Eyes On the Skies


Yes, Virginia, way back when Loran was a thing, there were Flight Service Stations (FSS) with trained weather observers scattered throughout the U.S. When you called for a weather briefing, you actually talked to someone with forensic knowledge about the local weather. Not only could they interpret the aviation forecast products for you, they could put down the phone and walk outside, and tell you if it was raining. They had the kind of information that doesnt make it into forecasting products.

I havent given up on FSS weather briefings, but a Lockheed-Martin call center generally wont be able to look out the window and tell me anything useful. They understand weather forecasting products better than I do, but they wont offer any homegrown understanding about the local area. My replacement for old-school Flight Service specialists is to turn to FBOs, charter operators and the occasional ATC facility at the field. I simply ask, Hows the weather?

They may not have the latest TAF, but they can relate the some experiential data patterns like, Its a typical winter inversion. Fog in the mornings this time of year usually break up by 10 a.m. unless you have strong north wind pushing it downriver and toward the airport. In that case, it will be fogged in all day. A weather briefer is unlikely to offer this wisdom, whereas a local pilot may be full of it. But beware, when you talk to unofficial sources, they truly could be full of it.


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