Electronic Self Briefing

In March 2021, FAA issued a new Advisory Circular (AC) containing guidance on preflight briefings. 

AC 91-92 has a lot of good information to help pilots meet the requirements of FAR 91.103 “Preflight action” and importantly, it makes clear that using Flight Service is not the only acceptable way to satisfy those requirements. That regulation states in part that a pilot must, “before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight," and it goes on to list some specific types of information that must be obtained.

It is a welcome development that FAA has said in a widely available document that self-briefing can satisfy FAR 91.103. The AC states in part that “The FAA considers that a self-briefing may be compliant with current Federal aviation regulations. By self-briefing, pilots can often improve their knowledge of weather and aeronautical information.”

In the past FAA has taken a litigation position that the only “official” weather briefing is from Flight Service, although there is not a regulatory basis for that stance. AOPA Panel Attorney Scott Williams wrote an article about such an occasion and FAA’s ultimate response letter. That letter is available on AOPA’s website here, but as of this writing the letter was not available in the legal interpretation repository on the FAA’s website.

The FAA’s Aeronautical Information Manual contains some guidance on preflight briefings, but that guidance is largely geared toward briefings obtained from Flight Service by telephone on the ground or by radio when airborne. The new AC emphasizes the utility of newer technologies such as real-time weather that may be available from a variety of sources. It also includes numerous links to websites and resources to obtain weather information, Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) information, and more. Perhaps most helpful of all, it includes in Appendix B a sample preflight briefing checklist to help pilots confirm they have collected all necessary information.

Chad Mayer
Legal Services Plan, Attorney
Chad Mayer is an in-house attorney with AOPA’s Legal Services Plan who assists Plan members with a wide variety of aviation-related legal issues. He is also a Commercial Pilot, a Remote Pilot with sUAS Rating, and an Advanced/Instrument Ground Instructor. The AOPA Legal Services plan is offered as part of AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services.

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