Weather Resources

In the old days, we used to visit the Flight Service Station and get a face-to-face briefing while leaning over the counter to look at fax charts and listening to chattering teletypes. When I started at TWA, we used to walk down the hall to the New York Dispatch office and get an over-the-counter briefing from the dispatcher. Until recently we got a twenty-foot long paper printout including tailored, and pretty minimal, information meeting the weather information requirements of the FARs. Now we have even digitized that. The old one-on-one briefing that the rules originally envisioned isn't going to happen when the dispatcher has fifteen flights to work at the same time.

FAR 121.601 requires that the dispatcher provide the PIC with essentially all pertinent weather reports and forecasts. Implicit in this is the captain's ability, as the final authority regarding the operation of the aircraft, to check the dispatcher's planning. I'm going to have a hard time doing while poring over the digitized version of the twenty foot long printout that if I have not already prepared myself in accordance with the goals of 121.601.

Ergo, prior to every flight day, usually in the hotel room before leaving, I spend 30 to 40 minutes reviewing the day's weather, NOTAMs and the aircraft maintenance history. There are a number of different ways to do this, and there are quite a few good weather resources available on the web, primarily those generated by the National Weather Service. The expanded discussion links in the menu to the right contain descriptions of the resources that I use; you can build a pretty comprehensive picture of the day's weather with these sites. Each page contains a picture of the referenced webpage; click on the picture and you will be taken directly to that site.

Be aware that your company's approved weather information system is required and controlling for flight planning purposes. The information in these links is meant only to build a good mental model of the day's weather. Hopefully it will not be very different from what you see on the flight release; however I have seen cases in which the differences were notable.

The "weather quicklinks" link gives you a list of these sites without any discussion.