Approaches (Part Three)

Center Weather Advisories (CWA)

Center weather advisories (CWAs) are unscheduled inflight, flow control, air traffic, and aircrew advisories. By nature of its short lead time, the CWA is not a flight planning product. It is generally a nowcast for conditions beginning in the next two hours. CWAs will be issued:

  1. As a supplement to an existing SIGMET, convective SIGMET, or AIRMET.
  2. When an in-flight advisory has not been issued but observed or expected weather conditions meet SIGMET/AIRMET criteria based on current pilot reports and reinforced by other sources of information about existing meteorological conditions.
  3. When observed or developing weather conditions do not meet SIGMET, convective SIGMET, or AIRMET criteria (e.g., in terms of intensity or area coverage), but current pilot reports or other weather information sources indicate that existing or anticipated meteorological phenomena will adversely affect the safe and efficient flow of air traffic within the ARTCC area of responsibility.

Weather Regulatory Requirements

There are many practical reasons for reviewing weather information prior to initiating an instrument approach. Pilots must familiarize themselves with the condition of individual airports and runways so that they may make informed decisions regarding fuel management, diversions, and alternate planning. Because this information is critical, 14 CFR requires pilots to comply with specific weather minimums for planning and execution of instrument flights and approaches.

Weather Requirements and Part 91 Operators

According to 14 CFR Part 91, § 91.103, the pilot in command (PIC) must become familiar with all available information concerning a flight prior to departure. Included in this directive is the fundamental basis for pilots to review NOTAMs and pertinent weather reports and forecasts for the intended route of flight. This review should include current weather reports and terminal forecasts for all intended points of landing and alternate airports. In addition, a thorough review of an airport’s current weather conditions should always be conducted prior to initiating an instrument approach. Pilots should also consider weather information as a planning tool for fuel management.

For flight planning purposes, weather information must be reviewed in order to determine the necessity and suitability of alternate airports. For Part 91 operations, the 600-2 and 800-2 rule applies to airports with precision and non-precision approaches, respectively. Approaches with vertical guidance (APV) are non-precision approaches because they do not meet the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 10 standards for a precision approach. (See Final Approach Segment section later in this chapter for more information regarding APV approaches.) Exceptions to the 600-2 and 800-2 alternate minimums are listed in the front of the Aeronautical Information Services in the Terminal Procedures Publication (TPP) and are indicated by a symbol (see below) on the approach charts for the airport. This does not preclude flight crews from initiating instrument approaches at alternate airports when the weather conditions are below these minimums. The 600-2 and 800-2 rules, or any exceptions, only apply to flight planning purposes, while published landing minimums apply to the actual approach at the alternate.


Weather Requirements and Part 135 Operators

Unlike Part 91 operators, Part 135 operators may not depart for a destination unless the forecast weather there will allow an instrument approach and landing. According to 14 CFR Part 135, § 135.219, flight crews and dispatchers may only designate an airport as a destination if the latest weather reports or forecasts, or any combination of them, indicate that the weather conditions will be at or above IFR landing minimums at the estimated time of arrival (ETA). This ensures that Part 135 flight crews consider weather forecasts when determining the suitability of destinations. Departures for airports can be made when the forecast weather shows the airport will be at or above IFR minimums at the ETA, even if current conditions indicate the airport to be below minimums. Conversely, 14 CFR Part 135, § 135.219 prevents departures when the first airport of intended landing is currently above IFR landing minimums, but the forecast weather is below those minimums at the ETA.

Another very important difference between Part 91 and Part 135 operations is the Part 135 requirement for airports of intended landing to meet specific weather criteria once the flight has been initiated. For Part 135, not only is the weather required to be forecast at or above instrument flight rules (IFR) landing minimums for planning a departure, but it also must be above minimums for initiation of an instrument approach and, once the approach is initiated, to begin the final approach segment of an approach. 14 CFR Part 135, § 135.225 states that pilots may not begin an instrument approach unless the latest weather report indicates that the weather conditions are at or above the authorized IFR landing minimums for that procedure. 14 CFR Part 135, § 135.225 provides relief from this rule if the aircraft has already passed the final approach fix (FAF) when the weather report is received. It should be noted that the controlling factor for determining whether or not the aircraft can proceed is reported visibility. RVR, if available, is the controlling visibility report for determining that the requirements of this section are met. The runway visibility value (RVV), reported in statute miles (SM), takes precedent over prevailing visibility. There is no required timeframe for receiving current weather prior to initiating the approach.

Weather Requirements and Part 121 Operators

Like Part 135 operators, flight crews and dispatchers operating under Part 121 must ensure that the appropriate weather reports or forecasts, or any combination thereof, indicate that the weather will be at or above the authorized minimums at the ETA at the airport to which the flight is dispatched (14 CFR Part 121, § 121.613). This regulation attempts to ensure that flight crews will always be able to execute an instrument approach at the destination airport. Of course, weather forecasts are occasionally inaccurate; therefore, a thorough review of current weather is required prior to conducting an approach. Like Part 135 operators, Part 121 operators are restricted from proceeding past the FAF of an instrument approach unless the appropriate IFR landing minimums exist for the procedure. In addition, descent below the minimum descent altitude (MDA), decision altitude (DA), or decision height (DH) is governed, with one exception, by the same rules that apply to Part 91 operators. The exception is that during Part 121 and 135 operations, the airplane is also required to land within the touchdown zone (TDZ). Refer to the section titled Minimum Descent Altitude, Decision Altitude, and Decision Height later in this chapter for more information regarding MDA, DA, and DH.