Future Roles and Missions
The best approach for improving aviation weather services and related research is for the FAd to fulfill the lead agency role vigorously. Stronger leadership by the FAd would enhance cooperation and coordination among other parties involved in optimizing current and future aviation weather systems and services.
Federal aviation weather services are provided by multiple agencies working together in accordance with generally accepted roles and missions. However, as discussed in chapters 2 through 5, current arrangements for carrying out these roles and missions should be improved to respond more fully to user needs. In addition, the responsibilities of individual agencies for research and development related to aviation weather observations, forecasting, dissemination, and the preparation of weather products are not well established. Efforts to improve the federal aviation weather program should focus on developing and implementing a well-defined strategy that includes a prioritized list of top-level objectives and a practical approach for coordinating interagency efforts.
The overall safety and effectiveness of the aviation weather services that the federal government currently provides is a tribute to the dedication and skill of the midlevel managers and line personnel within the FAA and NWS who provide aviation weather services on a day-today basis. However, greater attention by more senior officials would create significant opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of aviation weather services nationally and regionally.
With regard to agency roles and missions, national policy makers have numerous options for improving the ability of the federal government to resolve existing and future issues. These options range from maintaining the status quo to making radical changes. The committee examined and evaluated seven alternatives that, in the opinion of the committee, encompass the most feasible and reasonable possible courses of action:
- Maintain the status quo.
- Maintain the status quo, with a senior focal point within the FAA for aviation weather.
- Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the FAA.
- Shift additional federal responsibilities for aviation weather services and related research to the NWS.
- Establish a new organization to provide aviation weather services and conduct related research.
- Assign primary responsibility for aviation weather operational services and related research to two different agencies.
- Increase the effectiveness with which the FAA serves as the lead agency for aviation weather services and related research.
These alternatives form the basis for the committee's recommendations on future agency roles and missions for aviation weather. Appendix J (page 107) describes and assesses alternatives 1 through 6. After consideration of these alternatives, the committee strongly favors implementation of Alternative 7, which is described below:
Alternative 7. The FAA would vigorously assume overall responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the planning and execution of aviation weather services and related research by the federal government. The FAA would also coordinate the timely resolution of existing and future aviation weather issues with other federal, state, and private organizations. Furthermore, an FAA associate administrator would be given overall responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the planning and implementation of aviation weather services and related research within the FAA. Agency roles would remain largely as currently assigned, and federal agencies would retain individual responsibility for executing their assigned roles. However, the FAA would play a more definitive
role in ensuring that actions needed to improve services now and in the future are identified and executed in a timely fashion.
Advantages. This alternative offers distinct, near-term advantages. It clearly defines which agency has primary responsibility for improving aviation weather services. By providing a focal point for leadership, accountability, and a sense of ownership, this alternative would increase the visibility of aviation weather services and related research within the FAA and the federal government as a whole. The FAA would assume accountability for how well the overall aviation weather system meets user needs, and it would take the lead in coordinating the efforts of all involved parties to respond to urgent unmet needs.
This alternative would improve the FAA's internal coordination of aviation weather services. Developing a single FAA position on broad aviation weather issues can involve the offices of the FAA associate administrators for (1) air traffic services, (2) regulation and certification, and (3) research and acquisition. For example, the Associate Administrator for Research and Acquisitions has an acquisition plan that includes aviation weather systems, but it is not fully integrated with other elements of the FAA that manage regulation, certification, and day-to-day operations.
Except for the FAA Administrator and Deputy Administrator, no FAA official has the authority or responsibility to lead the FAA in developing a consensus position on issues that involve two or three associate administrators. Officials from the NWS, other federal agencies, and user groups are often frustrated when they try to resolve aviation weather issues because there is no single point of contact within the FAA who can bring issues to closure. Instead, officials from outside the FAA must deal with several different FAA representatives who often do not agree among themselves about what the FAA position is with regard to a particular weather-related issue.
