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How do I contact a Flight Service Station (FSS) in the United States in order to receive weather information or open a flight plan after I've already departed.

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1 Answer 1

For weather (giving PIREPs or asking for a weather report) you want Enroute Flight Advisory Services (addressed on the radio as "Flight Watch").
This is available on frequency 122.0 below 18,000 feet, and on per-center frequencies above 18,000 feet which you can find on your instrument charts.

Flight Watch radio coverage should be available at or above 5,000 feet (though typically you can contact them at lower altitudes without a problem), and is provided between 0600 and 2200 local time (service may be available outside those hours but you will probably have to call Flight Service instead.

Initial calls to Flight Watch should generally take the form:
Flight Watch, Cessna 12345, 5 northeast of Hampton VOR.
(Who you're talking to, Who you are, and Where you are so they know which transmitter to use).

If calling in to give a PIREP generally adding "With a pilot report" helps the FSS specialist on the other end of the radio know what mode to be in (taking a report versus giving weather information).

For filing and opening VFR flight plans, pushing back your ETA because of a delay, and a few more obscure things which you can find in section 4-1-21 of the AIM you would contact Flight Service (addressed as "region Radio" - e.g. "New York Radio" or "Bridgeport Radio")

The universal flight service frequency is 122.2 (similar to Flight Watch this is supposed to be available above 5000 feet, but often you can talk to someone below that altitude).
Local Flight Service frequencies are listed on VORs as shown below. You can typically contact Flight Service on those frequencies below 5000 feet (as a general rule if you can receive the VOR you can talk to Flight Service with the frequencies listed), and using them helps avoid congestion on the universal frequency.

Hampton VOR FSS info

Initial calls to Flight Service should take the form:
<Facility Name> Radio, Cessna 12345, 5 northeast of Hampton VOR
(as above for Flight Watch, Who you're talking to ("New York Radio" in the example above), Who you are, and Where you are.)

There's a little catch with Flight Service frequencies: If there is an R after the frequency (as shown for 122.1 here) it is a receive-only frequency. You will talk to flight service on that frequency, but you will listen to the VOR's audio channel to hear Flight Service's responses.
When you call Flight Service using one of these frequencies make sure your nav radio is tuned to the VOR and the voice channel volume is up, and let them know which VOR you're listening to as opposed to your location.
In this example if you were contacting Flight Service on 1221 the call would be New York Radio, Cessna 12345, receiving on Hampton VOR.

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Are the Flight Service frequencies available 24 hours a day? –  Magnetoz Jan 31 '14 at 19:18
@Magnetoz The Flight Service frequencies (122.2 and the ones published on VORs) are 24/7. There are some "part time flight service stations" but their frequencies are supposed to be switched to a 24-hour station when the local station is closed. (If that doesn't happen or you don't get an answer you can always try on 122.2 - Worst case Flight Service will sometimes ask you to switch to a discrete frequency if 122.2 is congested.) –  voretaq7 Jan 31 '14 at 19:24

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