Friday, May 03, 2013

The Airport Weather Observer Conundrum

In March, the Federal Aviation Administration had announced plans to terminate the contracts of 121 contracted airport weather observers throughout the country over the course of a six month period.  The airport weather observers, mainly meteorologists, would have had their weather-related duties replaced by air traffic controllers who would have received more specialized training on weather observations and short-term forecasting.

Those plans were given a temporary reprieve on Wednesday.

According to Capital Weather, the FAA announced it is deferring action on their plan to transfer weather monitoring work from the contracted observers to air traffic controllers.

The prior FAA plan would have phased out the contract termination over a several month period through the end of September.  They will now be all kept under contract through then in order "to allow for more stakeholder input on how to proceed going forward," according to a FAA statement.

There is no timeline according to the FAA on when a decision will officially be made one way or the other.

According to the March plan, the FAA would have required air traffic controllers to take two training courses in weather observations, complete several hours of on-the-job training, and pass a weather certification exam.  Many of the contracted observers are meteorologists or forecasters who have had extensive experience in dealing with weather.  Despite the cost savings, which totaled $57 million according to FAA projections, several critics contended that the FAA's initial plan would lead to increased safety risk for pilots, as well as impractical given the level of air traffic that currently shoots through many of the East Coast airports.