flight. Preflight self-briefing should be done as close as possible to the departure time, and updated as necessary.
Preflight Risk Assessment
Preflight risk assessment is the second step of weather planning, where the pilot evaluates the potential hazards and challenges posed by the weather conditions for the intended flight. Preflight risk assessment should include identifying the weather factors that may affect the flight performance, safety, and comfort, such as wind, visibility, precipitation, clouds, icing, turbulence, thunderstorms, etc. Preflight risk assessment should also include assessing the pilot’s own capabilities and limitations, such as experience, currency, proficiency, fatigue, stress, etc. Preflight risk assessment should result in a go/no-go decision, or a modification of the flight plan if necessary.
Inflight Weather Monitoring
Inflight weather monitoring is the third step of weather planning, where the pilot continuously observes and updates the weather information during the flight. Inflight weather monitoring should include using various sources of weather information, such as ATC, Flight Service Station (FSS), Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B), etc. Inflight weather monitoring should also include using various methods of weather analysis, such as static imagery, animated imagery, graphical overlays, etc. Inflight weather monitoring should help the pilot to detect any changes or deviations from the expected weather conditions, and to anticipate any potential hazards or challenges ahead.
Inflight Risk Management
Inflight risk management is the fourth and final step of weather planning, where the pilot applies the weather information to make inflight decisions and actions. Inflight risk management should include using various tools of weather visualization. Inflight risk management should also include using various strategies of weather avoidance or mitigation, such as changing the route, altitude, speed, or destination, requesting ATC assistance, declaring an emergency, etc. Inflight risk management should aim to maintain the highest level of safety and efficiency throughout the flight.
Preflight and inflight weather planning are distinct phases in aviation operations, each serving specific purposes in managing weather-related risks. Preflight planning focuses on preemptive decision-making based on forecasted conditions, while inflight planning involves real-time adjustments to ensure safe and efficient navigation through changing weather scenarios.
Contact Just Aviation at [email protected] for expert support in preflight and inflight weather planning. Count on our expertise to navigate changing weather conditions seamlessly, ensuring safe and efficient flight operations from takeoff to landing.