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Pilot Decision Making


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Flight Service Best Practices

Flight Services best practices are the topic for this month, now that the weather is excellent and we are starting the spring season flying to our favorite destinations. Although this may be a review for the experienced pilot, flight service how-to is always a great review for the rest of us.

First some background… Flight Service Stations often referred to as FSS or just Flight Service, is available to all pilots and is considered part of the Air Traffic Control System (facilities). Over the last 10 years, FSS has been consolidated from 300 facilities down to approximately 60 today. In addition, the FAA outsourced all FSS to Lockheed Martin in 2005. When you talk to a briefer today, they may be hundreds of miles away from your departure / destination airport. You can get a briefing and file flight plans using various sources including calling 1-800-WX-BRIEF, using DUAT or DUATS, or flight software applications such as AOPA  or ForeFlight, etc. (Note:  pilots should use an official (traceable) source for a briefing to comply with CFR91.103 Preflight Action requirements). Bottom-line, the briefer may/may-not  be familiar with your local area or departure/arrival airports.

If you choose a live (phone) briefing… what do you say? You might start with the following conversation example;

Pilot: I’m planning a VFR (or IFR) flight from San Carlos to San Luis Obispo.

Pilot: I need a “standard” briefing and would like to file a flight plan. (Note: If you have recently received a standard briefing, and just want several items updated, then request an “abbreviated” briefing with specifics on what updates you need).

Briefer: Go ahead with your flight plan.

Pilot: VFR, N714VT, C152,  /A, 95 knots, departure KSQL, today 12:00 zulu, 7500 feet, OSI V25 PRB, destination KSBP (San Luis Obispo), ETE 01:30, remarks (if any), fuel 04:00, alternates none, pilot name / address / phone, home-base KSQL, persons onboard 1, color W/B, destination contact (name/phone), close plan with Hawthorne FSS 122.4 (if high enough) or close with 1-800-WX-BRIEF or tower (reference FAA form 7233)

Briefer: Flight Plan on file (then the Briefer provides a “standard” weather briefing). Any questions? Pilot reports are appreciated on Flight Watch 122.0

Pilot: (Q&A with Briefer if any) and/or Thank You..!

It is that simple.

If you get a briefing via DUAT/DUATS, or flight software application then you are briefing yourself, and the software application is validating your flight plan input.

Next month we will discuss opening your Flight Plan, Updating, and Closing.  Happy Spring Flying…)