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Some of my students have come up to me during Ground School and have asked that they don't know when to go to what maps when they are looking at weather for a cross country flight.  I have heard of an acronym  called PARTS which I believe stands for

Prognotic Charts

Area Forecasts


Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts


Does anyone have a method of looking at specific weather charts in a certain order when going on a Cross Country? 

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4 Answers

  1. John A Lindholm on Mar 13, 2011

    I usually start with the Weather Channel at least 24 hours prior to my flights, especially if they exceed 500 nm.  If a morning flight, I look at the forcasts the night before for departure point, enroute and destination.  I also look very closely at the NOTAMS so there are no surprises (like an airport closing for an airshow on a Sunday) the next day just prior to flight. 
    Prior to flight, I look at total weather again and also one last quick look at the NOTAMS.  For SE IFR, I expect students to have a VFR “out” for an enroute electrical emergency, etc.

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  2. Kent Shook on Mar 14, 2011

    For long flights, I usually start looking 3 days before at the surface analysis graphics from DUATS, and also at usairnet.com – They have a product that uses the same computer model that’s used to generate TAFs, and gives much the same information, but it goes to 3 days out and is available for any airport that has weather reporting, not just those with TAFs. For example: http://usairnet.com/cgi-bin/launch/code.cgi?sta=KMSN&model=avn&state=WI&Submit=Get+Forecast
    Many more products start becoming available within 24 hours – TAF’s, Area Forecasts, etc. – And monitoring current conditions and trends can help develop the weather picture in your head. 
    The actual order isn’t as important as getting all of the needed information. For a student, getting the picture using the information that’s available 3 days out is a good start, but there’s not much of it. But on the day of, things like radar and area forecasts won’t matter much if the ceilings at the destination are 1000 overcast, so I’d probably go with TAFs as one of the more important things when the flight is maybe 4-24 hours away, and METARs as the flight time approaches.

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  3. Earl Kessler on Mar 16, 2011

    I recommend starting with the Weather Channel and its accompanying website weather.com 2-3 days out.  wunderground.com, also gives a good overview for long range.  Next use the Prog Charts in aviationweather.gov – this site has lots of great products to look at and can give you interactive roll-overs on several maps to animate your view and outlook.  fltplan.com is has a great weather planner that you can print out and take in the cockpit and qualifies as an FAA/FSS (QIPC) briefing and is specific to your route of flight.  Finally, don’t forget that there are highly qualified and available experts to help interpret these reports at 800-WXBRIEF.  It also helps to check the METARS and TAFS of the airports along the proposed route of flight.  The best part is every website I have mentioned is free.  Most of us will never know everything there is to know about the weather, since it is a lifelong endeavor, but every CFI has a few tricks to make it more understandable.

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  4. Earl Kessler on Mar 16, 2011

    John Lindholm:  What a great aviation weather website.  One of the best nuggets I have seen.  Thanks for sharing!

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