A strong preference has emerged among pilots to get preflight weather briefings on computers or devices instead of calling flight service. To help pilots help themselves, the FAA has released a new advisory circular and a video course as guides to the briefing process.
According to advisory circular AC 91-92, the FAA recognizes that the majority of pilots “have become more accustomed to performing a self-briefing than calling an FSS,” and it acknowledges that a self-briefing “may be compliant with current Federal aviation regulations.”
It must satisfy FAR 91.103, which requires that “Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight.”
If there is one disadvantage do-it-yourselfers may face, however, it is the lack of structure for the briefing compared to a briefing received from an experienced flight service specialist.
The advisory circular and the video—for which credit is available to participants in the FAA's Pilot Proficiency Wings program—aim to level the playing field. They review the three types of briefing a pilot would request as the proposed departure time for a flight nears, and they break down each briefing type (outlook, standard, and abbreviated) into its components. The information to look for in each of those components is also analyzed, with links to online sources also provided.
Links to additional resources serve up a wide variety of online weather- and safety-related information ranging from weather cameras (Alaska, Canada, Colorado), special-use airspace, and temporary flight restrictions to volcanic ash advisories and the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center, where air traffic delays are noted.
The video course, Conducting Preflight Self-Briefings for Student and VFR Pilots, is hosted on the FAA Safety Team website. It uses scenarios and real-world examples to provide guidance “on how to conduct a safe and regulatory compliant preflight self-briefing using automated weather resources. The objective is to ensure that the pilot understands aviation weather basics and learns to apply meteorological and aeronautical information in a systematic manner to plan a safe flight.”
“The Wings course and the advisory circular are the result of a collaborative effort between the agency and our stakeholders to provide guidance to pilots using automated resources,” said FAA Director of Flight Service Kathleen Edic. “Flight Service is committed to maintaining safe operations in the National Airspace System and continues to serve pilots as we innovate and modernize the way services are delivered.”
The innovation Edic notes doesn’t end with the last briefing before takeoff. Section 7.7 of the advisory circular discusses the benefits and limitations of weather and aeronautical information pilots can access electronically in the cockpit, noting that it “can help pilots plan more safe and efficient flightpaths, and make better strategic decisions during flight to avoid potentially hazardous developing weather.” It also describes the many services transmitted automatically to equipped aircraft by the Flight Information Service—Broadcast (FIS-B) component of ADS-B In, while reminding pilots that information received through FIS-B “may not include all of the weather products or notams that a preflight briefing includes.”
"As general aviation pilots continue to change how they access and use aeronautical information, we appreciate the FAA's efforts to provide clarity and improved guidance on best practices and regulatory requirements," said Jim McClay, AOPA director of airspace, air traffic, and security.
The AOPA Air Safety Institute also provides a wide variety of informational resources for pilots on the Flight Planning and Preflight page of its website, including many online courses, videos, safety quizzes, and publications.