The environment that we operate in is constantly changing and as pilots, we often need more detailed information than what the weatherman typically brings to the table in order for us to to safely plan for our flights.
Aviation forecasts give us the very specific information that we need as pilots. First let’s look at where we can find them. There are many sources were you can obtain this information. If you have a smart phone, there are several free apps that will pull the latest reports for you. On the internet, you can find this information for free at NOAA’s website by simply clicking here.
There are two most commonly interpreted items:
METAR comes from the French phrase “MÈTéorologique Aviation Régulière” which essentially translates to “routine aerodrome weather.” Simply put: it’s a current weather observation. Lucky for us both TAF’s and METAR’s are written in a shorthand. The reason I say “lucky” is that, while at first this seems like a horrible idea, once you’re comfortable with interpreting the shorthand, it’s actually a huge time saver.
Let’s look at an example:
KCVG 150452Z 26008KT 10SM BKN022 OVC050 16/13 A2981 RMK AO2
KCVG (Airport) 150452Z (15th day of the month, 04:52 zulu time – GMT) 26008KT (winds 260′ @ 8 knots) 10SM (10 statue miles visibility) BKN022 OVC050 (broken layer @ 2,200AGL, overcast layer @ 5,000AGL) 16/13 (temp 16′C, dew point 13′C) A2981 (altimeter 29.81) RMK (remarks, automated reporting system)
“Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts” are very similar to METAR’s. The big difference is as the name implies – forecast.
KCVG 150540Z 1506/1612 27010G18KT P6SM OVC020
TEMPO 1506/1510 OVC013 FM151400 27013KT P6SM OVC025
FM152100 29012KT P6SM BKN030
TEMPO 1521/1523 BKN035 FM152300 30005KT P6SM SKC
KCVG (Airport) 15040Z (15th day of the month, 04:50 zulu time – GMT) 1506/1612 (temporary 6:00 – 10:00 Z) OVC013 (overcast 1,300AGL) FM151400 (from, 15th day of the month, 14:00 zulu) 27013 (winds – 270′ @ 13 knots) P6SM (> 6 statute miles visibility) OVC25 (overcast @ 2,500AGL) FM152100 (from, 15th day of the month, 21:00 zulu) 29012KT (winds 290′ @ 12 knots) P6SM (> 6 statute miles visibility) BKN030 (broken @ 3,000AGL) TEMP 1521/1523 (temporary 21:00 – 23:00 Z) BKN035 (broken @ 3,500AGL) FM152300 (from, 15th day of the month, 23:00 zulu) 30005kt (winds 300′ @ 05 knots) P6SM (> 6 statute miles visibility) SKC (sky clear)
With a little practice, you’ll be able to rattle these off like plain English. If you don’t already use these to plan your flights, I’d highly recommend implementing them into your pre-flight planning. They’ll give you a much better idea of what kind of weather to expect other than just “partly cloudy and light winds.”
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