Weather knowledge on the Checkride
The Private, Instrument and Commercial PTS all have a Task in it that looks something like this:
Task C: Weather Information (ASEL and ASES)
References: 14 CFR part 91; AC 00-6, AC 00-45; AC 61-84; FAA-H-8083-25; AIM.
Objective: To determine that the applicant:
1. Exhibits satisfactory knowledge of the elements related to weather information by analyzing weather reports, charts, and forecasts from various sources with emphasis on—
a. METAR, TAF, and FA.
b. surface analysis chart.
c. radar summary chart.
d. winds and temperature aloft chart.
e. significant weather prognostic charts.
f. convective outlook chart.
g. AWOS, ASOS, and ATIS reports.
h. SIGMETs and AIRMETs.
j. windshear reports.
k. icing and freezing level information.
2. Makes a competent “go/no-go” decision based on available weather information.
So it should come as no surprise that weather will be evaluated on these checkrides. Note the word “analyzing” in the first sentence of the Task. To analyze means to examine methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of (something, esp. information), typically for purposes of explanation, or to Discover or reveal (something) through such examination. In order to analyze something we need to have at least some basic knowledge of the subject.
Lately, I’ve had issues with applicants being able to read and analyze METARS and TAFs. Not knowing what BR and DZ mean or the significance of a close temp / dew point spread, are troublesome. Did you know you can get a rough guess on the freezing level from a METAR? Have you ever seen a RVR report on a METAR or noted a wind shear on a TAF? Would knowing this information show that you know how to read and analyze a METAR or TAF? Sure it would!
The FAA want emphasis on the 12 items listed. I don’t go into too much technical detail on the charts. For example, I usually don’t ask how long the chart is valid for or how many times a day the chart is issued. I will expect you to be able to identify High and Low pressure systems, Cold and Warm fronts and describe the basic types of weather associated with each. I’m not expecting you to have a degree in meteorology but just a good general understanding of the basics.
Another troubling issue that keeps showing up is not knowing how to obtain weather information when you’re flying. I’ll ask you for three different ways that you can obtain weather information when you’re flying. If you have XM or ADS-B weather that’s great, but what if you need to talk to a briefer, how do you do that? How would you contact Green Bay radio when you’re near the JVL VOR? What does that “H” mean at the BAE VOR? If ATC makes a statement like “Attention all aircraft AIRMENT ZULU in effect for southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Contact Flight Watch or Flight Service for further information” how will you make contact for more info? (What the heck is an AIRMET ZULU anyway?)
The Private, Instrument and Commercial PTS have basically the same Task in each one. I’ve noticed I use similar type questions on each one of those checkrides. As you progress through your ratings and limitations a slightly higher level of knowledge is expected at each ride. So an Instrument applicant should show more knowledge than a private pilot and a commercial pilot should show more than either of them. How the examiners evaluates this task is left up to him or her but they are suppose to use scenarios. Per the PTS, examiners are required to use a scenario to evaluate weather and airspace. There not that hard, but think before you answer.