The following are excerpts from the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). They provide a basic understanding of what types of pilot briefings are available and what to tell the briefer when requesting one.
For flights within Alaska, disregard all references to En Route Flight Advisory Service (EFAS), also know as Flight Watch. This service is not provided in Alaska.
5-1-1. Preflight Preparation
f. When requesting a preflight briefing, identify yourself as a pilot and provide the following:
1. Type of flight planned; e.g., VFR or IFR.
2. Aircraft's number or pilot's name.
3. Aircraft type.
4. Departure Airport.
5. Route of flight.
7. Flight altitude(s).
8. ETD and ETE.
g. Prior to conducting a briefing, briefers are required to have the background information listed above so that they may tailor the briefing to the needs of the proposed flight. The objective is to communicate a “picture” of meteorological and aeronautical information necessary for the conduct of a safe and efficient flight. Briefers use all available weather and aeronautical information to summarize data applicable to the proposed flight. They do not read weather reports and forecasts verbatim unless specifically requested by the pilot. FSS briefers do not provide FDC NOTAM information for special instrument approach procedures unless specifically asked. Pilots authorized by the FAA to use special instrument approach procedures must specifically request FDC NOTAM information for these procedures. Pilots who receive the information electronically will receive NOTAMs for special IAPs automatically.
AIM, Preflight Briefings, Paragraph 7-1-4, contains those items of a weather briefing that should be expected or requested.
7-1-4. Preflight Briefing
a. Flight Service Stations (AFSSs/FSSs) are the primary source for obtaining preflight briefings and inflight weather information. Flight Service Specialists are qualified and certificated by the NWS as Pilot Weather Briefers. They are not authorized to make original forecasts, but are authorized to translate and interpret available forecasts and reports directly into terms describing the weather conditions which you can expect along your flight route and at your destination. Available aviation weather reports, forecasts and aviation weather charts are displayed at each AFSS/FSS, for pilot use. Pilots should feel free to use these self briefing displays where available, or to ask for a briefing or assistance from the specialist on duty. Three basic types of preflight briefings are available to serve your specific needs. These are: Standard Briefing, Abbreviated Briefing, and Outlook Briefing. You should specify to the briefer the type of briefing you want, along with your appropriate background information. This will enable the briefer to tailor the information to your intended flight. The following paragraphs describe the types of briefings available and the information provided in each briefing.
AIM, Preflight Preparation, Paragraph 5-1-1, for items that are required.
b. Standard Briefing. You should request a Standard Briefing any time you are planning a flight and you have not received a previous briefing or have not received preliminary information through mass dissemination media; e.g., TIBS, TWEB (Alaska only), etc. International data may be inaccurate or incomplete. If you are planning a flight outside of U.S. controlled airspace, the briefer will advise you to check data as soon as practical after entering foreign airspace, unless you advise that you have the international cautionary advisory. The briefer will automatically provide the following information in the sequence listed, except as noted, when it is applicable to your proposed flight.
1. Adverse Conditions. Significant meteorological and/or aeronautical information that might influence the pilot to alter or cancel the proposed flight; for example, hazardous weather conditions, airport closures, air traffic delays, etc. Pilots should be especially alert for current or forecast weather that could reduce flight minimums below VFR or IFR conditions. Pilots should also be alert for any reported or forecast icing if the aircraft is not certified for operating in icing conditions. Flying into areas of icing or weather below minimums could have disastrous results.
2. VFR Flight Not Recommended. When VFR flight is proposed and sky conditions or visibilities are present or forecast, surface or aloft, that, in the briefer's judgment, would make flight under VFR doubtful, the briefer will describe the conditions, describe the affected locations, and use the phrase "VFR flight not recommended." This recommendation is advisory in nature. The final decision as to whether the flight can be conducted safely rests solely with the pilot. Upon receiving a "VFR flight not recommended" statement, the non-IFR rated pilot will need to make a "go or no go" decision. This decision should be based on weighing the current and forecast weather conditions against the pilot's experience and ratings. The aircraft's equipment, capabilities and limitations should also be considered.
