The Department of Commerce announced June 4 that it is moving forward with closing National Weather Service Center Weather Service Units at each of the 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers in the continental United States, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which called the move dangerous to air traffic safety.
If the centers are closed, air traffic controllers will no longer have the immediate expertise of meteorologists on site to advise them when weather conditions require rerouting of flights. Instead, the National Weather Service has offered to send forecasts to the FAA from two central units, one located in Maryland and the other in Kansas.
The National Weather Service developed the proposal to substitute the two central units for on-site meteorologists in response to FAA’s request to reduce costs of the Central Weather Service Units. Costs for the weather service at the Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) come out of the FAA’s budget.
The decision to proceed with closing could face some turbulence. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has posted on his web site opposition to leaving local ATCs without trained weather help on site. Also, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Commerce Committee has written to the FAA saying he “has grave concerns over the safety and wisdom of removing meteorologists from the ARTCCs.”