FAA to Proceed with Weather Forecaster Cuts

5 February 2009 (Last Updated February 5th, 2009 18:30)

The US Federal Aviation Administration is set to move forward with plans to cut costs by removing on-site weather forecasters from Miami Air Route Traffic Control Centre (ARTCC), despite vehement opposition. The FAA wants to remove the ARTCC, which is responsible for over 400,000 miles

The US Federal Aviation Administration is set to move forward with plans to cut costs by removing on-site weather forecasters from Miami Air Route Traffic Control Centre (ARTCC), despite vehement opposition.

The FAA wants to remove the ARTCC, which is responsible for over 400,000 miles of airspace and the majority of the air traffic going to and from the US, the Bahamas, Caribbean and Central and South America, and consolidate them into two master facilities in Maryland and Kansas City.

The FAA's plans have, however, received opposition from bodies such NATCA and the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) who are concerned that passengers will be at risk if controllers are suddenly unable to quickly send hazardous weather info to flight crews.

NATCA Miami Center facility representative Steve Wallace said that technology can only help so much in inclement weather.

"Right now in inclement weather you can turn the corner and ask someone, face-to-face, how a particular storm cell will affect your local airspace," he said. "Consolidating these invaluable meteorologists into a centralised facility removes controllers' accessibility to on-site, local knowledge of weather."

"There is no evidence that can be presented to convince me that the controllers keeping our skies safe can continue to do so without the on-site assistance of our weather forecasters. These are highly trained professionals and they are intimately familiar with the weather patterns at Miami Center."

The FAA has signalled its intent to move forward with the plans despite signed letters and documents from groups including the NTSB, the Government Accountability Office, Congress and the Department of Transportation's Inspector General.

The current system of stationing meteorologists in a forecast unit at each one of the FAA's 21 ARTCCs, has been in place since 1978, after the FAA's air traffic control system's inability to quickly disseminate information regarding hazardous weather was determined to be a major contributing factor to the 1977 Southern Airways DC-9 crash.

By Daniel Garrun.