In what has become an annual event, AOPA has released the results of a weather survey to better understand how pilots obtain and use weather data when planning and conducting their flights. The survey was sent by email to over 30,000 AOPA members from the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Nearly 2,500 survey responses were collected in spring 2022.
“The Weather Survey data is primarily used to inform our advocacy,” the report states, “but is also shared with government and industry stakeholders to allow them additional insight into how the products and services they provide are being utilized.”
AOPA conducts the survey, looking for notable trends, and makes recommendations to the appropriate industry-related organizations.
The results of the 2022 survey indicate that not much has changed when it comes to the tools and resources that pilots use for preflight and in-flight weather data.
One example is preflight planning tools. “A major goal of the survey is to better understand what sources of weather information pilots draw upon for preflight planning,” the report says. “As in previous surveys, AOPA asked where pilots were obtaining their pre-flight weather information, both during their initial briefing, and immediately prior to flight under challenging conditions.”
While there have been advancements and weather service products launched in recent years, the 2022 report found that there has been little change in the resources pilots turn to for weather data in initial briefings, immediately prior to flight, and during the cruise phase. Pilots in the continental United States primarily use aviation apps and flight service more than any other resources—though the latter‘s popularity has decreased 20 percentage points in the last five years. Conversely, pilots in Alaska turn to FAA weather cameras and flight service specialists for their preflight weather information.
One change the report does note is the increased use of nonaviation-related weather resources (mentioning Windy.com as an example). The hypothesis is that pilots are drawn to the weather visualization and design that these platforms emphasize.
As more online weather resources emerge, pilots are more likely to conduct self-guided preflight briefings. The FAA provided guidance in 2021 with Advisory Circular 91-92, though efforts to spread the word and instruct pilots how to conduct the briefing have fallen short of hopes. Sixty-seven percent of pilots are still unfamiliar with the guidance. The AOPA survey report recommends that the FAA continue its efforts to increase awareness of AC 91-92.
Several questions in the report were geared toward how pilots use flight service as a weather resource. While use of flight service specialists has been declining for standard preflight briefings, their unique ability to act as an interactive information source keeps them on a pilot’s radar. Based on these findings, a recommendation was made to expand and add new capabilities for flight service specialists to communicate with pilots.
The survey also asked several questions about FAA weather cameras, a program that has run for many years in Alaska and has been recently introduced to some locations in the lower 48. Respondents offered feedback about the program, and the report published some of the most frequent requests regarding the system, including, “more cameras”; “‘more cameras in the right places’”; “‘more in the lower 48, especially in mountainous areas’”; “co-located with weather reporting stations”; and “‘more automated weather equipment for reporting weather at sites with weather cameras.’”
Other topics of note in the report included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cloud cross-section product, ASOS/AWOS phone access, the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation, and more.
“The results of this survey help us understand how pilots obtain their weather data and give us feedback on ways we can improve in the future,” said Jim McClay, AOPA’s director of airspace, air traffic, and security. “This is information we can use when working with the FAA and other organizations to advocate for more data acquisition and better delivery to the general aviation community. The insight this report provides is invaluable to AOPA and our aviation industry partners.”
Read the full report for response statistics and recommendations from AOPA.