As the aircraft is too far from antennas and units, how do they be aware of weather changes or weather information along their route, or on the destination and alternate airports?

  • $\begingroup$ For local weather, they get part of the information from on-board weather radar. For both local and destination weather, they can also get information through satellite links. $\endgroup$
    – jcaron
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 13:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Aircraft might be out of contact with ATC but will remain tuned to the service they are working. If there is a significant weather change that might affect safety, they will transmit a report on that frequency. ATC will not hear it, but anybody else working the same frequency, i.e. in the same part of the world, might hear it. This is very common for turbulence reports on oceanic crossings. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ There are satellite based services as well, such as XM Weather that provide accurate weather reports. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ And before there were satellites & SATCOM, there was HF radio. "Out of contact with ATC" -- not necessarily. Not usually, in fact. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


It depends on what info you're after: During cruise I'm mainly interested in threats to the aircraft which normally manifest as echo on the weather radar (clear air turbulence being one famous exception) or by looking out of the window.

  • Do you want info on your destination and alternate airport you listen to a HF VOLMET station or ask ATC via HF (cumbersome and annoying due to often poor reception).
  • In our shiny new world we could also ask ATC via an CPDLC free text message. The controller simply uplinks you a message with the requested information.
  • Depending on your operator there might be a plethora of other information available via ACARS which - when equipped - can communicate via satellite. At my company we can get:
    • Updates on the winds aloft (important for fuel calculation)
    • Airport weather information (ATIS, METAR, TAF)
    • Sigmets

In general, the weather you really need is readily available. An ocean crossing is only a couple of hours. This timeframe is covered by the TAFs. So you shouldn't be too surprised when you don't have all that fancy stuff mentioned above and ask ATC once VHF COM is reestablished or you can receive a VHF VOLMET station.


Also other aircraft flying in the same area or route can give an update to the aircraft following


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