Designating a single point of authority for weather services would (1) improve aviation weather leadership and focus within the FAA, (2) improve the FAA's ability to resolve aviation weather issues in a timely fashion, (3) reduce the frustration currently experienced by outside agencies and the private sector when attempting to resolve aviation weather issues with the FAA, and (4) facilitate efforts by the FAA to carry out its existing memorandum of agreement with NOAA (FAA, 1977), particularly with regard to providing the NWS with a single agency-wide list of aviation weather requirements. The merit of this approach was recognized by the Department of Transportation's 1995 Aviation Safety Conference, which recommended establishing a single senior official and/or office for aviation weather systems and services within the FAA (DOT, 1995).
Any attempt to improve aviation weather services through major changes in agency structure, shifts in the oversight responsibility of congressional committees, or fundamental changes in the budgetary process could take years to achieve and, in the end, might not succeed. Alternative 7 does not involve such changes; the executive branch could implement it simply by issuing an appropriate executive order or OMB circular. Nonetheless, Alternative 7 would facilitate the implementation of current policies as well as the recommendations contained in this report and other documents.
Disadvantages. Simply designating a lead agency will not improve the current level of services. Associate administrators within the FAA and corresponding officials within NOAA, the NWS, NASA, and DoD must accept the proposed working arrangements if they are to be effective. The success of Alternative 7 would also require a strong commitment by the FAA Administrator, the FAA associate administrator designated to take responsibility for aviation weather services, and other headquarters and field organizations within the FAA, NOAA, and the NWS. This approach also would probably require the FAA to hire additional personnel with technical and managerial expertise in meteorology.
Assessing the Alternatives
The key constraints on improving aviation weather services are primarily institutional (e.g., related to agency roles and missions) and political, not technological, legal, or fiscal. For example, although diminishing budgets make it difficult to improve aviation weather services, there are several options for pursuing significant improvements even within existing budget constraints, including the following:
- reexamining funding priorities (see Chapter 3, pages 38 and 39);
- improving the management and coordination of research and development programs so that new systems are able to achieve stated goals in terms of technical performance and cost savings (see Chapter 4, pages 42–46, and the discussion of lessons learned from the ASOS acquisition in Chapter 3, page 26); and
- providing effective leadership for aviation weather services and research.
Most of the recommendations contained in this report are based on information that is readily available from other study reports, federal documents, and interviews with knowledgeable members of the aviation and mete-
orological communities. It is not difficult to determine what types of services users need or the areas of research that are needed to provide those services. Meeting user needs, however, is often impeded by a lack of consensus and cooperation among the government agencies, private weather services, research organizations, and user groups involved in aviation weather. As a whole, these organizations have the resources to improve aviation weather services significantly, but only if they act in a concerted effort so that their actions are mutually reinforcing. Capable leadership and the personal accountability that comes with a sense of ownership are needed to build consensus and coordinate the overall effort to provide aviation weather services and conduct related research.
Stronger leadership will directly improve the process by which aviation weather services are planned and implemented. The FAA, which has the legislative charter to improve the safety and efficiency of the air transportation system, is in a better position to demonstrate strong leadership for aviation weather than NOAA, the NWS, NASA, or other agencies that have some involvement in aviation weather services or related research.
Without stronger leadership, other actions to improve services are unlikely to achieve their full potential. For example, it might be possible to improve the effectiveness of aviation weather services and related research by transferring some functions between the FAA and NWS, as a modest implementation of alternatives 3 or 4. However, the committee foresees only modest gains in efficiency as a result (see Appendix J). Furthermore, assessing the merits of adjusting agency roles and missions is the type of activity that is most likely to succeed if strong leadership is available to provide direction and encourage interagency cooperation. As a result, the committee believes that this is the sort of issue that is best examined after Alternative 7 is implemented and a mechanism is in place to develop an accepted course of action expeditiously.
Roles and Missions
As described above, the committee believes that the FAA should vigorously fulfill the lead agency role with regard to aviation weather services and supporting research. Other federal agencies, state governments, and the private sector should follow the FAA's lead and work together to optimize current and future aviation weather systems and services.
The specific aviation weather functions that the FAA, NWS, DoD, and other agencies currently provide seem to be generally well suited to their respective missions and capabilities. The committee recommends that they continue to provide those functions, as described below.
