Two pilots planning over documents and charts.

Pilot resources

To help you navigate through the list of resources, click on a title below to jump to the section of your choice:

METAR decode
TAF decode
F215 decode and worked example
Guide to aerodrome warnings
Interpreting synoptic charts
Understanding weather fronts
Understanding air masses
Briefing for balloonists
What do TAFs actually mean?
Introduction to Threat and Error Management
Upper winds and significant weather
The use of aerodrome weather warnings
Smoke SIGMETS

METAR decode

Familiarise yourself with the abbreviations used in METARs, that summarise the current weather at aerodromes in near real time.

METARs are routinely issued at over 50 UK airports. They provide a snapshot of current weather conditions including wind speed and direction, visibility, weather, cloud, temperature and pressure.

METARs are provided in a coded form, so to be able to fully interpret these messages, an understanding of what these codes mean is very useful. A decode for METARs is available here.

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TAF decode

Familiarise yourself with the abbreviations used in TAFs that convey the most likely weather conditions over periods up to 30 hours ahead.

TAFs are airport weather forecasts. They provide a concise description of the wind, visibility, cloud and weather conditions over periods ranging up to 30 hours ahead.

TAF are routinely provided for over 50 UK airports. Like METARs they are provided in a coded format to ensure their content is broadly consistent with TAFs issued anywhere in the world.

A decode for TAFs is available here.

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F215 decode and worked example

Understand how to interpret low level aviation area forecasts to ensure awareness of the expected weather along your route.

Low level aviation area forecasts (commonly known as a F215) are area weather forecasts provided specifically for UK general low level aviation. These charts are issued four times per day and can be used to show areas of poor visibility, and low cloud that pilots may wish to avoid along their flying route, and much more.

It is said that it is possible to experience four seasons in one day in the UK. Our weather means that we also often see an incredibly wide range of weather conditions over the UK at any one time. The F215 forecasts therefore have to convey a great deal of weather information on a single page, so abbreviated plain language is used. Pilots can learn more about the content of these forecasts and the abbreviation used, as well as a worked example.

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Guide to aerodrome warnings

Learn about the weather hazard warnings issued by the Met Office to UK aerodromes.

Aerodrome weather warnings provide a top level alert of specific aviation hazards likely to affect aerodromes across the UK. These include strong winds, gales, thunderstorms, hail, fog and frost and are generated for over 100 aerodromes. Learn more about aerodrome weather warnings.

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Interpreting synoptic charts

Get an overview of the weather over the country with an understanding of synoptic charts.

Synoptic charts may appear confusing at first glance. However with a basic understanding of fronts and air masses, these charts can show a lot of information about the expected conditions over the UK.

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Understanding weather fronts

Weather fronts mark the boundary or transition zone between two air masses which often have contrasting weather properties.

Get answers to questions such as:

'What kind of weather do warm and cold fronts typically introduce?'

'What changes do pilots experience when flying through a cold or warm front?'

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Understanding air masses

Air masses are large bodies of air with uniform weather conditions, such as similar clouds and temperature.

Learn about the flying conditions you should expect when the weather originates from different regions.

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Briefing for balloonists

‘A wide range of weather information is available to available to support balloonists plan and operate safely’.

Balloonists are particularly sensitive to the weather, so a robust approach to weather briefing is important to ensure that flights are carried out within operational limits.

As well as a wide range of briefing material provided for the wider general aviation community, site specific ballooning forecasts are also available to provide additional information of specific interest to balloonists, such as thermal strength, windshear and temperature inversions.

The Met Office and CAA have summarised the information available for balloonists and a sensible approach to pre-flight briefing here.

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What do TAFs actually mean?

‘There are more to TAFs than meet the eye’!

The values provided in TAFs are commonly thought to represent the exact forecast conditions for a particular time.

In fact, whilst those values are the most likely expected, they actually account for a range of potential values. These ranges are defined by ICAO and implemented in the UK. Change groups in the TAF exist to represent changes in the weather that are expected to occur outside of a particular range of values.

This table describes the range of wind, cloud and visibilities that TAFs cover, without a change group being included.

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Introduction to Threat and Error Management (TEM)

The principles of TEM are to encourage pilots to have situation awareness of the risks that might put them in danger and to consider plans to mitigate those risks.

Identifying weather related risks is an important factor, so an understanding of how to manage risks such as unexpected weather changes is a fundamental part of good airmanship.

We will soon be adding a presentation to this section and is designed to consider TEM in the context of weather.

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Upper winds and significant weather

‘Wind, temperature and weather information for pilots that fly at higher altitude’.

The Met Office is one of two World Area Forecast Centres, and is responsible for providing global upper air weather data which is routinely used by commercial airlines. Apart from commercial airlines, other aviation sectors, such as business jets, also often operate at relatively high altitude. Planning flights with the latest available wind, temperature and en-route weather hazards information is crucial to the safe and efficient operations at these altitudes.

Guidance on interpreting the features commonly seen on these charts is provided here.

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The use of aerodrome weather warnings

Find out more about making the best use of aerodrome warnings and how they differ from TAFs here.

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Smoke SIGMETS

The Met Office is now producing SIGMETs in the event of a widespread smoke event similar to that experienced by aircraft in October 2017.

Find out more about the provision of Smoke SIGMETs.

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