Pre-flight briefing

The links on this page are to free access web sites that do not require you to register or login except where noted.

Weather conditions

  1. Pick a suitable forecast site from Weatherjack's weather data and use it to see if the day is likely to be suitable for what you have in mind. If you're in England south of the Pennines, you have other choices, which include:
  2. Check the synoptic charts and/or look at METARs to get an idea of wind strength, direction, and how good the day is likely to be. Use your favourite site:
  3. If there's a chance of heavy cloud, look at the satellite images to see what is in store:
  4. If volcanic ash warnings are in force, look at the Met Office advisories:
  5. Check the soundings using one of the RASPTable viewers:

Now you have enough information to plan a task and alternates.

NOTAMS

With the task planned you must check the NOTAMS for flight restrictions and warnings.

NOTAMS from NATS

The following summary assumes that you're flying a closed task from Gransden Lodge that's entirely within the London FIR and that you do not intend to climb above cloud base. If any of these assumptions are untrue you'll have to modify your NOTAMS request accordingly.

Go to the National Air Traffic Services Ltd web site. This is free but requires registration.

You need to request a NOTAMS and then a UK Narrow Route brief. To minimise the amount of irrelevant information specify:

Leave all other boxes on their default values and click Submit to generate a NOTAMS briefing. Scan through the briefing. Mark any hazards on your map and you're ready to declare your task to the Duty Instructor and go.

These suggested settings should give the required results but check them carefully. I normally use NOTAMPlot and these directions are adapted from the NATS site as it was when I last used it in anger: it has been redesigned since then and not in a way that helps glider pilots. I think the way I've suggested you set the route width and destination should cover anywhere you're likely to end up while you're on task. If GRL is not at one end of the task, then set the departure and destination points to either end of the task and adjust the width so that anywhere you intend to go to either side of this line is covered.

NOTAMS via the SPINE graphical tool

Alternatively, you can use the SPINE desktop tool to check NOTAMS. This application was written by Jeff Goodenough, who also wrote TPSelect. SPINE lets you add your planned task to the on-screen map which shows airfields, BGA turnpoints and plottable NOTAMS, making it easy to set yourself a task avoiding restricted airspace. SPINE reads NOTAM data directly from the AIS web site and is capable of exporting it in either TNP or OpenAir so that it can be displayed on task by suitable navigation programs, e.g. LK8000, Winpilot or XCSoar.

NOTAMS via the NotamPlot graphical tool

Another way to check NOTAMS is to use the NotamPlot tool, which plots NOTAMs on a map of the UK. This requires that you have installed the latest version of Java, which is a free download from the Oracle Java Technology site. You need to download and install the Java SE Runtime Environment package. Once that's done, download and install NotamPlot. You'll need to visit AvBrief and sign up for a guest account before you can use it because that site is the source of it's NOTAM data feed.

Hazards near Cambridge

If there are NOTAMS for any of the following, check their websites for launch schedules:

Cambridge Gliding Club

This section contains direct links to: