Do you still call for a briefing?

I am an older pilot and learned that on any significant flight it was required to call Flight Service for a briefing before the flight. In the last three or four years I have changed what I do.

I have almost discontinued this practice in the last several years due to the large amount of available data that is now at our fingertips! I really study the weather, NOTAMS etc in advance. Since I am so anal I seem to obsess even on the most simple and routine flights.

Since we have had the Cirrus, plus with the advent of the iPad in the cockpit I feel very confident before the wheels lift off that I will have few surprises as far as the weather is concerned and as a result rarely call FSS unless it is a last minute flight.

Now with the new Foreflight addition of the briefing module I am even more confident that I can do my own analyization of what the weather, etc will be on my flights. Now it is time stamped and saved in Foreflight to show that I have had my own briefing!

I am am interested in knowing other comments on this topic. Do others still call flight service all the time? Or do you rely on your own briefing? Or is it a combination of both?

Thanks in advance,


On long cross countries when I see questionable weather, I will call to verify fingings


I agree with your analysis, I study the various weather sites, and get information from several sources… THEN, typically, file an IFR flight plan, electronically, using FLTPLAN or Foreflight.

On the way to the airport, or in the case of a flight that is away from home, I then will usually call FSS - They have a profile based on my cell phone telephone number, so they KNOW it is me - and I always ask for an abbreviated updated briefing, specifically for NOTAMS or anything that may be new. This call is of course recorded, and makes SURE that there is no concern as to a legal briefing. It only takes a couple of minutes, makes sure you didn’t miss anything, especially anything NEW - and has you recorded… well worth it in my view. This is a process that has been discussed by some of the old timers here on COPA - and I have adopted. Seems to work for me… YMMV


Learned to fly in 2004. My instructor showed me how to call FSS once. Haven’t called them again. Don’t need to and don’t plan to. You can get all the info on the web quicker and easier.

I haven’t done it in probably 5 or so years to be honest. Last time I did it i wasnt even flying. Was on a fishing trip. It was pretty windy. Not enough signal for internet, so i called flight service to see what the winds would do and if we were wasting our time being out there haha

I too use FF exclusively and realy appreciate the new briefing depiction. I only call FSS to cancel/close my IFR after landing at a remote airport.


There are two threads I highly recommend, both started by Scott Williams who is one of our resident aviation law specialists. In a recent case he was handling, the FAA took the position “that the failure to call LMFSS warrants a violation” where the pilot inadvertently busted a TFR.

Scott’s take-away message:

"Lessons for all of us:

  1. Always get a thorough briefing (although I don’t believe LMFS is required, it can’t hurt);
  2. If you maybe, just maybe, think you violated an FAR, file a NASA report immediately;
  3. When ATC says “call this number”, please call a lawyer first;
  4. When the FAA comes at you guns blazing, see #3 above;
  5. Don’t forget to enroll in AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services. It save my client thousands in this case."

Here are links to his threads:

For the background, Scott’s first thread post begins:

"I am currently representing a pilot who is accused by the FAA of busting a TFR (the “elected official” kind, not the “Mickey Mouse” kind). This pilot relied on three (3) separate sources to check for TFRs before and during his flight:

  1. Foreflight moving map on his iPad;

  2. Cirrus Perspective MFD moving map;

  3. FAA TFR website.

The FAA’s own website disclaims:

*“Depicted TFR data may not be a complete listing. Pilots should not use the information on this website for flight planning purposes. For the latest information, call your local Flight Service Station at 1-800-WX-BRIEF.” *

The pilot was flying Part 91 at the time, and fortunately, did file a NASA ASRS report within the prescribed 10 day period. Unfortunately, this pilot flies professionally and cannot afford to have a violation on his record, even if there is no actual suspension.

The FAA’s regional counsel insists on proceeding with a violation of FARs 91.103 (airspace briefing), 91.141 (TFR), and, of course, the ubiquitous 91.13 (“careless or reckless”). While the FAA was willing to stay the penalty of a 30 day suspension in light of the NASA report, they would not consider a lesser action, such as a warning letter, remedial training, or 709 ride. In sum, when it comes to busts of Presidential or Vice Presidential type of TFRs, the FAA says: "We don’t negotiate". Their position is that the failure to call LMFSS warrants a violation. Huh?"

For weather, I have so much more at my fingertips than they do it isn’t funny.

When I learned to fly in the early 70’s, all you had was the local flight service station (there were something like 800 of them), and the specialists at those locations knew local weather patterns extremely well. For example, they could tell you almost exactly when the fog was going to roll in at Santa Barbara. But those stations and their local specialists are long gone, and so is their local knowledge.

The only time I call Flight Service now is if I am doing a VFR flight (pretty rare in the jet), and in that case I always call and ask for TFR’s only. Occasionally I will call them if I see a NOTAM that is cryptic and need plain english for it. But always for a TFR check. That way, I’m on tape.

Please see this thread about a guy who busted a TFR that did not show up in ForeFlight and went through an FAA enforcement action (and won!).

I do my weather planning on ADDS, but I call FSS for an abbreviated or full brief on the way to the airport. The Pac NW assigned briefers also have some idea of the local weather, and will emphasize things of concern to them. Saves time, because the 12 pages of GPS, FDC notams, unlit towers etc, take me a lot longer to go through than FSS. My understanding is their software highlights the minutia that may be important, whereas it is single line type to me. Like last night coming into OGD, unlit crane 230 AGL 2 nm on the SW of the airport. Not usually a problem, but that is on the approach corridor for the ILS. I might have missed that, in the small black print. I also missed that SunValley was closed on a digital flight brief once. Found out when I was halfway there. ATC cleared me to the airport, wasn’t until I was in the sector that they asked my intentions… Well my alternate of course [:$]. Went back and looked, sure enough runway NOTAM’d closed 1 line among 12 pages of crap, not even bolded. Saves time, since I am just listening while doing my 15 minute drive to the airport, with some protection if there is a discrepancy between my brief and reality.

I almost always do (and I’m a child of the internet). Sometimes it’s nice to talk to a human to compare notes. Lately (last two years) I just ask for adverse conditions, NOTAMs and TFRs on the way the airport. It’s much more of a ritual than the weather I rely upon, but occasionally LMFS briefer will raise a red flag I hadn’t fully considered.


Question: Say you file IFR on and pick up a clearance from CD.

  1. Will they send you thru a TFR?

  2. Can they bust you for following their directions?

Never happened to me so don’t know. Only been through the outer ring.


I call 100% of the time… Funny, I always wonder why I get these guys on the line so fast… Seems like so many of you “aren’t” using it that it’s so easily to get through… Thank u!

I just get abbreviated briefings… #1 item I look for: notams at my destination airport …
However #1 benefit, is logging the call on file so I am protected a bit If I fly into an unknown TFR or ???..

The calls take 3 minutes… Lockheed is now quick on the calls and they recognized who is calling with caller ID… Takes 25% of the conversation time away identifying yourself … Makes it so easy.

Yes. Pretty much always. Once in a while I find it useful but it always covers my A$$. Also if I find I don’t have the time to call, I need to ask myself am I rushing too much?


If you are IFR all airspace essentially disappears. ATC should keep you out of TFRs and if they vector or clear you into one you are off the hook. If the controller lacked the authority to put you in that airspace, it will not be a career enhancing move.


I am not 100% sure but I only recall one time that when I filed on and picked up the clearance on CD that ATC gave me an amended clearance when I got close to TFR.

I typically do a lot of studying on and Foreflight, file on and almost always am IFR. I like being in the system. I feel much better that way and seldom fly VFR no matter the conditions.

I really appreciate all of the feedback from this discussion!!!


Depends. The “outer ring” of a Presidential TFR? Sure. Inner ring? Never. Fire? No. Disneyland? Yes.

No. But it doesn’t hurt to question them.

Definitely look at that thread.

One slight clarification. The airman didn’t win. The FAA dropped the case. The difference is that had the case gone to the ALJ and the airman won, that would have been a precedent that specifically meant a LMFS briefing was not required to comply with FAR 91.103.

Because there was no legal decision the FAA may hold onto its stated position that a LMFS brief is required. Further, if you get such a brief and are not specifically told of a TFR, and you then violate the TFR, the FAA will not prosecute you.

For a VFR flight, especially, it’s a good idea to call LMFS and ask for any TFR information along your route of flight.

I’m not sure the OP has access to threads on the member’s side.

I do probably 7 out of 10 times. Often, it’s an abbreviated - “adverse conditions only”. And it’s mostly a CYA. I leave the official online breadcrumbs, but just don’t totally trust it.

Maybe 3 times, I’ve called to TALK to a briefer. On the decision edge and just want to talk it out with somebody else. Some of these guys are really good to talk with.


If you fly a Cirrus, how about joining COPA. Lots more discussion and information on the member side than the public side.