Pilot's tip of the week

A Better Way to Get the ATIS

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Subscriber question:

"I often feel rushed to listen to the ATIS or AWOS as the Hobbs meter clicks money out of my pocket. Is there a better way to get all the information I need?" — Emmanuel P.

Bruce:

“I’m surprised that so many pilots start the engine and then—with the meter running—listen to and copy the current ATIS or AWOS. They often have to listen to the recording several times, which adds to their frustration. You can save time and money by using a tool readily at hand: Your mobile phone.

Phone numbers for AWOS are available at most airports with automatic weather reporting. Phone numbers are often available for the ATIS, too. Call the AWOS or ATIS number before you finish the preflight inspection—or even before you leave the comfort of the FBO. Calling and copying the wind, sky condition, and altimeter setting while you can focus on those details relieves the pressure to get going and reduces distractions on the ramp.

An ATIS is typically updated at 50 to 55 minutes after the hour, except when conditions are changing rapidly. Unless you call just before that update, odds are you’ll have the current information when you’re ready to taxi.  After you start up, just listen to the ATIS frequency to confirm that the letter hasn’t changed before you call Ground. If the ATIS letter does change, usually only a few items, such as the altimeter setting, are new, so you’ll already have the other important details.

And here’s a related tip: If you file an IFR flight plan via an app like ForeFlight, you also typically have a good idea of the route ATC will clear you to fly.

Use the expected route provided by the app to complete as many details of your clearance on your CRAFT scratchpad as practical before you even get to the airplane. Typically, only a few details, such as the transponder code, must stay blank. When you listen to clearance delivery read your actual clearance, put a check next to the items that match the information that you’ve already filled in. If the official clearance doesn’t match the expected route, usually only a waypoint or two needs to be changed, saving time and frustration when you copy and read back the auctioneer’s patter from the Clearance Delivery controller.”

Do you usually get the AWOS or ATIS before starting the engine or after?

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