Hundreds of weather observation systems functioning in the United States are not available to pilots, and could save lives if they were added to the FAA’s Weather Message Switching Center Replacement (WMSCR) System, AOPA and 13 other aviation organizations wrote in a letter to the regulatory agency.
The aviation groups sent their letter to Vaughn Turner, the FAA’s vice president for technical operations, “to express our frustration at the lack of inclusion of valid surface weather observation sites” in the WMSCR system that collects and disseminates textual weather and notices to airmen information among government and commercial information networks.
It cited research into the relationships between weather and aviation accidents—especially affecting medical emergency services flights in helicopters, which could make safety gains if pilots were able to make more informed go/no-go decisions for requested patient-transport flights.
The FAA’s current policy regarding certification of weather systems contains restrictions that act as a “barrier to VFR operators having greater access to weather,” the letter said.
In July, AOPA reported on an amendment to currently stalled FAA reauthorization legislation by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) requiring the FAA to publish automated weather information as long as the weather-observing equipment meets the same standard as the FAA’s own weather facilities, even if the maintenance regimes were different.
In 2013 and again in 2017, the agency turned down requests that would grant the National Weather Service a waiver from maintenance requirements for modular automated weather stations (MAWS) in Alaska—a waiver AOPA supported because of the importance of the weather reports to pilots, and the high cost of visiting weather stations three times per year for maintenance, as the FAA requires.
“The fact that hundreds of weather observation systems are already available that meet aviation standards, but not technically able to be included in WMSCR, means pilots are being deprived of critical information that could enhance the safety of flight,” the letter’s signers wrote.