Pilots flying into areas of minimal VFR weather could encounter unforecasted lowering conditions that place the aircraft outside the pilot's ratings and experience level. This could result in spatial disorientation and/or loss of control of the aircraft.
3. Synopsis. A brief statement describing the type, location and movement of weather systems and/or air masses which might affect the proposed flight.
These first 3 elements of a briefing may be combined in any order when the briefer believes it will help to more clearly describe conditions.
4. Current Conditions. Reported weather conditions applicable to the flight will be summarized from all available sources; e.g., METARs/ SPECIs, PIREPs, RAREPs. This element will be omitted if the proposed time of departure is beyond 2 hours, unless the information is specifically requested by the pilot.
5. En Route Forecast. Forecast en route conditions for the proposed route are summarized in logical order; i.e., departure/climbout, en route, and descent. (Heights are MSL, unless the contractions "AGL" or "CIG" are denoted indicating that heights are above ground.)
6. Destination Forecast. The destination forecast for the planned ETA. Any significant changes within 1 hour before and after the planned arrival are included.
7. Winds Aloft. Forecast winds aloft will be provided using degrees of the compass. The briefer will interpolate wind directions and speeds between levels and stations as necessary to provide expected conditions at planned altitudes. (Heights are MSL.) Temperature information will be provided on request.
8. Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs).
(a) Available NOTAM (D) information pertinent to the proposed flight, including special use airspace (SUA) NOTAMs for restricted areas, aerial refueling, and night vision goggles (NVG).
Other SUA NOTAMs (D), such as military operations area (MOA), military training route (MTR), and warning area NOTAMs, are considered "upon request" briefing items as indicated in paragraph 7-1-4b10(a).
(b) Prohibited Areas P-40, P-49, P-56, and the special flight rules area (SFRA) for Washington, DC.
(c) FSS briefers do not provide FDC NOTAM information for special instrument approach procedures unless specifically asked. Pilots authorized by FAA to use special instrument approach procedures must specifically request FDC NOTAM information for these procedures.
NOTAM information may be combined with current conditions when the briefer believes it is logical to do so.
NOTAM (D) information and FDC NOTAMs which have been published in the Notices to Airmen Publication are not included in pilot briefings unless a review of this publication is specifically requested by the pilot. For complete flight information you are urged to review the printed NOTAMs in the Notices to Airmen Publication and the A/FD in addition to obtaining a briefing.
9. ATC Delays. Any known ATC delays and flow control advisories which might affect the proposed flight.
10. Pilots may obtain the following from flight service station briefers upon request:
(a) Information on SUA and SUA-related airspace, except those listed in paragraph 7-1-4b8.
1. For the purpose of this paragraph, SUA and related airspace includes the following types of airspace: alert area, military operations area (MOA), warning area, and air traffic control assigned airspace (ATCAA). MTR data includes the following types of airspace: IFR training routes (IR), VFR training routes (VR), and slow training routes (SR).
2. Pilots are encouraged to request updated information from ATC facilities while in flight.
(b) A review of the Notices to Airmen Publication for pertinent NOTAMs and Special Notices.
(c) Approximate density altitude data.
(d) Information regarding such items as air traffic services and rules, customs/immigration procedures, ADIZ rules, search and rescue, etc.
(e) LORAN-C NOTAMs, available military NOTAMs, and runway friction measurement value NOTAMs.
(f) GPS RAIM availability for 1 hour before to 1 hour after ETA or a time specified by the pilot.