Observation. The federal government (i.e., the NWS and FAA) should retain primary responsibility for making required weather observations by assigning government employees or arranging with third parties to provide this service. This view is consistent with Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, which directs the Secretary of Commerce, in cooperation with the FAA Administrator, to provide meteorological services and make weather observations necessary for aviation safety and efficiency. This view also reflects the consensus viewpoint among government and industry personnel interviewed by the committee.
Analysis. The NWS should continue serving as the principal source of analyzed aviation weather data within the United States in accordance with the NWS's historic role and current statutory responsibilities.
Forecasting. The NWS should continue as the primary source of aviation weather forecasts intended for general use by the aviation community. Private industry should continue to offer tailored forecasts to airlines, the business aviation community, and other users who are willing to pay for specialized, value-added products. In addition, the FAA and NOAA should push forward in the cooperative development of systems such as the Aviation Gridded Forecast System and Advanced Weather Products Generator. These systems would allow both government and private weather services to provide improved weather products that are tailored to the needs of individual users.
Dissemination. The FAA should continue to serve as the primary federal agency responsible for ensuring that pilots, controllers, and other members of the aviation community have adequate access to available weather information.
Research. The committee concluded in Chapter 4 that it is the proper role of government to develop, fund, and execute a plan of basic research in aviation weather just as it does in many other disciplines. Therefore, the committee recommended that the FAA take the lead in implementing the recommendation of the OFCM (Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology) to develop an interagency plan for aviation weather research and development that would accomplish the following goals:
- Encourage greater interagency coordination of research and development.
- Accelerate the transfer of research and development technology to operational use.
- Define needs for aviation weather observations, forecasting, dissemination, and preparation of weather products.
- Define the responsibilities of individual agencies for conducting research and development projects that fulfill these needs (OFCM, 1992).
The committee's recommendations concerning FAA roles and missions fall into two categories: leadership and separating aircraft from hazardous weather.
Aviation safety and efficiency require effective decision making by pilots, air traffic controllers, and other users of aviation weather information. Vigorous leadership within the federal government is necessary to ensure that aviation weather services support this goal by meeting user needs. Because aviation safety and efficiency are primarily the responsibility of the FAA, the FAA should provide this leadership. Thus, the FAA should exert stronger leadership in every area of its responsibility that contributes to the provision of accurate and timely weather information.
Recommendation: As part of its effort to provide necessary leadership, the FAd should accomplish the following tasks:
- Specify national and regional aviation weather requirements.
- Organize multiagency participation in aviation weather research, operations, and training.
- Justify aviation weather budget requests.
- Orchestrate a coordinated aviation weather research and development program.
- Improve the understanding and use of weather information by aviation users.
- Provide day-to-day dissemination of weather information to aviation users.
- Respond to the recommendations contained in this report and in Weather for Those Who Fly (NRC, 1994).
Because the need for stronger leadership is imbedded within every aspect of the federal aviation weather system, the committee's most important recommendation is for the FAA to execute the lead agency role vigorously.
Major Recommendation 6: The Primary Recommendation
The FAA should provide the leadership, establish the priorities, and ensure the funding needed to improve weather services for aviation users and to strengthen related research.
The recommendations contained in this report do not require the FAA to increase its role significantly in providing or funding aviation weather services, systems, or related research. Rather, they are intended to improve the manner in which the FAA and the rest of the federal government execute their current responsibilities for providing a safe and efficient system of air transport.
Providing stronger leadership in aviation weather would require a shift in the FAA's culture, which is currently focused more on preventing aircraft collisions than on keeping aircraft out of adverse weather. In addition, other organizations must accept the FAA's leadership for the recommended approach to work. However, motivating the FAA to provide effective leadership is likely to be more difficult than. convincing other organizations to cooperate in developing a more-effective aviation weather system. For example, the NWS is motivated to cooperate by ongoing budget reductions and the reality that most of its aviation-related activities are directly funded by the FAA. To ensure that the FAA and other agencies accept the FAA's leadership role, the executive branch should issue appropriate guidelines to the Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce, and other federal departments involved in aviation weather.
