Preflight Weather Briefings: Words vs. Pictures

By Scott Spangler on May 3rd, 2021

When preparing for a flight, it would be a safe assumption that pilots never consider their dominant learning style when ferreting out the information for their preflight weather briefing. Time, technology, and the recently published Advisory Circular 91-92, Pilot’s Guide to a Preflight Briefing, has made an individual’s learning style a key factor in acquiring—and understanding—this critical information because they can now seek out the sources of information best suited to their needs.

There are four fundamental learning styles—visual, auditory, read & write, and kinesthetic—but you can divide them into words and pictures. Visual learners prefer, and learn best from images, maps, and graphics. Auditory learners best acquire new knowledge through the spoken word. Read & write learners gain information from seeing words. Kinesthetic learners best understand something new by getting hands-on, which is an impractical process for a preflight weather briefing. Going outside might work okay for a local flight, but they will have to adapt their learning style when going cross-country.

There was a time when words were the only option for pilots who had to call 1-800-WX-BRIEF. Visual learners could see pictures if they were on an airport that was home to a Flight Service Station. DUATS offered more words and picture options, if you had access to a computer with a modem, but the words and pictures were not real time, and pilots needed patience while waiting for the images to coalesce on the screen. Modems gave way to broadband and while weather words pretty much stuck to their time-honored schedules, pictures marched closer and closer to real time.

And now, if properly equipped, weather words and pictures are available in the cockpit. Before compiling the list of preflight weather briefing resources in the appendix of resources in AC 91-92, pilots might want to first assess their learning style, if they don’t already know.

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