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wof_75_weather_or_not BLOG #75, February 2, 2015


     On Saturday, Kim Curray, Hank Pomeranz  presented a very informative seminar in Southport, North Carolina on the topic of weather. What originally caught my attention about this seminar was that the presenters were retired U.S. Navy meteorologists, general aviation pilots and, most recently, weather experts for fellow avid sailing enthusiasts.

     It was interesting to note they both admitted encouraging boaters to utilize aviation weather resources. The reason is because aviation held some of the highest standards and thoroughness not available via standard services. Being sufficiently rusty on my weather knowledge, I found this course to be exactly what I needed to brush up on my skills. With no slight against the usefulness of the content, the material had me thinking about the “beginner’s mind,” when it comes to learning aviation.  Specifically, I wonder how someone just getting into aviation thinks about the complexity of aviation weather?

     Following the presentation I was talking with a flight school owner and ground instructor about the challenges faced by the modern student pilot. According to the respected flight school owner many students drop-out at around the fourth flight lesson. The theory was that students who make it to this point come to the realization that learning how to fly is serious business. Not only is it serious business but it is a difficult and all-consuming activity that is, bluntly put, hard. What does this have to do with weather?

     Aviation weather is debatably one of the most difficult skill-sets in flying. New and experienced pilots alike have difficulty staying weather-wise. In fact, I would go as far as staying that if you asked all airlines pilots their primary concern in aviation it would be weather flying, followed by seniority. Just kidding. Being really good in the topic of weather is tough all by itself, not to mention all of the other skill-sets required for successfully flying an aircraft. Is this topic simply a “tough nut to crack” or is the complicated nature of this beast brought on by our industry itself?

     A good portion of the seminar revolved around the basic principles of weather such as the types of fronts, fog, freezing precipitation and other weather phenomenon. Refreshing the data banks on the basics was much appreciated, but a great deal of the presentation was dedicated to de-coding weather reports. Fortunately, most of it came back pretty easily with the exception of some of the foreign-looking shorthand codes used in Pilot Reports, known as PIREPS.  I want to give a hug to the person that invented the “plain language” setting available on most of the popular online aviation weather products.  Why, pray tell, do we still insist on using shorthand in aviation? The reason weather was originally abbreviated in code was because the information was delivered by teletype, which charged by the character. So, it was done to save money. Today’s digital delivery systems handle enormous amounts of data without having to worry about character costs.

     Back to the post seminar conversation, the flight school owner brought up a flight instructor under her employ that was known for his great ability to “deconstruct” complex terminology into simple terms.  She felt that his students were dis-armed when the instructor used simple terms with a humorous overtone. I think this instructor has a firm grasp on the needs of the student, helping them realize the dream of flight.

     Looking at everything from the “beginner’s mind” might help us in the aviation industry appreciate what it is like to be the modern flight student. Like plain language weather reports we should embrace the concept of making the educational process easier. One of the long time complaints by passengers in general aviation aircraft is that the language of aviation is confusing with all its acronyms and such. I challenge every aviation industry professional, including general aviation pilots, to watch your language when talking in mixed, non-aviation, company. Who knows, you might gain another friend for aviation.


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