Several flight service stations are located throughout the United States, to provide a variety of services to pilots. A flight service specialist may be contacted 24 hours a day via phone or radio. One service provided by the flight service station is the weather briefing, of which there are three types, outlook, abbreviated, and standard.

Outlook Briefing

An outlook briefing is requested when the planned departure time is more than six hours away, and is useful for initial flight planning. It provides a quick, more general weather picture.

Abbreviated Briefing

An abbreviated briefing is useful when a standard briefing is not necessary. For example, if a pilot were to call to check for updates after previously receiving a standard briefing. A standard weather briefing is obtained when the flight will depart within six hours.

Standard Weather Briefing

After requesting a standard weather briefing, the flight service specialist will provide pertinent weather and aeronautical information, which includes:

  • Adverse conditions, which are conditions that may cause the pilot to consider delaying the flight, selecting a different routing to the destination, or cancelling the flight
  • A recommendation against VFR flight, if the briefer believes the weather may to too poor to allow for flight under visual flight rules
  • A synopsis of major weather systems and the locations of fronts
  • The current conditions, including cloud ceilings, visibilities, winds, and temperatures, when the proposed departure time is within 2 hours
  • The en route weather forecast for the route of flight
  • The destination weather forecast
  • The winds aloft for the altitudes pertinent to the flight
  • Any notices to airmen that have not yet been published in the notice to airmen publication
  • Any known air traffic delays that could affect the flight
  • Any other information the briefer feel is pertinent to the flight

Additional information may be requested from the briefer, such as temperatures aloft, pertinent notices to airmen that have already been published, or clarification of questions about the briefing.

What to Tell the Briefer

When calling a weather briefer, state the information he or she will need to tailor the briefing to your flight. Include:

  • your aircraft’s identification and type
  • the type of briefing you are requesting
  • a statement that the flight will be conducted under visual flight rules
  • the departure and destination airports
  • the proposed time of departure
  • the cruising altitude
  • route of flight
  • estimated time en route

For example, a pilot requesting a standard weather briefing might say to the weather briefer, “Good morning, this is Cessna niner one three bravo Juliet, requesting a standard briefing for a VFR flight from sierra golf papa airport to sierra uniform sierra airport, at three thousand five hundred feet, departing at fifteen thirty Zulu, via direct. Our estimated time en route is one hour thirty five minutes.”

The weather briefer records this information and maintains a record of the briefing. On further calls to the flight service station, the specialist is able to reference this record to better be of assistance.

When contacting a flight service station by cellular telephone, you may not always be connected with the nearest flight service station. Make sure the briefer understands where you are and where you are flying. This is one reason why it is a good idea to use the three letter identifiers for the airports to be used. For example, using the airport identifiers assures the briefer doesn’t give you a briefing for a flight from Jacksonville, Florida to Lexington, Kentucky in response to your request for a briefing for your flight from Jacksonville, Illinois to Lexington, Missouri.