New to this Site, How do Pilots determine weather condition?


Hi! My Mother and I are flown from Georgia to Chicago by Angel Flight and Lifeline Pilots so that my mother can receive chemo treatment. I was wondering how the pilots determine the weather conditions and whether or not they can fly in the weather. I am fascinated with the small planes and really enjoy the flights and the pilots that we’ve met. I’m just trying to figure out how to keep up with the weather the way that the pilots do, to determine if flying is possible. Thanks so much!


Here is a good place to start


The Weather Channel is a good place I use frequently. Pilot’s can also call a Flight Service Station for a personalized weather briefing.


Thanks! I appreciate it!
I normally watch the Weather Channel Aviation site when it’s getting time for one of the trips. She has to go every 3 wks for chemo. There have been some times where she wasn’t able to go because of weather conditions and treatment would have to be delayed. I’ll be sure and check out the noaa information! Thanks again!


Welcome Mistyangel,

As much automation there is in getting the weather off the internet, and calling “Flight Services” ALL of the decision making process depends on the pilot intuition themselves. As you can see, the first and foremost thing is safety first on any flight.

There are two different types of rules that pilots go by. One is called Visual Flight rules (VFR) where the pilot must be able to navigate with his own set of eyes. In other words, not fly in clouds.

The second set of rules is called Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). This set of rules is a much higher standard of flying since the pilot must be able to navigate by his instruments only. This set of rules allows the pilot to fly inside clouds.

Sooo, it’s possible the very same weather conditions may result in very different decisions by different pilots. If a pilot is rated IFR, you probably have a better chance of getting to Chicago then a pilot who is not rated to fly in the clouds (VFR rated)

Hope this will help you understand why some missions may be cancelled where as others you have flown were not especially when you look at the weather and think well, it’s no different then the week before, why can’t we go :slight_smile:

Now that you have had the taste of general aviation, you may want to think about taking flight lessons! Something to ponder anyway.



Hi Allen! Thanks so much for all that info! Now I know what THOSE letters stand for! I’m a very inquisitive person! And the pilots that we’ve had so far have been sooo great about answering my questions, telling me what different things mean, and especially, WHERE we are during the flight! I’ve never flown in a plane until January, when we started this mission, well, except when I was 2 mths old! LOL!

I have to admit, I fell in love with flying! Even the bumps don’t scare me! Pretty good for someone who deals with anxiety and panic! But it’s sooo beautiful up there!

The commercial flights are wonderful, too, but at least with the Angel Flights, we don’t have to worry about all the security and stuff!

This will be Mom’s 6th trip to Chicago coming up tomorrow. So far, no one has taken our mission, but hoping that something will come thru today!

Me? Flying? Piloting? Naw…I better stick with navigating the map when hubby and I travel! LOL!


If it was me, I probably wouldn’t take on the mission due to the weather forecast. … &map.y=103 for Chicago area. (Note to myself, need to look into doing Angel flights myself)

Not only does the pilot need to get you there, but get home as well. Unless of course you are lucky to get a pilot that has a plane with enough ponies to get you above the weather. Be rest assured, my plane doesn’t have enough ponies :slight_smile:

Airplanes of any size and thunderstorms do not mix very well.

My no go cutoff for thunderstorms forecast is 30 percent chance. It’s just not worth risking life and limb when other means are available (may not be practical, but they are available).

I was told by a meteorologist a good rule of thumb that the percent represents “coverage” of thunderstorms / rain, not 3 in 10 chance you will have a thunderstorm will be over your head

A very user friendly weather website that I use to help me make “go or no go” decisions can be found at

Click on the state of interest, then the county or city of interest and viola, you have the weather forecast.

For radar, go to and then at the bottom, you will see subsections of radar you can zoom in. After clicking there, you can even further zoom down to the city level and this last level includes looping and other radar options.

Believe it or not, the hardest part of flying is the last 6 inches before the wheels meet terra firma on landing.

If you can drive, you sure can drive. Now, landing, well, better save that for many, many hours of training :smiley:

Hey, if anything the thought of you piloting an airplane surely did bring a smile to your lips, so that is a good jump start?

Good questions you ask, so keep asking. Somebody will always have an answer!



Thanks again, Allen, for all the information!! I do hit up the weather aviation site since Angel Flight told me that they check there. I have that bookmarked so I can always see what the forecast is calling for…and be able to see from Georgia to Chicago.

Back in Feb, we had a great deal of trouble scheduling a flight because of all the icy conditions. We ended up going commercial. My fight commercial flight! That was with AirTran.
It was 2 wks past Mom getting her treatment. But we understood the danger, especially with the small planes. Her dr here did good getting her to agree to this trial study in Chicago! She does not like cold, icy weather. Here is Georgia…central…we don’t get much of it!

You really should check out about Angel Flight! The pilots that we’ve had already talk about how much they love flying and then to top it off, they’re helping out with a good cause!

About the piloting… I did get to sit up front with a couple of pilots the very first time we flew and that was really awesome! The first pilot was a lady and she was really great about showing me everything, telling me what things are and do, and where we were! I have gotten some beautiful shots up in those skies!

We’ve flown in 4 passenger and 6 passenger planes…1 prop and 2 prop. Sometimes we have to land around Bowling Green, KY…even went to Hamilton, OH once. Then another pilot picks up that last leg of the trip, going into Chicago.

We’ve been fortunate enough, also, to have a couple of pilots who flew us all the way!

One trip was super bumpy, going over the mountains! I was laughing, my Mom was making faces and holding onto her seat!


