The FAA has proposed discontinuing the Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS) as part of an agency streamlining effort.
HIWAS is a voice broadcast that has existed since the early 1980s, providing hazardous weather advisories over VOR radio navigation systems.
In a July 23 Federal Register notice, the FAA said it was looking at ending HIWAS because better sources of weather information are now available to pilots. These newer, Internet-based sources often use graphical formats that make it easier to visualize what is happening along a flight route.
However, Internet-based graphics are often not available in the cockpit because many aircraft do not have Wi-Fi in the air, officials with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) note. HIWAS, by contrast, is listened to over frequency and does not need the Internet.
“The FAA convened a safety panel to review the impacts of removing HIWAS, but it became clear that a decision could not be reached on mitigating the safety concerns without hearing from the operating community first,” said Heidi Williams, director for air traffic services and infrastructure for the National Business Aviation Association. “The FAA will need to take the input received and reconvene the safety panel to ensure there are no hazards to removing the service long term.”
The FAA is seeking public input on its proposal. Comments can be submitted online, mailed, hand-delivered or faxed by Aug. 22, 2018.
From the FAA’s proposal on the Federal Register: Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS) is a continuous broadcast of weather advisories over a limited nationwide network of VORs that provide pilots with meteorological information relating to hazardous weather.
Since the early 1980s, the broadcast, available in various locations of the contiguous United States (CONUS), allows pilots to access hazardous weather while inflight without going through a Flight Service specialist.
HIWAS was conceived when there was a large demand for inflight briefings from specialists and wait times could be extremely long. HIWAS alleviated the workload of the specialists and helped to reduce wait times for pilots. At that time, pilots had no other choice but to contact Flight Service to obtain hazardous weather updates for the route of flight. Originally created by specialists using scripts, HIWAS is now produced using text to voice technology.
With the advent of the internet and other technology, the demand for inflight services from Flight Service specialists has declined. Staffing was 3,000+ specialists in more than 300 facilities during the early 1980s and now consists of three hub facilities. In 2018, radio contacts dropped to less than 900 per day from an average of 10,000 radio contacts per day.