Recommendation: The executive branch should formally designate the FAd as the lead federal agency for ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the national aviation weather system.
Although it is important that the FAA provide strong leadership, aviation weather services involve a wide variety of other users and providers. To be most effective, federal planning efforts should consider the viewpoints of these other interested parties.
Recommendation: The FAA should seek a broad consensus on aviation weather goals and priorities with (1) other federal agencies: (2) other providers of aviation weather services (i.e., private weather services and state governments); (3) research organizations; and (4) user groups, including the unions, associations, and industry groups that represent those who work with the U.S. aviation weather system on a daily basis: air carrier personnel, pilots, air traffic controllers, flight service specialists, meteorologists, and dispatchers.
Just as capable leadership is needed to coordinate interagency activities related to aviation weather services and related research, capable aviation weather leadership is needed within the FAA, especially if the FAA is to assume a stronger role in aviation weather. Accordingly,
a single official with the authority to develop internal agency-wide positions on broad weather-related policy issues should assume a leadership role for aviation weather within the FAA. The organizations headed by the FAA's key associate administrators have different priorities, interests, and cultures. Weather functions are dispersed among these organizations in various offices that present no unifying nucleus. In addition, issues related to aviation weather require resolution at the associate administrator level. Thus, to be most effective, the designated official should be an associate administrator. This could be either a new position (e.g., an Associate Administrator for Aviation Weather) or an existing position (e.g., the Associate Administrator for Air Traffic Services or the Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification). Regardless of which approach is selected, it is important to ensure that the designated associate administrator is given the authority and possesses the determination to increase the visibility, effectiveness, and priority of aviation weather services across the FAA.
The designated associate administrator need not assume line management authority over all FAA activities that impact aviation weather. However, he or she should be responsible to the FAA Administrator for responding to weather-related issues by timely development of coordinated positions that include inputs from other associate administrators and outside agencies, as appropriate.
Recommendation: The FAA Administrator should designate an associate administrator to assume overall responsibility for carrying out the FAA's lead agency role for aviation weather and to serve as a single focal point within the FAA with the authority to provide effective internal and external coordination of aviation weather services and related research programs that involve the FAA.
The committee does not believe that designating the FAA to play a stronger role in planning and coordinating aviation weather activities—or designating a single FAA associate administrator to play a similar role within the FAA—requires a significant shift in personnel or change in organizational structure. As noted by the Air Traffic Control Corporation Study, during the decade prior to that study the FAA had ''attempted 24 reorganizations and reforms without solving its fundamental problems'' (DOT, 1994). The committee agrees that reorganizing the FAA or other organizations will not itself resolve the basic issues associated with aviation weather services. More important than the organizational structure selected to manage aviation weather services is the need to ensure that the individuals selected to manage aviation weather activities have the expertise, inclination, resources, and authority to resolve issues in a manner that meets the needs of all involved parties.
Separating Aircraft From Hazardous Weather
Chapter 1 describes the impact of weather on aviation safety and efficiency. Chapter 2 notes that Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations requires the FAA "to provide for the safe and efficient use of the [national] airspace." Chapters 3 and 4 discuss how advanced aviation weather services and systems will become available in the next few years to increase the accuracy and timeliness of weather information that is available to all users, including air traffic controllers. As described by FAA Order 7032.15 (see Scenario Two in Appendix F), these new services and systems represent an opportunity for the FAA to enhance aviation safety by assuming a more proactive role in separating aircraft from hazardous weather.
As described in Chapter 3, the responsibility for keeping aircraft out of hazardous weather rests with pilots. However, as illustrated by accidents such as the 1994 crash of USAir Flight 1016 in Charlotte, North Carolina, pilots—and their passengers—would benefit if air traffic controllers were more cautious about clearing aircraft to operate in areas where hazardous weather is known to exist (see page 7). This is especially true in cases where controllers have weather information that is more current and complete than the information available to pilots. The committee recognizes that additional responsibilities associated with separating aircraft from weather should not interfere with the ability of controllers to carry out their current responsibilities, which are also critical to aviation safety. The committee also accepts the need for pilots to retain ultimate responsibility for the safety of their aircraft. Nonetheless, in light of ongoing advances in weather observing and forecasting systems, the committee recommends that the FAA prepare to assume a greater role in separating aircraft from hazardous weather, including adjusting the functions of air traffic controllers. As part of this effort, the FAA should work closely with other involved parties (e.g., pilots, owners, and operators of private and commercial aircraft) to ensure that proposed changes are likely to be effective and strike an appropriate balance between safety and efficiency.