Yes, even us little guys make the country a little smaller even though we poke along at 125 mph.

Beats driving any day of the week. And with the smaller planes, you get to see parts of the country that commercial airlines never go to.

Yes you are right, I live near Jackson MS and once I flew from 73 degrees to 28 degrees in Owensbory KY. Flight was only 3 hours and I forgot about the temp changes, and wore shorts!

Kinda of amazing how things “just works” with a quality organization like Angel flights :slight_smile:

As you probably can see, a lot of careful coordination is needed between legs. It’s not like they have the resources of airlines, only volunteers, which is a true credit to the person volunteering.

Don’t forget to tell the folks behind, they can track you on this website if the pilot uses the IFR rules. If the pilot elects VFR, then flight tracking is not available.

Just ask the pilot before leaving and give your folks that want to track you a call before leaving. All you need is the “tail number” of the airplane (painted on the sides of almost all airplanes) and then in this website put the tail nail number beginning with the letter N. I.E N1943L will bring up my airplane and past flights.

They just may enjoy following you on your journey across this great US of A.



Angel Flights often use the NGF prefix plus the last 3 digits of their tail number when operating IFR (and possibly when operating VFR).



Glad to hear that AngelFlight has been taking good care of you and your mom. I fly AngelFlights regularly and it is always great to be able to help good folks like you and your mother. I can tell you that we all work very hard to fly if at all possible, but never want to compromise your safety. There are many times I have watched the weather closely to get an AngelFlight passenger safely to their destination. One time, we had to fly to another airport and wait for an hour on the ground for the fog to clear in order to get our AngelFlight passenger.

From my perspective, it is always more fun when the passenger is interested in flying, so you should not be shy about asking questions. Hope everything goes well for you mom.


Listen…some of the planes we’ve been on have gone as fast as 200 mph! Which I’m guessing is pretty good for a small plane! I write down EVERYTHING…from the pilot’s name, mph we’re going, how far up we are, etc, etc! All info about the plane, too!

My hubby spent 20 yrs working with Boeing and can look up in the sky and tell you what Boeing plane that is!

Jackson, MS…been through there on our way to TX! We have a son and his family who lives in Justin and our youngest daughter and her family use to live in Killeen. Her hubby was stationed there.

We would take I-20 and travel straight through! Beautiful state, Mississippi!

About this site…we had a pilot tell us about it when we were waiting on our pilot to arrive! He told us the website, and that we could track our plane. He looked and saw where our pilot was arriving early!

I’m passing the info around about this site! I have several very close friends on ebay who keep up with what my Mom is going through! They would love to have this info! So I’m going to post a link for it today!

Normally, Angel Flight gives us the tail number for each plane, so I know now that if they don’t tell us, that I need to be sure and ask for it!


Thanks for the correction :smiley:

For as long as I been around, I should have remembered!


Hi CAflier!

Great to hear from an Angel Flight pilot! All of you are AWESOME for donating your time and your plane to help those who can’t afford to fly commercaily!!

We flew AirTran back in Feb because of icy conditions and AF couldn’t get us to Chicago. It cost us over $400! We just don’t have that kind of money, but Mom was 2 wks past her appt for her 2nd treatment. We managed to get some financial help to get us those tickets! We were certainly blessed!

The other time we flew commercially was because of ‘problems’! Ah, it’s so good to laugh about this 'cause it really freaked my Mom out!

Here’s a short synopsis of what happened! Pilot arrived here, as he landed, one engine went out. He and the copilot took it back up, said it was working fine. Flew us to PDK in Atlanta where Angel Flight is. Having the engine checked. Eating lunch and pilot breaks his tooth! He couldn’t fly and they couldn’t get anyone so late to take us, so this gracious, generous pilot paid for tickets for me and Mom to fly via Southwest!

We got flown to Birmingham/Mercury. And safely arrived in Chicago! I am STILL in awe that he would do that for us!

Fly back to Birmingham…same pilot waiting on us, using the same plane. Landed in Thomaston for gas, landing gear wouldn’t come down. Had to do it manually. Then the plane shook on landing. We get out. Hydraulic fluid leaking from the plane!

He ended up flying us into Macon, even tho Angel flight wanted him to come straight back to Atlanta! He was great! Oh, and did I mention the broken seat??!! I sat in that one so Mom could have the good one! LOL!

What a trip that was!! LOL!


For flight plan filing purposes, we are told to use the NGF prefix and full tail number, absent the initial ‘N’. However, I’ve found that it is only 50/50 that it actually gets into the system that way. In flight, the call sign is AngelFlight on initial contact and then AngelFlight on subsequent contacts.

If VFR, there may not be anything to see in FlightAware.


With the privatization of the Flight Service Stations. pilots have been encouraged to use other, less expensive, options for obtaining pre-flight briefings - the photo here is one of them:

I tend to look out the window alot in my pre-flight planning. Clouds, sky condition, etc, wind direction and barometric pressure all tell alot. That being said, I getmy briefings at DUAT and DTC Duats. where I get my weather is from XM on board, and I also look at the Skew-T diagrams to see where or if the winds change directions, thickness of clouds, etc.


LOL!!! LOVE that picture! I’m gonna ‘borrow’ that one and print it up! I’ll have to share it with our pilots!

Angel Flight is not able to fly us tomorrow, so we are off the mission board. Guess the weather is too iffy.

Mentioned National Patient Travel Center and have called them. Hoping that we can get transportation through them.

Thanks for all the info!
I may not understand all the letters and stuff, but I like to learn!