TAF - What it Means in Practice

John Franklin • 22 April 2020
in community General Aviation

Terminal Air Forecasts (TAFs) are a key decision making tool for all pilots.  During pre-flight planning pilots use the information in the TAF to decide whether they can fly in the first place, where to fly to and whether they can land safely at the end of the flight.  It is important to know that TAFs are primarily designed for IFR flights and forecast the most likely conditions.  How much do you really understand what a TAF is telling you and most importantly how this relates to your personal minimums?  This latest edition of Sunny Swift will answer these questions and provide some great information to help you stay safe - follow the link below to access the differenet Eu language versions.  


For VFR flight the GAFOR is the main resource there are also a wide range of Apps and other resources through this previous article here.  




Comments (4)

Claes M Johansson

As both an active flight instructor and a former aviation meteorologist I'm very happy to see this topic being addressed. I always try to make students and fellow GA pilots aware about the fact that TAF and METAR are nice supplementary information for a VFR pilot, but the authoritative source of info for planning a VFR flight is GAFOR or (dependent on national differences) a similar product from the responsible MWO. (Besides the change criteria I find the very limited extent of the areas for which the values reported in TAF and METAR may be representative to be worth mentioning and provoking thought). I also encourage my students to, when in doubt, make use of direct consultation of the meteorologist by phone (the availability of this service of course differs from country to country in Europe). I would have expected Sunny to point her student to the specific low level/VFR products available for flight planning and am a bit surprised she didn't.

John Franklin

Thanks for feedback, its always hard to decide what to include in the small space available in the cartoon. We are preparing the launch of a new Safety Promotion website that will enable us to include much more comprehensive posts and discussion points. In the meantime, I have updated the post to include reference to the GAFOR and a link to our page of resources.

Harry Karlsson

IMHO the TAF system is mainly "whitewash" for IFR pilots. You can use it for IFR planning and make pre-tactical decisions for A-B flights and deviation plans in case the weather does not act as has been forecasted. I admit that at some times the TAF can be extremely accurate, but TAF amdts en-route and the accuracy of the TAF:s in general, make them less favorable to VFR pilots. The TAF:s are also geographically quite limited and especially in Finland Time limited. The availability of TAF:s are constrained by airport opening hours, which limits the availability of information for the General aviator. The TAF:s are also dependent of automated weather observations, which are basically only narrow laser beams hundreds of kilometers apart, which will not give You an accurate picture of the cloud ceilings, which is the necessary information for a VFR general aviator.

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