Pilot's Tip of the Week
Using Flight Watch
Featuring Scott Dennstaedt
"Do you have any tips on how to contact Flight Watch on a long cross country trip?"- Ron S.
"The Enroute Flight Advisory Service (EFAS), better known as Flight Watch is organized by Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs). They can be reached on 122.0 MHz anywhere in the country between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time as long as you are 5,000 feet above ground level or higher. Although in some areas you may be able to reach them at a lower altitude.
In addition to 122.0 MHz, each Center has a dedicated frequency for high altitude Flight Watch. These frequencies are listed on the inside-back cover of the green Airport/Facilities Directory (A/FD).
Flight Watch has two purposes. First, they are the primary collectors of pilot reports (PIREPs). Second, they are there to provide pilots with en route weather updates. They should not be used for full route briefings or to accept flight plans.
On any given day Flight Watch staffing is a direct function of the demand. If there's a lot of convective weather expected in the Southeast, for example, they would be sure to have additional staff on flight watch covering that region. On a very challenging weather day throughout the U.S., anticipate 20 flight watch specialists on duty or one per Center.
On the other hand, during the late evening hours or when the weather is generally tranquil and the air traffic is less, Flight Watch may drop down to as few as five specialists to cover the entire contiguous U.S.
Lastly, here are a couple of tips when calling Flight Watch. First, be sure to reference them by the name of the en route center you are located within. Second, be sure to state your location in reference to a NAVAID on the initial call. For example, if you are 20 miles north of Charleston, South Carolina VOR, you are within the Jacksonville Center airspace. You would say, Jacksonville Flight Watch, Cessna 1234B, 20 north of the Charleston V-O-R, over. This allows the Flight Watch specialist to use the best remote outlet to reach you."
Next week's tip: Traffic pattern rules