Training Tip: Information 'upon request'

August 11, 2014

Do you know what to ask during a preflight weather briefing with flight service?

It’s a pilot’s responsibility to obtain a complete preflight briefing, so don’t let an unasked question undermine your effort.

As you plan a cross-country route, be sure to examine it carefully for any special airspace characteristics or flight activities that could be a factor during your transit of the area. Then, to get a complete picture of the proposed flight, you may have to ask some specific, focused questions. Do you know what information to request?

If your route transits an area of special-use airspace (SUA), for example, information about the airspace is available from the briefer, but only "upon request" of the pilot. That means it will not automatically be provided in a briefing. Aeronautical Information Manual paragraph 7-1-4(b)8 explains that "for the purpose of this paragraph, SUA and related airspace includes the following types of airspace: alert area, military operations area (MOA), warning area, and air traffic control assigned airspace (ATCAA)." Military training route (MTR) data "includes the following types of airspace: IFR training routes (IR), VFR training routes (VR), and slow training routes (SR)." Pilots are encouraged to request updates from air traffic control facilities while in flight.

Wait a minute: Don’t VFR sectional charts provide information about times and altitudes of use of MOAs and other SUA? 

Yes, but your preflight briefing will tell you whether a specific parcel of SUA will be active—"hot"—while you are airborne, and to what extent.

MTRs also are depicted on sectional charts. Note that a flight from Adirondack Regional Airport in Saranac Lake, New York, to Vermont’s Burlington International Airport crosses IR801, an IFR training route located in a mountainous sector of the route.

But that’s not the whole story of the MTR. A note on the Montreal Sectional Chart explains that only the route centerline and direction of flight are depicted. An MTR’s width and altitudes are not—making it crucial for a VFR pilot to obtain more information. Note also that MTRs are subject to change on a 56-day cycle; that could render the charted depiction obsolete.

Another item not included in your briefing unless you ask is information from the Notices to Airmen publication. These so-called published notams are available online—but if you want to review them at the time of your preflight briefing, be sure to make the request.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.