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Proposal would discontinue HIWAS weather serviceProposal would discontinue HIWAS weather service

The symbol is familiar to anyone who has studied an aeronautical navigation chart: a white H in a dark circle nestled in the corner of a communication box for a VOR.

AOPA file photo.

Since the 1980s, the appearance of the H in a navaid information box has told pilots that the VOR broadcasts information from the Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory System, the “limited nationwide network of VORs that provide pilots with meteorological information relating to hazardous weather.”

That could change in the age of the internet and digital communications.

According to a Federal Register notice posted July 23, the FAA is seeking public comment on a proposal to discontinue HIWAS now that the internet and other technologies give pilots multiple sources of the same, or better information–with graphics.

Whether HIWAS goes the way of transcribed weather broadcasts, “Flight Watch,” DF steers, and other air traffic system mainstays may hinge on what pilots have to say during the comment period, which closes Aug. 22.

From the FAA’s point of view, user behavior suggests that HIWAS, which was established to give pilots access to hazardous weather information without having to raise a Flight Service specialist on the radio, may have outlived its usefulness.

“With the advent of the internet and other technology, the demand for inflight services from Flight Service specialists has declined. Staffing was 3,000+ specialists in more than 300 facilities during the early 1980s and now consists of three hub facilities. In 2018, radio contacts dropped to less than 900 per day from an average of 10,000 radio contacts per day,” the notice said.

The proposal to eliminate the service is part of the FAA’s effort to “modernize and streamline service delivery,” it said,

Another source of weather and aeronautical information gaining popularity is the Flight Information Service-Broadcast (FIS-B), available to aircraft equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) In. FIS-B is adding new several advisory weather products.

Comments may be submitted on the FAA’s proposal by Aug. 22 (cite Docket Number FAA-2018-0649), online or by mail to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-001.

Please share your comments with AOPA.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: NextGen, Pilot Weather Briefing Services, Advocacy

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