It is quite obvious that aviation plays a major role in today’s society. Aviation services have become vital to the nation’s economy, national security, and to the safety of life and property. In particular, aviation weather services prove useful because they are used to support our national defense and humanitarian missions, transportation of people and commerce, hurricane reconnaissance, and emergency medical helicopter missions. Basically every flight ranging from the newest student pilot to shuttle missions require some sort of weather-related screening for safety precautions before flight.
The aviation weather community is constantly improving data gathering and prediction products and services in order to reduce the rate of fatal aviation accidents. There are grand improvements on getting information to the user in a timely and mission tailored manner. Also of importance is improving provider and user training, and implementing sound weather decision making processes. According to a speech delivered by Samuel Williamson, Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, “A new system designed to improve the flow of air traffic during severe weather helped reduce delays by seven percent last month” (Williamson, 2000).
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Current technologies include: implementation of Flight Information Service (FIS) capabilities between the ground and cockpit; development and implementation of multifunctional color cockpit displays incorporating FIS products; expansion and institutionalization of the generation, dissemination, and use of automated pilot reports (PIREPs), including type of observation, to the full spectrum of the aviation community, including general aviation; improvement on weather forecasting services across all service areas; development and implementation of aviation weather-related training packages for Air Traffic Control service providers, pilots, and other users; improvement on aviation weather telecommunications capabilities for ground-to-ground dissemination of aviation weather products, including bulk weather data distribution; and finally improvement on objective standards for characterizing various weather phenomena for national and international use.
There are constantly major collaborative efforts in projects to update these technologies. Participating organizations include: The Federal Aviation Industry (FAA), The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), United States Department Of Defense (DOD), and other industry, university, and association partners. The long a steady improvements in aviation safety experienced in the mid 80’s and early 90’s had plateaued out. Only through such collaborations are efficient and residual improvements possible.
Tier one began in late 1996, and is based around the sentiment that weather, in and of itself, does not cause accidents. It concentrated on creating better weather reporting and forecast to assist pilots, dispatchers, and controllers to make better and timelier weather decisions. Also included is to design and manufacture better aircraft. The result of that effort was the publication in 1997 of the National Aviation Weather Program Strategic Plan.
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