It is essential for pilots to have accurate, current and comprehensive met information before flight.
The internet allows pilots instant access to weather information and apart from our own UK Met Office there are many other unofficial sites offering information. This unofficial information comes with two big important questions, is it reliable and is it current?
Wellesbourne, they claim, was the first GA airfield to provide live weather so I put ‘wellesbourne weather’ into the Google search engine and came up with this:
Wind NE – 6 kts QNH 1016
I became immediately suspicious when I saw the QNH of 1016 as at the same time the Staverton, (Gloucester) QNH was 1009 and such a pressure difference over a short distance would be rare unless it was a deep depression. In fact the correct page for the Wellesbourne weather is
Further investigation of the first Wellesboune site revealed that the currency date shewn was August 2011 – 4 months out of date, not bad for an actual!
So the first lesson is to always check the currency date, if it is shown of course, as well as backing it up with other information. We always use QNHs to get a guessed QFE for destination (to prevent mis setting of altimeters), so we always look and compare pressure settings.
I also spent a few days puzzling why another site was showing a Birmingham TAF with the same weather every day-it turned out to be locked and 3 months out of date but all the other UK TAFs seemed OK!
So be very careful of any website other that the UK Met Office. Before flight always check the Met Office TAFs and METARS and form 215.
While its good to see all these new weather sites you do need to be careful. It’s a shame that our own UK Met Office cannot provide a user friendly attractive website that is easy to navigate and is more in keeping with 2011. The met forms, especially 215, could do with a complete redesign and made to present information in simple English that a PPL can read easily.
Remember this advice below from the CAA safety sense Leaflet, VFR Navigation:
Get an aviation weather (including area) forecast, and if the actual weather
turns out worse than predicted KNOW WHEN TO TURN BACK OR DIVERT
Check NOTAMs at http://www.ais.org.uk for latest airspace/frequency information
and Freephone 0500 354802 for late Restrictions/Red Arrows Displays
Get this PDF document from the Met Office to help with the understanding of met information and how to get hold of it:
Sign up for Met Office briefings here:
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