GA Pilots Need Better Weather Info, Study Finds
General aviation pilots are not excelling when it comes to understanding weather information that’s critical to flight safety, according to a recent study conducted at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The researchers tested 204 GA pilots to measure their ability to interpret weather information from various sources, including radar displays and written reports. The pilots correctly answered only about 58 percent of the questions. Pilot training is part of the problem, but according to researcher Elizabeth Blickensderfer, weather displays and reports that are difficult to interpret also contribute to the poor performance. “We have to improve how weather information is displayed so that pilots can easily and quickly interpret it,” she said. “At the same time, of course, we can fine-tune pilot assessments to promote learning and inform training.”
As an example, Blickensderfer said, respondents were prompted to choose the correct interpretation of METAR (Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Report) information, for example: “CB DSNT N MOV N.” Pilots also were asked to interpret a ground-based radar cockpit display, which shows only recent thunderstorm activity—not current conditions. The test also asked pilots to look at an infrared (color) satellite image and determine where the highest-altitude clouds would most likely be found. Commercial pilots with instrument ratings scored highest, with an average of 65 percent; instrument-rated private pilots ranked second, at 62 percent; and non-instrument-rated private pilots scored 57 percent.