You never know if or when it will happen. Perhaps one day, things won’t go well for you and wham! You’re on the 10 O’clock news and the NTSB and FAA are breathing down your neck. That’s when the fun begins and the government will be looking for a wide spectrum of information, including what kind of flight planning and weather information were obtained by the PIC. They will want to know if you were in compliance with 14 CFR 91.103. That is, if you were “… familiar with all available information” before you took off.
I learned long ago that doing all the required steps and then some, always served me well. In the Air Force we had a name for pilots who left their rear exposed: Second Lieutenants. Soon, they too learned to protect themselves from the Colonel’s wrath. For every flight, no matter how short, ask yourself if you feel lucky. If you want to protect yourself from an NTSB probe into your judgement, you need to check the weather and NOTAMS prior to each flight and be able to prove it to the Feds. Let’s say that you received your briefing on line or through an app on you iPad. Can it be documented?
Yes! Just be sure that you use a site that has received QCIP (Qualified Internet Communications Provider) status from the FAA. There are several sites that are trusted QCIP: FltPlan.com, DUATS.com, DUAT.com, ForeFlight and Lockheed Martin FSS (AFS.com)
There may be more sources, and if you know of more, please email me and correct my shortcomings.
All of these sources document and save a record of your briefing.
When you log in to one of these QCIP briefing sources for a weather and NOTAM briefing, the record of your visit automatically becomes associated with you and your flight. Your digital fingerprints will be all over it!
There is no way to prove that you actually read the briefing; only proof you had access to it. In addition, it is possible to obtain a weather and NOTAM briefing at FltPlan.com without logging in. This blows your main reason for going to a QCIP source!.
Are there Good OnLine Sources that Cannot Document?
AviationWeather.gov has QCIP approval for weather information, but it doesn’t have a link to check NOTAMs. Also, there’s no way to log in, and so there are no bread crumbs proving that you were there.
The following sources fall short of putting your digital fingerprints on their information:
- The Weather Channel (weather.com),
- FBO Weather kiosks (unless you are logged in with your name or Tail number), or
- Any of the multitude of ‘aviation weather’ websites and Apps that are not saving your weather briefing and associating it with your name or your tail number.
Information from these sources can be helpful in your preflight planning, but they cannot document your digital presence.
Fly safe and stay out of trouble!
Flight Review Study Guide
IPC Study Guide
Aircraft Expen$e Tracking