The FAA and the National Weather Service are urging pilots to use and provide feedback on an experimental automated weather tool intended to augment weather information at some Alaska airports without terminal forecasts.
The weather information source, known as Experimental Alaska Aviation Guidance (AAG), is “designed to provide a short-term projection of weather conditions” to supplement local aviation guidance for Alaska airports that have an automated weather observing system or automated surface observing system but no terminal aerodrome forecast.
The National Weather Service adds that the system “is intended for use under Visual Meteorological Conditions within the next 6 hours for flight times of two hours or less in duration.” The system should be used in conjunction with surface observations, pilot reports, area forecasts, sigmets, and airmets “to ensure the weather conditions at the estimated time of arrival will be at or above the minimums and operations can be conducted with the performance limitations of the aircraft.”
Conditions such as convective activity or blowing snow are not included in AAG output, so users were cautioned to “review all available weather information” to ensure that a forecast of precipitation does not suggest hazardous convictive weather, it said.
AOPA has long advocated for data that augments Alaska’s often scarce availability of current, reliable weather information, particularly terminal-area forecasting. The AAG system was originally expected to enter experimental service in 2018 in phases at more than 150 Alaska airports with “huge implications” for general aviation flights but encountered implementation setbacks, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and security.
“The AAG is a big step forward in providing a meaningful forecast solution for the many airports that do not currently have a TAF,” he said. “It is being fielded in Alaska first, but the automation could be expanded to cover all airports that do not currently have a TAF but have some type of surface observation. We need pilots’ feedback and support to make this a success.”
Bruce Entwistle, chief of the Aviation and Space Weather Services Branch, NOAA/NWS/Analyze, Forecast, and Support Office, encouraged pilots to participate in evaluating the product.
“The National Weather Service needs comments from pilots and other Alaska operators on how well the Alaska Aviation Guidance performs, whether it meets your needs, and what we can do to improve it. The AAG does not yet provide a thunderstorm forecast, nor does it provide forecasts of visibility reductions from sources other than fog and haze,” he said.
AAG has become available for use and evaluation concurrently with another experimental product, the Cloud Vertical Cross-section. It estimates the extent of cloud cover along a route and whether the clouds contain ice, liquid, or supercooled water, as discussed by AOPA Alaska Regional Manager Tom George in his September 2 blog post.
The experimental period of this product was recently extended to mid-November. Pilots are encouraged to look at both of these new tools that should improve the availability of aviation weather information in Alaska.