November 1, 1998
The last time you checked the weather, the flight service station briefer mentioned that a front was heading for your proposed route of flight. It shouldn't affect you, the briefer said, hinting strongly that low clouds and visibilities will move in hours after you've landed.
But something's changed. What began as a nice VFR flight has obviously deteriorated. What looked like haze in the distance turned out to be cloud layers that you'll encounter in the next few miles. Will you be able to continue the flight under VFR? Have ceilings and visibilities gone to pot at your destination? Will thunderstorms pop up before you even get there? If so, where will you go to find decent weather?
Questions like these can be answered by using several sources. All a savvy pilot — instrument-rated or not — needs to do is tune in a few pertinent frequencies, ask the right questions, listen up, and execute a plan of action for dealing with any adverse weather.
The next time you're cruising along and wondering about the weather, consider consulting the following:
Whether flying under VFR or IFR, the services we've discussed here show that there's plenty of inflight help available when it comes to weather updates. It can be lonely and scary when adverse weather crops up during your flight. Checking in with flight watch, flight service, HIWAS, ASOSs and AWOSs, TWEBs, and using flight following can give you the information and confidence that you need to formulate escape strategies — and preserve your wits. And that goes for instrument- as well as noninstrument-rated pilots.
E-mail the author at email@example.com.
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Reviewing this regulation will make you a more effective plane spotter when ATC calls out fast traffic in busy (and haze-laden) airspace.
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