We tend to do a lot of aerial photography, and one of the resources we use in the preparation for a shoot is ATIS or Automatic Terminal Information Service.

ATIS is a continuous recorded broadcast of important information used by pilots to help operate their aircraft.  The most important bit of info that we need to know is the actual weather at the airfield.  Cloud ceiling, wind direction, and wind speed will all play a part on how are shoot goes.

Lots of airports these days have a telephone number you can call into in order to listen to the broadcast, and every morning before we fly, we call in and give a listen.

This gives us a heads up on the exact conditions at the airport where you will be operating from.  If you have not done a lot of flying, you may or may not realize that different airports may have drastically different weather.  Sometimes they can be very close together, but be totally different.

For example, the topography of one particular airport may be such that the ground fog that develops overnight may not burn off until 2 or 3 hours later in the day than an airport 5 miles away in another valley.heli

Calling in and listening to ATIS may also save you an early trip to the airfield to find your pilot has canceled the mission.  Most photo flights we do are from helicopters, and are shot within 10-60 miles from the field.  Furthermore, most of the helicopters we use operate under VFR or Visual Flight Rules.  This means that they can not fly when the cloud conditions preclude them to do.  You can get a quick sense if you will be able to fly or not when you call into ATIS and listen to the cloud celing.  If the clouds are at 500′ AGL (above ground level) then chances are you will be staying on the ground and flying another day.

If you would like to give a listen to ATIS, give a call to the local airport where I fly out of at 781.837.0555.


I have mentioned it before… if you are interested in shooting more aerial photography, the best thing you can do is take a couple of flying lessons.  Fixed wing is great, but rotary (helicopter) is best.  The lessons will give you a base knowledge of how things work, and give you a better idea of the challenges your pilot is facing.  After even one lesson, you will be able to communicate with your pilot in a more fluid manner, making even more stunning images for your client!

For more reading on heli-work, you can read this last post on a photo-mission.