Airport Identifiers – FAA, ICAO, IATA, and NWS – to K or not to K?

Early in flight training, pilots learn that airports we go to have a 3 character FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) identifier. My home airport is EMT and pilots soon go to POC. The terminal chart (TAC), sectional chart, chart supplement, or your favorite app or airport information web site will all show this identifier

You might think… Great! I can use that FAA identifier in all my apps, tools, and web sites. Students quickly realize that’s not true. The US government’s own site will give you a “No METAR found for EMT” error, but works if you enter KEMT. So, great, I just have to use that second identifier. Not so fast! You quickly realize that not all airports have that second identifier. Take as an example the Big Bear City Airport, with the identifier of L35:

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TFR Season

While you might not believe that there’s a season for TFRs, it’s true in California right now. We have presidential visits, airshows, wildfires, football, and for a few days longer, baseball. All of these have TFRs associated with them. Take a look at this depiction courtesy of RunwayFinder from last Saturday.

See all those red and orange circles? Those are TFRs and that’s not even all the ones you need to worry about in California over the next few days!

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How high am I?

…or maybe better termed confusion over pressure settings, altitude, and weather.

Most pilots know the memory aid “high to low, hot to cold, look out below”. This reminds us that without local altimeter settings or understanding of temperatures, we may not be where we think we are altitude-wise. Many fewer pilots seem to understand the following situation:

KSBD 192350Z 25013G18KT 7SM SKC 34/11 A2988 
KL35 200035Z AUTO 06007KT 10SM CLR 22/M01 A3028

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