Major Recommendation 7
The FAA should adopt the philosophy that weather services are an important part of its air traffic responsibilities; it should develop procedures and weather products to improve the ability of pilots and air traffic controllers to ensure that aircraft avoid hazardous weather.
Aviation weather services are important to the safety and efficiency of aviation. As such, they serve a broad public interest that is recognized in the statutory requirements for the Secretary of Commerce, as the President's senior official in charge of NOAA and the NWS, to "promote safety and efficiency in civil air navigation to the highest degree" and to "give full consideration" to the recommendations of the FAA Administrator for "providing meteorological service necessary for the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in air commerce" (Title 49). Accordingly, the NWS should continue to ensure the availability of accurate and comprehensive meteorological data and weather forecasts that meet the needs of pilots, controllers, and other aviation weather users. However, the NWS has many other meteorological responsibilities, such as providing agricultural weather services and maintaining climate change records. Thus, the NWS should also assess the impact that proposed changes in aviation weather services might have on these other areas.
The meteorological data collected by the NWS and the weather forecasts and warnings that it generates are essential parts of the aviation weather system. For example, only four U.S. passenger airlines operate their own meteorology departments. The rest depend upon weather forecasts and other products produced by (1) the NWS and (2) private weather services, which use data and information collected and/or generated by the NWS. Even those airlines that maintain their own meteorology departments work in partnership with the NWS to ensure the safety of the flying public. Airlines concentrate their forecasting efforts on their major hub airports; they depend upon NWS forecasts for most destinations. In addition, the NWS provides the FAA with the weather warnings that it uses to alert pilots about dangerous weather conditions.
Major Recommendation 8
The NWS should continue to meet FAA-determined requirements for weather services as part of its responsibilities for atmospheric observations, analyses, and forecasts.
As already noted, individuals selected to manage aviation weather activities should have the expertise, inclination, resources, and authority to resolve issues in a manner that meets the needs of all involved parties. As discussed in Chapter 3 (pages 34 and 35), the staff of the NWS's National Aviation Weather Advisory Unit, which is being transformed into the Aviation Weather Center, impressed the committee as the most dedicated, capable, and professional group of operational aviation weather meteorologists that committee members encountered within the FAA or NWS. Increasing the ability of these meteorologists to oversee aviation weather operations at other NWS facilities would probably improve the effectiveness of the aviation weather services that the NWS provides to the FAA and other users.
Recommendation: The Aviation Weather Center should be established with expanded authority to oversee aviation weather services within the NWS. At a minimum, this should include oversight of the NWS's 21 CWSUs (Center Weather Service Units). The NWS should also explore other options for using the Aviation Weather Center's specialized capabilities.
Private weather services play a minor role in making weather observations. Most weather observations are provided by the federal government, state governments, or private companies—such as air carriers—that need additional weather information to meet operational requirements. However, private weather services play an increasingly significant role in weather analysis and forecasting, dissemination of weather information, and generation of weather products. Furthermore, the role of private weather services has been steadily increasing as emerging technologies have enhanced their capabilities, especially with regard to the provision of tailored weather products for specific customers and applications.
The expanding role of private weather services is consistent with current NWS policy, which states that "the NWS will not compete with the private sector when a service is currently provided or can be provided by commercial enterprises, unless otherwise directed by applicable law. . . . The NWS firmly believes that the private weather industry plays an important and essential role as a partner in ensuring that the nation receives the full benefit of weather and hydrometeorological information for promoting protection of life and property and economic prosperity" (NWS, 1993). However, this policy does not describe how the federal government intends to use the growing capabilities of private aviation services to improve the quality of federal aviation weather services.
