Thursday, September 17, 2009

TLA Fever

Usually I get my weather and NOTAM information from the internet, but sometimes the hotel Internet isn't that good, or the computer is in the throes of rebooting. (Damnit, what is it with Vista that it thinks it's okay to reboot without asking after it has downloaded an update. Recently it did so with an unsaved file full of blog entry notes open on the desktop. It asked me if I wanted to save and I clicked yes, then when I fumbled the filename it rebooted anyway). If I'm not getting along with my computer at any given time I have the option to pick up the phone and call a flight services specialist. It's often faster if the computer isn't already turned on and connected, and the specialist may know better than me the identifiers of all the en route airports that have weather.

Recently I dialed flight services and was momentarily confused by an initial message telling me I had reached Lockheed-Martin Flight Services. I then realized that I had dialed 800-WX-BRIEF (the US number) instead of 866-WX-BRIEF (the Canadian number) and reached the American FSS. From a Canadian hotel. That didn't used to be possible. I'm going to pretend that it was my letter about the problems encountered by Canadians trying to close flight plans that caused the change. I can't find my original blog entry, but it used to be when you tried to dial the US number on a Canadian cellphone, it would be rejected because you were dialing from a Canadian number, but if you tried to call the Canadian number it would be rejected because it was coming through an American exchange.

So I dialed again and got the proper number, pressed 2 for a specialist, and asked for the weather I needed. I listened and wrote down:


Heh, I realize that I have strung seven three-letter abbreviations in a row, just by writing down what I hear. How long can I keep this up?


Ah, blew it with the VC.

Translation, for those who don't speak aviation/Aviatrix shorthand: Cold front moving southward toward Red Deer at 0000 Zulu. Sky condition generally scattered towering cumulus cloud. Winds gusting to thirty knots in the vicinity of the front. Headwinds of 18 kts enroute.


david said...

Funny -- I dialed US flight services by mistake as well, last Friday, and was surprised to hear it working. can't give you the (G)FA yet, but it can give you TAF, METAR, and NOTAMs for an airport on your cell phone web browser, e.g.

nec Timide said...

And David's mobi site has become my goto place when I want to quickly get a picture of what is happening in the area. I wish more web sites made the effort to accommodate wireless browsing.

Anonymous said...

"all the en route airports that have weather"

What sort of conditions would you regard as not having weather?

david said...

Anonymous: aviation weather is like Schrödinger's Cat -- if it's not observed in a METAR or PIREP, its state is indeterminate.

Echojuliet said...

There is also a bit of trouble trying to reach An Alaskan briefer when calling using a cell phone number from the lower 48. 800 WX-BRIEF just plain doesn't work, unless you have an Alaskan phone number. Lockheed isn't contracted to do the weather in Alaska, so it makes sense. It's just annoying.

dpierce said...


(Just making it standard)

Anonymous said...

dpierce: those are FLA - Four, (Five) Letter Acronyms!!

Try this combo of TLA, FLA and MLA*:

CAS+CHG:N+CSN:80100101A001 +ISN:00A+IND:2+RFS:1+QNA:1+TQL:1+PNR:START010A+MFC:KD002'

Extract from a training example IPL - Initial Provisioning List [for Spares] in ASD S2000M format ;-)

* TLA - Two/Three Letter Acronym
FLA - Four/Five Letter Acronym
MLA - Many Letter Acronym

and you think aircrew have problems


Unknown said...

Control Panel > Windows Update > Change Settings, unchecked "Install updates automatically (recommended)" and select one of the other two choices.

Aviatrix said...

David has correctly answered the question about "airports that have weather." In this case "have weather" is shorthand for "issue weather reports and/or forecasts."

That's not to say that pilots don't say "there's no weather" when they mean there is no obscuration, precipitation or winds that will interfere with the flight.

Also, it's TLA for three letter acronym and ETLA (extended three letter acronym) for four.