Weather school

Because I’m now flying further afield and on multi-day trips, I needed to improve my forecasting skills. So I attended a special weather school for pilots.

Simon Keeling runs aviation weather school in Staffordshire, and he invited me to join his course. Weather school currently exists in two, one-day training sessions.

Scroll down for the new video

I joined aviation weather school part 1

On part 1, Simon reminded us of a lot of the theory from the PPL syllabus. We were shown how to read the analysis and forecast charts from the Met Office, revised the effect of the different frontal systems, and were reminded about the different air-masses, and the weather they bring.

Some of the air masses that drive the weather in the UK

Even after attending part one of the course, I found my understanding of the weather had been improved, and I was effectively identifying the best days to fly, up to a week in advance. My recent flight to Welshpool was a good test of my new-found knowledge, as we had originally intended to fly that weekend to France. From five days in advance, I could see that the weekend was going to be a wash-out, with just one weather window for a day-trip to the north west.

On weather school part 2, we were introduced to 500 millibar charts.

A 500mb chart, showing a U shape over the UK

The 500mb charts are great for looking at the weather trends, a week or so ahead. A ‘u’ shape on the chart means unsettled weather, an ‘n’ shape is more settled.

But by far the best weather resources for pilots are the skew-T diagrams.

Skew-T diagram

A Skew-T diagram is a forecast of temperature and dew point by height/pressure. When the red line (temperature) and blue line (dew point) are close together, we get cloud and rain. The diagrams can tell us cloud bases and cloud tops, freezing levels, and how stable or unstable the air mass is. The Skew-T diagrams are available up to a week in advance.

Diverting to Pisa

Last year’s flight through Europe was not without drama. On our flight from Carpentras (France) to Pula (Croatia), we diverted to Pisa (Italy) because of thunderstorms blocking our path.

Simon gives me an after-cast of our trip to Croatia

Simon took me back over all the weather charts for that day, including the Skew-T diagrams and analysis and forecast charts, and the warning signs were all there. It was a trip that was never going to succeed.

Attending the weather school has given me new skills, that I am looking forward to applying to my future adventures in the skies. If you’re interested in attending weather school, you can find details here.

Links to all the free weather resources shown in the video below.