The FAA also seems comfortable with a larger role for private weather services. For example, the FAA views dissemination of preflight weather information as one area in which it may be able to increase its reliance on the private sector. In particular, the FAA would like to "eliminate the role of terminal and en route [air traffic controllers] as the conduit of routine weather information to the pilot" (FAA, 1994b). Furthermore, the FAA has
indicated that it may elect to withdraw as the primary provider of weather information that is readily available from other sources such as the NWS or the private sector (FAA, 1994a).
Recommendation: The FAA and NWS should develop more-detailed guidance regarding the future role of private weather services. This guidance should view private weather services as partners in the overall effort to improve the quality and reduce the total cost of aviation weather services.
As noted in Chapter 3 (page 30), the FAA already funds the private sector to provide computerized preflight weather briefings via DUATS (Direct User Access Terminal Service). In addition, the private sector supports the operation of FSSs (Flight Service Stations) and AFSSs (Automated Flight Service Stations) by supplying information processing and communications system hardware for dissemination of weather information to pilots. Private weather services also sell their weather products for use in FAA and NWS facilities such as FSSs, AFSSs, CWSUs, and Weather Forecast Offices.
If the federal government transfers additional aviation weather services to the private sector, the FAA and NWS should ensure the competency of the private weather services that accept this responsibility. In addition, the committee cautions against establishing new arrangements for providing aviation weather services that would require general aviation pilots to acquire essential preflight weather information on a fee-per-use basis. Although prudent pilots would ensure that they obtain adequate information even if it is only available on a fee-per-use basis, such an arrangement could cause some pilots to cut back on the amount of preflight weather information that they receive. For example, the Air Traffic Control Corporation Study concluded that "direct user fees [should] be assessed only in those cases that would not discourage the use of ATC [air traffic control] services," and it recommended that noncommercial aviation be exempt from paying user fees (DOT, 1994). Although this recommendation is focused on air traffic control services, the committee believes that it is equally valid with regard to aviation weather services currently provided by the FAA.
Recommendation: The federal government should continue to fund aviation weather services that it may transfer to the private sector to ensure that noncommercial general aviation pilots are not confronted by user fees that may discourage the prudent use of aviation weather services.
Operationally, the current division of responsibilities among the DoD, FAA, and NWS seems appropriate. The U.S. Air Force and Navy provide aviation weather services to military pilots and air traffic controllers. Although these services generally mirror the services that the NWS and FAA provide to civil aviation, the nature and scope of military operations result in many different operational requirements and systems. Furthermore, the DoD is not structured or equipped to lead a domestic system. Nonetheless, DoD and the NWS share the meteorological data that they collect, and some DoD and NWS systems have been engineered to back-up each other in case of malfunction. The DoD and NWS are also reducing the extent to which they provide duplicate capabilities, especially with regard to high-cost items such as weather satellites.
Because of the DoD's unique worldwide mission, many of its aviation weather research and development programs are focused on specific military requirements that have little relevance to commercial systems. However, the DoD is also involved in the development of new forecasting models, algorithms, display systems, and training programs that may have broader applicability to the aviation weather services that the FAA and NWS provide. Budgetary cutbacks have reduced the scope and extended the schedule of some of these efforts. Closer cooperation among DoD, NOAA, and FAA aviation weather research programs may be able to partially offset the impact of these cuts.
Recommendation: The DoD should retain primary responsibility within the federal government for providing aviation weather services required by military aviation. The DoD and NWS should continue to coordinate and integrate their meteorological systems.
NASA's mission includes fundamental research and technology development activities in aeronautical disciplines to improve the safety and efficiency of the U.S. air transportation system. NASA's mission also includes the provision of technical assistance and facility support to other government agencies and the private sector (see Appendix D, pages 76 and 77). However, as discussed in Chapter 4 (page 44), the FAA does not include NASA in its long-range planning process, and existing interagency coordination mechanisms, such as the FAA-NASA Coordinating Committee, do not provide top-level planning and coordination of research programs conducted by NASA and the FAA.
