Changing FAA weather services fixes a problem that ‘doesn’t exist’

Representative Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said today the FAA’s proposal to change aviation weather services is “a determination by the FAA to solve a problem that appears not to exist.”

Miller’s Science and Technology’s Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday to question why the FAA wants to cut the number of weather forecasters.

Currently 84 forecasters working in 21 centers provide 16 hours of service each day. The FAA proposes to consolidate this to where the National Weather Service (NWS) would have just 36 forecasters working out of two centers providing 24 hours of service each day. The result would be that on any morning or afternoon shift there would be only eight forecasters covering the lower 48 states as opposed to 20 on the shifts now. This would mean each forecaster would have much more airspace to be responsible for and “deprive controllers the opportunity to have a forecaster to stand over their shoulders in the event of a crisis.”

For three decades, Miller said, the NWS has provided the FAA with aviation weather forecast services that appear to have met the needs of air traffic controllers. However the FAA has been pushing for the change since 2005, claiming it would lead to cost savings without sacrificing service. Miller said no proposal by the FAA for consolidation has demonstrated meaningful savings.

Air traffic controllers support the current system and oppose consolidation of weather services.

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  1. Joseph says

    Well written Steve! Rep Miller claims FAA is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist…..well, it was his very subcommittee that had the GAO investigate the CWSU structure. It was the GAO’s findings that led to the NWS restructuring proposal. Your discussion of staffing to the situation is very insightful. In addition, under the current structure with only 1 manager and 3 meterologists at each enroute center, there are often times when 1 vacation and 1 unexpected sick leave will leave that facility with no duty forecaster. In the consolidated approach, that would never happen. In reading the testimony before Rep Miller’s subcommittee, it was very appearent that the committee members were confusing the CWSUs (no pilot contact, no forecasts delivered to the public) with the WFOs and AFSSs (pilot weather briefings, TAFs, etc).

  2. Steve says

    What happens overnight…when the current configuration shuts down? The new formula would have eight meteorologists working while the present configuration would be unstaffed. Also, since Alaska Region would be left untouched, the numbers are slightly off, decreasing from 80 to 36 in the lower 48 states. Mr. Miller doesn’t understand the concept of staffing to meet the situation. Today’s weather indicates weather impacting commercial aviation (the Center Weather Service Unit’s bread and Butter)over the upper Midwest and along the middle Atlantic coast. Under today’s configuration, Minneapolis Center (one forecaster) would be handling the weather in the upper Midwest while New York and Washington D.C. Centers (two forecasters) would be handling the weather. The proposed change would have two…maybe three forecasters handling the impacting weather while the remaining staff members would “concentrate” on the benign weather. The technology is in place, if the National Weather Service looks closely to find it. Also, Mr. Miller needs to look at the awards and other proclamations offered by the FAA when Air Traffic Controllers assist a VFR pilot lost in the clouds and see how often the meteorologist was asked for help…

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