Before a cross-country trip I look at several websites. Then I call the FAA Flight Service Station to get a full briefing and to file my flight plan (you do file don't you?). This page has the websites I look at.

The day before the trip I look at these weather maps provided by commercial entities:

Accuweather 24 & 48 Hour Forecast Maps.

Intellicast 12, 24, 36 & 48 Hour Forecast Maps.

The Weather Channel 10-day Forecast.

Then I go to the these sites on the day of the trip:

The government's aviation site (like an FAA briefing).

Winds aloft maps.

Aviation 24-hour forecast map.

Legend for above map.

For my specific area of flight I look at these satellite maps (the first two can be set in motion, showing how the weather has been moving over the past few hours, thereby allowing a rough prediction on how an area will look several hours from now):


S.E. United States.

Southern Florida and Bahamas.

The Navy site shown below is ideal for flights over water (coastal or open seas), providing 7-day forecasts of wind, rain, and waves. If you get a security problem notice, ignore it and continue to the site. Click on the first link on the left in the Public Products (Global & Regional Weather and Wave prediction Charts). Next, look for the map with your area of flight (look carefully, because to see certain areas, like Tropical Atlantic, you first need to click on the "Tropical Areas" tab). Once you find the map you want, you do one of two things. For atmospheric weather (e.g., wind, rain) click on NGP under the map (or you can simply click on the map). For seas (e.g., wave heigth) click on WW3 under the map. You will then arrive at a page which at first will seem daunting. It isn't. Just pick a Product from the left column (e.g., "Surface Streamlines and Wind Speed" or "Previous 6 hr Precipitation Rate") and on that row click on the bullet that corresponds to the time you want to see in the next 7 days; the Navy calls this time "Tau" and is expressed in hours from the time the analysis was made. An example will illustrate. Say you want to see if rain is expected for a flight you're making over the North Carolina coast on Thursday afternoon, 5 days from now. On the row for "Previous 6 hr Precipitation Rate" you would click on the bullet with a Tau of 120 (5 days = 120 hours) and when the map appears your first task is to confirm that it covers the time of your flight. Your first Tau is probably wrong, for two reasons. First, the analysis may have been done 12 hours ago, so you need a Tau of 132. Second, what you really need is the forecast for 00Zulu Friday, which is 7 or 8PM Thursday night in the Eastern U.S., and will give you the rain for the afternoon hours of Thursday. So you might need a Tau of 144. When you get the proper time period, what you get is a map showing the rain forecast, with color coding used to depict intensity.

Navy Site (remember to ignore security problem notices.)
(If link fails, copy this URL onto your Internet browser:

Click here to return to the Skymaster US Website.