When is the last time you talked to the Flight Service Station?
Believe it or not, FSS is still in existence. Over the past 10 years, they went from FAA run, the being bought by Lockheed Martin, to now being privately run by a company called Leidos. 1-800-WX Brief will get you connected with a weather briefer, but you’ll hear “Leidos Flight Service Station” now when the briefer picks up.
Since the advent of Foreflight, most pilots these days get their weather briefings digitally on the iPad. Foreflight has come a long way since it’s inception. The briefing part of their Flights page is quite comprehensive, with lots of information, and counts as a legal weather briefing (which pilots are still required to get before a flight).
Why does a pilot even need to call Flight Service? Well, when’s the last time you tried to interpret everything the Briefing on Foreflight told you? As I said before, it’s a lot of information and a lot of it can be confusing. Pilots are not fully trained on interpreting Prog Charts and getting an overall weather picture for a flight. A weather briefer is.
I have over 5,000 hours and I still call a weather briefer before almost every flight. On the way to the airport is a great opportunity to get a weather briefing. I get a great picture of what’s going on in my area or over my route, frontal movement, bad weather areas, and whether or not it’s a good idea to even take off. Calling in the car alleviates the main complaint I hear about calling the Flight Service Station, which is it’s inconvenient and causes a delay since you have to call them on the phone.
I don’t do much private pilot training anymore, but when I do, I always teach my students how to get a weather briefing from the Flight Service Station. I’ll show them how to get the briefing on Foreflight too, but usually their eyes bug out of their heads when they start trying to read everything. A breathe of relief is released when I tell them there is a trained professional just a phone call away who can clear everything up.
The other thing that the Flight Service Station provides that is important to a lot of folks are PIREPs. It’s vital in sketchy weather areas for the FSS to get a report of what’s actually going on in the air. This helps other pilots out greatly as they are getting information about icing, cloud bases and tops, turbulence and a myriad of other things from airplanes who are actually in the conditions.
Finally, the most used portion of the Flight Service Station is the Clearance Delivery line (888-766-8267). At airports without a tower or a clearance delivery frequency, with IFR conditions present, the only way to get your IFR clearance is to call Clearance Delivery. Yes, it can take a little time sometimes, but you will get a clearance every time, unlike taking off and trying to dodge the clouds without hitting anything, while trying to call Center on the radio (which isn’t safe or legal).
Been a while since you’ve talked to the Flight Service Station? Give them a call, either on the phone or on the radio. Odds are, they are bored and just wanting someone to talk to, just like you are on that long cross country flight!
Checkout 1800WXBrief.com to see all the cool stuff the Flight Service Station does.