Like most Canadian pilots, I’m running pretty late updating my AIP, so I just noticed the contents of Aeronautical Information Circular 10/05 from last April. It’s worth quoting in full:
Removal of the phrase “VFR flight not recommended” in pilot briefing
Until now, a flight service specialist was required to state the phrase “VFR FLIGHT NOT RECOMMENDED” at the beginning of a pilot briefing for a VFR flight when extensive instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) or conditions that may affect the safety of the flight were reported or forecast to occur along the planned route of flight. The phrase was advisory in nature and the conditions that prompted the use of the phrase were then to be stated and the pilot was to be asked if a briefing was still required.
Pilots have requested that the phrase no longer [be] used in briefings. It was reported that flights were cancelled because the phrase was used even though the flights could have been conducted.
NAV CANADA recognizes that the responsibility for determining if a flight should be conducted or not rests solely with the pilot. The requirement for flight service specialists to use the phrase “VFR FLIGHT NOT RECOMMENDED” is discontinued and the phrase will no longer be used at the beginning of a pilot briefing. Significant meteorological information that could influence the pilot to alter or cancel the proposed flight will continue to be provided at the beginning of the briefing in accordance with current practice.
Kathleen Fox, Vice-President, Operations
Most U.S. pilots I’ve talked to hate the phrase “VFR not recommended”, but I don’t remember ever having heard it in Canada, even before this circular went around. This is similar to the attitude towards icing — Canadian forecasts mention icing only when there is a strong possibility of moderate-to-severe, while the U.S. puts out a standard icing NOTAM if there is even a small chance of trace-to-light. I’m not sure which side is safer to err on.
The problem with “VFNR” is that it was applied so inconstently even within the same FSS, at least in the US. There was one briefer who frequently said “VFNR” at the beginning of a briefing for a local flight, even though the ceiling was going to stay above 5,000 feet for several hours. Another would not say it even with ceilings at 2,500 and rain.
I don’t know if my experiences are typical, but I’ve found calling weather briefers in both Oshawa and Ottawa that they are *far* more forthcoming with information that isn’t in the standard briefing. They’d tell me what the forecast said, and then add why they thought the forecast might be wrong or why the radar map I was looking at didn’t show the whole story.
As for the phrase VFNR in Canada, It was always used as a “cover your ass” for the specialist and Nav Canada. However, NavCan realized that if us as briefers were saying VFNR in 9 out of 10 briefings, but the 1 where it wasn’t said, but should have (based on the subjective requirements) resulted in an accident, there could be a whole world of liability. Thus the phrase has been dropped. As a specialist, I believe the phrase for the most part, was most beneficial low time pilots with poor weather knowledge or english as a second language. Would get there attention immediately.
As far as I know, the FSS in the states have a reputation for using VFNR even if one station out of ten along the route was reporting CB’s with all the rest being CAVU.
Out of curiosity with a question to Paul Tomblin, who do you call for a briefing in Oshawa or Ottawa? You mean London?
Paul’s been flying for a while (and is based in the U.S. right now). In Ottawa, before the Quebec FIC took over, I think that pilots used to call the Gatineau FSS for briefings. In Oshawa, before the London FIC took over, I assume that pilots used to call the Buttonville FSS, but I never flew into Oshawa.