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In most weather reports I see "Outlook VFR" and I am not sure what that means and as a pilot what should I expect? What is an "outlook" and what does it mean when it is "VFR"?

In other words, what does 'OTLK... VFR' mean in weather reports?

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Outlook VFR is usually found in the so called "Area Forecast". It is the last part of the portion which describes clouds and weather, which could affect VFR operations.

The area forecast for every region is valid for 12 hours, followed by a 6 hour categorical outlook.

There are three types of outlooks, VFR, IFR and MVFR (marginal VFR). As mentioned in Jeppesen's Guided Flight Discovery Instrument/Commercial Manual:

A ceiling less than 1,000 feet and/or visibility less then 3 miles is considered IFR. Marginal VFR areas are those with ceilings from 1,000 to 3,000 feet and/or visibility between 3 and 5 miles.

Everything "better" (as in higher ceiling and/or visibility) is considered VFR.

Here is an extract from an Area Forecast:

CLDS/WX VALID UNTIL 062100...OTLK VALID 062100-070300
[...]
NRN PEN...BKN010-020 TOP 100. OCNL VIS 3SM BR. BECMG 1214 BKN025
TOP 120. ISOL -SHRA. 18Z BKN040 TOP FL220. WDLY SCT -SHRA/TSRA.
CB TOP FL420. OTLK...VFR TIL 02Z SHRA TSRA.

The first part is an extract from the Heading Section. here you find the time for which the Clouds and Weather part as well as the Outlook part is valid. The second part consist of the mentioned Clouds and Weather as well as the Outlook. I'm not going to decipher the whole thing now, but here is a short explanation:

You can see the more detailed forecast, valid from the time of loading the Area Forecast to 062100, which means the 6th of the month, 21:00 Zulu time. After that, from 062100-070300 so from the 6th at 21:00 Zulu until the 7th at 03:00 Zulu, the outlook is what counts. In this case it is VFR until the 7th of the month at 02:00 Zulu, where showers and thunderstorms (in connection with rain) are expected.

Conclusion: The outlook gives a general idea what the weather will be like up to 6 hours after the forecast part of the Are Forecast. This can help in flight planning.

For more information about VFR refer to DannyBeckett's detailed answer.

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VFR stands for Visual Flight Rules, in which you can expect VMC - or Visual Meteorological Conditions. In other words, good weather conditions.

Conditions in which pilots have sufficient visibility to fly the aircraft maintaining visual separation from terrain and other aircraft.

It is the opposite of instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The boundary criteria between IMC and VMC are known as the VMC minima and are defined by: visibility, cloud ceilings (for takeoffs and landings), and cloud clearances.

The FAA has regulations (14 CFR 91.155) on VFR Weather Minimums, and the following is taken from the VFR Weather Minimums PDF the FAA publishes:

VFR flight is based on the principle of “see and avoid.” The presumption made in establishing the basic VFR weather minimums is that aircraft flying at lower altitudes (i.e., below 10,000 MSL) and/or in airspace with radar approach control and/or an operating control tower (i.e., Class B, C, and D airspace) will be moving more slowly, or that they will be under positive control. Consequently, these aircraft do not need as much flight visibility or as much distance from clouds to see and avoid other traffic.

Aircraft operating at higher altitudes (i.e., Class E airspace above 10,000 MSL) are likely to be not only faster, but also operating on instrument flight plans. The rationale for greater visibility and more distance from clouds when flying above 10,000 MSL is to give VFR pilots more time to see and avoid faster aircraft that are popping in and out of clouds.

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  • $\begingroup$ when you see OTLK VFR does it mean bad weather or good weather? $\endgroup$ – PMoubed Apr 6 '15 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ @PMoubed VFR = "good" / IFR = "bad" $\endgroup$ – Danny Beckett Apr 6 '15 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ @PMoubed: Bad and good are entirely subjective. As for instance, right about now I imagine most folks in California and the environs (of whom I'm one) would think about two weeks of solid IMC and pouring rain would be pretty darned good :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Apr 6 '15 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ You should probably also explain the term outlook in your answer. $\endgroup$ – Maverick283 Apr 6 '15 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ Even for flying purposes there are circumstances where IMC is preferable to VMC. It sure beats wearing that confounded hood. $\endgroup$ – Fred Larson Apr 6 '15 at 16:37

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