You are leaving work on a fine spring afternoon when a message from your flying club scheduler notifies you that someone canceled a flight, and you’re at the top of the waiting list. A quick weather check to follow up the briefing you got this morning, just in case, confirms VFR conditions, so you lock in the open flight time, grab your gear, and head for the field.
That’s when you spot the ominous dark clouds on the horizon. Rechecking the weather observation in less hasty fashion, you belatedly note the section of the METAR that follows the routine weather details: “RMK AO2 LTG DSNT N AND SW PRESFR.”
Such crude surprises remind us why it’s always prudent—and a responsibility—to gather all the information you need before making a decision to fly. The concept goes beyond getting a complete and fully updated weather briefing.
Becoming fully informed also involves acquiring any special information about your flight’s destination, and even extends to knowing whether a proposed flight is permitted for a holder of the pilot certificate you are seeking.
Consider examples of the latter two issues.
Suppose for your private pilot checkride your designated pilot examiner mentions that you will fly to a nearby airport to demonstrate your landing and takeoff tasks. Be sure to research the airport’s published procedures, spotting any obscure items like this one about an airport’s traffic-pattern operations, tucked away in its chart supplement listing, under airport remarks: “Dep Rwy 30; turn right 10º followed by a wide left turn; avoid residential areas. No touch and go landing.”
Evaluating your piloting privileges means more than determining that the weather is VFR, not IFR. It also could include understanding whether a private pilot, although prohibited from flying for compensation or hire, may carry passengers on a hypothetical flight to raise funds for a charitable, nonprofit, or community event.
The private pilot acting as pilot in command may do so, if that private pilot has at least 500 hours of flight time. But review the other conditions applicable to such flying—and be sure to avoid overflying a national park, unit of a national park, or abutting tribal lands unless required agreements are in place.