The links on this page are to free access web sites that do
not require you to register or login except where noted.
- 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:
Gliding Club's forecast. There is usually one every
day, but poor days may be skipped.
Masson's Lasham weather briefing. David only does a
forecast if the following day looks promising and he has
- 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:
- AvBrief (free
login access to 5 day UK Met Office synoptics and forms 214
and 215, subscription for additional services).
- Decode METARs from Worldwide TAFs
& METARs selected from the Avbrief Weather
This opens in a new window so you can cut and paste between
Avbrief and it.
- ECMWF is the
European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts: you can
use it to cross-check the UK Met Office forecasts if the
weather predictions look unstable.
- XC Weather.
shows current weather in a graphical map format. Each wind
arrow is associated with an airfield that provides METAR
information. Hover the cursor over a wind arrow to see the
decoded METARs and forecasts in the right margin. This site
will be opened in a new window.
Jetstream position forecasts, which are provided by the
ECMWF, can help you decide if an existing weather pattern
is being locked in by a southerly jet stream loop and, if
so, whether change is likely in the next six days.
- If there's a chance of heavy cloud, look at the satellite
images to see what is in store:
- UK Met
Office: latest UK image in
resolution visible UK shows a cycle of the last two
hours images at 15 minute intervals. It links to a similar
cycle of radar rainfall images.
satellite images. Choose from:
- Geostationary satellite images. Choose
SEVIRI and then pick year, month, day, time and
channel from the menus. Channel 12(North) and Colour
are likely to be the most useful. This site requires
you to sign up for a (free) login.
- Search by area. Click the top left and
bottom right of the rectangle you want to see. Then
pick the satellite, the date range of interest and
whether to show a list or thumbnails. Click Query
database to get a list of suitable images. Pick one
and choose the channel you want to view, which varies
from satellite to satellite.
NASA's MODIS United Kingdom/Ireland subset covers the
UK in resolutions from 5km to 250m. As the images are
posted during our evening they are no use for planning
flights, but are good for post-flight analysis or simply as
a record of the weather for that day. Use the buttons at
the top of the image panel to find the day you want. Dates
are shown in Julian (yyyy/ddd) and American (mm/dd/yy)
formats. Note: the day's page is
installed before its image content becomes available, so if
you look at MODIS around the time that the images are made
you'll see today's page with blank images.
- If volcanic ash warnings are in force, look at the Met
- Check the soundings using one of the RASPTable viewers:
Now you have enough information to plan a task and
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
Go to the National
Air Traffic Services Ltd web site. This is free but requires
You need to request a NOTAMS and then a UK Narrow
Route brief. To minimise the amount of irrelevant information
- a briefing ID. Accept the default.
- Select SNOWTAM, ASHTAM and BIRDTAM briefing
- the date and time of the flight. The time must be UTC
- EGSC (Cambridge) as your departure and an airfield
near the furthest point of the task as the destination.
- VFR traffic
- Validity period for the date you'll fly and times as 1000 -
- Narrow Route Width as the distance in NM from EGSC
to your farthest turn point and round it up a bit
- upper FL as the likely cloud base for the day, e.g.
050 for a 5,000 foot cloudbase
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
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:
- CU Spaceflight launch
high altitude met balloons from a park just inside the west
edge of Cambridge.
- EARS launch high
power rockets near Ellsworth. We're barely 3 miles away from
their launch site.
Random Engineering launch high altitude met balloons from
the EARS launch site.
This section contains direct links to: