Congratulations, you’ve just become a student with Soar Advanced Flight Training! You’ve had a class at Box Hill Institute, and now you’re ready to head to Moorabbin Airport for your first flight, Effects of Controls. One of the first things your instructor will show you is how to operate the radio and what all the information you’re given means.
One of the radio frequencies you will listen to is called the ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service), which will provide weather information directly linked to the airport. At SAFT we listen to the frequency 120.900. The tower at Moorabbin Airport broadcasts up to date information on runway, frequency, wind direction and strength, visibility, cloud, temperature and QNH (Question Nil Height).
To determine which runway is being used for take-off and landing, the tower takes into account the wind direction and strength. Aircraft needs to take-off and land into the wind and with minimal tailwind. The stronger the wind, the better to make for shorter take-off and landing distances. Wind direction can change at very short notice, affecting the flight path and runways used. Listening to the ATIS will advise you which of Moorabbin Airport’s five runways are in use at the time of your flight lesson. The runways are named according to the magnetic heading; for example, runways 17 are a magnetic heading of 170 degrees. An interesting fact about Moorabbin Airport’s runway 17 is that it is actually 164 degrees. Cross wind is generated by wind blowing across the runway, and aircraft can only take off and land when there is low cross wind. Keep in mind that takeoffs and landings can only be done within the crosswind limit of the aircraft.
Determining the visibility of the sky on the day of your flight is vitally important. Flying in the designated airspace at Moorabbin Airport means we must have 5kms visibility at all times to be able to fly safely. Visibility can be impaired by many factors, including low cloud, fog and rain. The ATIS will also advise you on the air temperature and pressure before your flight. Pressure refers to the amount of air particles in each air parcel; the more particles there are, the higher pressure, helping to generate more lift over the wings, which helps with shorter take-offs. This also helps the aircraft engine perform better, as the more air particles there are to mix with the fuel in the engine, the more combustion occurs. In terms of the temperature; the warmer it is, the more the pressure decreases, and therefore so does the performance of the engine.
Listening to the ATIS first thing when you arrive for your lesson will help you get a clear idea of how the weather is for your flight, whether or not your flight can go ahead, and if there needs to be any adjustments to the lesson you will have on the day. As you already know, in aviation we are slave to the skies, and we don’t fly unless the conditions are absolutely safe. Being aware of what to expect and how to understand the radio message will help you on your way to becoming a knowledgeable and skilled pilot.