An Analysis of Preflight Weather Briefings

Weather is often cited as a factor in general aviation (GA) accidents and mishaps. The type of weather information requested from, or provided by, automated flight service station (AFSS) specialists is dependent on weather conditions at the time the preflight briefing occurs. However, little is known about how this weather information is used by GA pilots. The purpose of this research was to document the types of AFSS weather information that GA pilots requested and received and how this information might influence flight planning and weather–based decisions. A content analysis was performed on 306 GA pilot telephone conversations with AFSS specialists who staffed the preflight position. Twenty-four hours of continuous recordings of one good, typical, and bad weather day at an AFSS in the New England, Northwest Mountain, and Southwest Region were obtained prior to the Federal Aviation Administration contracting out those services. The data show that more calls were made on days of bad weather than on days of good and typical weather within the vicinity serviced by the AFSS. Approximately 78% of the pilots requested a preflight briefing (they requested a standard weather briefing more often than any other), and about 15% declined a weather briefing when asked by the AFSS specialist. Of the pilot-requested preflight weather briefings, specialists relayed the following weather items: Weather synopsis, sky conditions (clouds), visibility, and weather conditions at the departure, en route, and destination point. When pilots declined preflight weather briefings, as they did in 15.4% of the calls (good weather 16.7%, typical weather 5.0%, bad weather 20.6%), AFSS still relayed weather synopsis and sky conditions (clouds) in addition to any other weather conditions that might prove to be significant during a flight. Whether by asking for additional information or receiving weather information from specialists, 31 pilots decided that it was best to change their flight plans (46.9% delayed, 15.6% postponed or cancelled their flights, and 15.6% looked for alternate routes and destination points). Surprisingly, 27% of the pilots who were told ‘VFR Flight Not Recommended’ went ahead and filed a VFR flight plan anyway.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 28p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01046827
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: DOT/FAA/AM-07/4
  • Files: NTL, TRIS, USDOT
  • Created Date: Apr 6 2007 2:16PM