(g) Other assistance as required.
c. Abbreviated Briefing. Request an Abbreviated Briefing when you need information to supplement mass disseminated data, update a previous briefing, or when you need only one or two specific items. Provide the briefer with appropriate background information, the time you received the previous information, and/or the specific items needed. You should indicate the source of the information already received so that the briefer can limit the briefing to the information that you have not received, and/or appreciable changes in meteorological/aeronautical conditions since your previous briefing. To the extent possible, the briefer will provide the information in the sequence shown for a Standard Briefing. If you request only one or two specific items, the briefer will advise you if adverse conditions are present or forecast. (Adverse conditions contain both meteorological and/or aeronautical information.) Details on these conditions will be provided at your request. International data may be inaccurate or incomplete. If you are planning a flight outside of U.S. controlled airspace, the briefer will advise you to check data as soon as practical after entering foreign airspace, unless you advise that you have the international cautionary advisory.
d. Outlook Briefing. You should request an Outlook Briefing whenever your proposed time of departure is six or more hours from the time of the briefing. The briefer will provide available forecast data applicable to the proposed flight. This type of briefing is provided for planning purposes only. You should obtain a Standard or Abbreviated Briefing prior to departure in order to obtain such items as adverse conditions, current conditions, updated forecasts, winds aloft and NOTAMs, etc.
e. When filing a flight plan only, you will be asked if you require the latest information on adverse conditions pertinent to the route of flight.
f. Inflight Briefing. You are encouraged to obtain your preflight briefing by telephone or in person before departure. In those cases where you need to obtain a preflight briefing or an update to a previous briefing by radio, you should contact the nearest AFSS/FSS to obtain this information. After communications have been established, advise the specialist of the type briefing you require and provide appropriate background information. You will be provided information as specified in the above paragraphs, depending on the type of briefing requested. In addition, the specialist will recommend shifting to the Flight Watch frequency when conditions along the intended route indicate that it would be advantageous to do so. Remember that weather conditions can change rapidly and that a "go or no go" decision, as mentioned in paragraph 7-1-4b2, should be assessed at all phases of flight.
g. Following any briefing, feel free to ask for any information that you or the briefer may have missed or are not understood. This way, the briefer is able to present the information in a logical sequence, and lessens the chance of important items being overlooked.
7-1-8. Telephone Information Briefing Service (TIBS)
a. TIBS, provided by automated flight service stations (AFSSs) is a continuous recording of meteorological and aeronautical information, available by telephone. Each AFSS provides at least four route and/or area briefings. In addition, airspace procedures and special announcements (if applicable) concerning aviation interests may also be available. Depending on user demand, other items may be provided; i.e., METAR observations, terminal aerodrome forecasts, wind/temperatures aloft forecasts, etc.
b. TIBS is not intended to substitute for specialist-provided preflight briefings. It is, however, recommended for use as a preliminary briefing, and often will be valuable in helping you to make a “go or no go” decision.
c. TIBS is provided by Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSSs) and provides continuous telephone recordings of meteorological and/or aeronautical information. Specifically, TIBS provides area and/or route briefings, airspace procedures, and special announcements (if applicable) concerning aviation interests.
d. Depending on user demand, other items may be provided; i.e., surface observations, terminal forecasts, winds/temperatures aloft forecasts, etc. A touch-tone™ telephone is necessary to fully utilize the TIBS program.
e. Pilots are encouraged to avail themselves of this service. TIBS locations are found at AFSS sites and can be accessed by use of 1-800-WX BRIEF toll free number.
7-1-9. Transcribed Weather Broadcast (TWEB) (Alaska Only)
Equipment is provided in Alaska by which meteorological and aeronautical data are recorded on tapes and broadcast continuously over selected L/MF and VOR facilities. Broadcasts are made from a series of individual tape recordings, and changes, as they occur, are transcribed onto the tapes. The information provided varies depending on the type equipment available. Generally, the broadcast contains a summary of adverse conditions, surface weather observations, pilot weather reports, and a density altitude statement (if applicable). At the discretion of the broadcast facility, recordings may also include a synopsis, winds aloft forecast, en route and terminal forecast data, and radar reports. At selected locations, telephone access to the TWEB has been provided (TEL-TWEB). Telephone numbers for this service are found in the Supplement Alaska A/FD. These broadcasts are made available primarily for preflight and inflight planning, and as such, should not be considered as a substitute for specialist-provided preflight briefings.