Recommendation: NASA should continue to work with the FAd and the private sector to conduct research and technology development activities that will improve aviation safety and efficiency.
The OFCM is intended to function as a catalyst for interagency coordination and cooperation. The OFCM sponsors a total of 40 councils, committees, and working groups, including 3 that are focused on aviation weather activities. These groups, along with OFCM staff, document and assess the federal meteorological program; search for opportunities to improve ongoing and proposed activities; and provide a framework for involved agencies to work together. However, as discussed in Chapter 2 (page 16), the OFCM does not possess the authority to demand interagency cooperation or to direct the operational actions of federal agencies. In addition, the OFCM does not have oversight responsibility for basic meteorological research by the federal government. As discussed further in Appendix D (page 78), when the OFCM was formed, responsibility for all basic meteorological research and applied meteorological research related to the atmospheric sciences was delegated to another element of the federal government that no longer exists.
With an annual budget of less than $2 million per year, the OFCM does not have the fiscal or personnel resources to assume a significantly expanded role in the provision of aviation weather services or the conduct of related research. The other advisory groups and committees involved in aviation and meteorology face these same limitations. However, as demonstrated by the comprehensive National Aviation Weather Program Plan that it issued in 1992, the OFCM does have the resources and capability to evaluate the aviation weather services and related research that the federal government provides. Accordingly, as the FAA exerts stronger leadership in planning and coordinating interagency activities related to aviation weather, the OFCM could assist the FAA and other agencies by periodically assessing the effectiveness of the national aviation weather system and related research. Such assessments should include inputs from a broad range of public and private organizations involved in providing, developing, and using aviation weather services. However, the OFCM should ensure that assessment results are based on objective criteria. The assessments should determine how aviation weather system enhancements could improve aviation safety and efficiency. The assessments should also prioritize proposed and ongoing research and development activities based upon their ability to support deployment of affordable enhancements in a timely fashion.
Recommendation: The OFCM should periodically assess the effectiveness of the national aviation weather system and related research conducted by the federal government.
Starting in the 1970s, a number of states fielded their own aviation weather observing and pilot briefing systems to augment the systems and services provided by the federal government. State governments have certified weather observers; established automated weather briefing computer terminals (beginning 6 years before the FAA made DUATS available); installed over 400 AWOS (Automated Weather Observing System) units, including the first AWOS unit approved by the NWS and FAA; and pioneered the use of satellite communications to disseminate preflight weather information directly to general aviation pilots. Although state-supported systems do not in all cases fully replicate the level of services that are available from federal systems, the limited amount of information that the committee was able to examine indicates that state systems generally cost less and took less time to acquire than similar federal systems.
Recommendation: The FAd and NWS should use state aviation weather systems as a resource to improve the overall effectiveness of the national aviation weather system. The FAd and NWS should facilitate actions by interested states to improve local aviation weather systems, especially in regions of the United States, such as Alaska, that have special needs for aviation weather services that regional systems could help address.
DOT (Department of Transportation). 1994. Air Traffic Control Corporation Study—Report of the Executive Oversight Committee to the Department of Transportation. Washington, D.C.: DOT.
DOT. 1995. Aviation Safety Conference. Unpublished summary of working group recommendations. Washington, D.C. January 9–10, 1995.
FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). 1977. Memorandum of Agreement Between the Federal Aviation Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the Establishment of Working Arrangements for Providing Aviation Weather Service and Meteorological Communications. January 24, 1977. Washington, D.C.
FAA. 1994a. Aviation Weather System Plan. Washington, D.C.: FAA.
FAA. 1994b. FAA Order 7032.15: Air Traffic Weather Needs and Requirements. Washington, D.C.: FAA.
NRC (National Research Council). 1994. Weather for Those Who Fly. National Weather Service Modernization Committee, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NWS (National Weather Service). 1993. National Weather Service Operations Manual. Policy and Guidelines Governing National Weather Service and Private Sector Roles. Washington, D.C.: NWS.
OFCM (Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology). 1992. National Aviation Weather Program Plan. Washington, D.C.: OFCM.