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Aviation Weather Warnings from ATC

By: The CTS Team   •  

Aviation weather warnings - do we need all this info now?

It was a dark and stormy night…. well, it was a dark and stormy afternoon. A steady chatter of pilots requested deviations and unscheduled climbs and descents due to less than ideal aviation weather. All of our radars and iPads displayed images of oranges, reds and pinks. Absolutely beautiful until you looked outside.

As always on big storm days, it was tough to get a word in with the overworked controllers as they expertly maneuvered to keep everyone safe and out of the worst of the storm. But I was running out of time as my flight approached an ugly beast of a cell at speeds in excess of 500 kts. We had been trying to find a gap in the constant radio transmissions to request a deviation, but with no luck. Now it was getting serious… we needed a turn. And then it happened. 

The controller stated that he had hazardous weather information to announce. He then proceeded to list every other state within 1000 miles of us that could expect rain, wind, hail and whatever else you could imagine. It would have taken far less time to simply mention the states that did NOT have hazardous weather: “Those of you flying in Alaska will enjoy pristine conditions. Everyone else, buckle up.”

As soon as he started the hazardous weather announcement, groans could be heard coming from every airplane trying desperately to get permission to deviate. Honestly, every single pilot (AND passenger) flying on that day already knew that the weather was hazardous in their state. And if they weren’t already on top of it (metaphorically), then they had no business being in an airplane. 

We all have radar, most have iPads, and many of us have fancy next generation radars that have more information at our fingertips than ground based controllers will probably EVER have. Having said that, of course we appreciate the callout of moderate, heavy or extreme precipitation at our 12:00 and 20 miles. We are also eternally grateful for the assistance of a controller guiding us through a line of nasty cells based on the ride reports of previous airplanes. Believe me, I LOVE knowing that there is someone on the ground keeping me safe. Controllers are our friends (I should know, I have 3 of them in my immediate family)!

But what I DON’T appreciate, and what I don’t believe is necessary, is to hear about potentially hazardous weather that may or may not be happening 5 states away. If a pilot wants more weather information, they can request to leave the frequency and call a Flight Service Station (we still have those, don’t we?). But for the rest of us, we see what’s happening out there. We know what’s going on for the rest of our flight. And we are looking at our various radars and making plans using real time information, not just forecasts and warnings. 

It would be helpful if we could keep the airwaves clear of general warnings and instead, allow pilots and controllers to work quickly to request, and grant, specific deviations and reroutes. I did finally get my much needed turn that day, before I had to declare an emergency and turn anyway, but it was a lot of added stress with absolutely no benefit. 

Avoiding hazardous aviation weather can be a handful on these dark and stormy nights (and days). Lets eliminate the superfluous chatter and let the Pilots/Controllers have more time to work together to keep us out of the dangerous weather!

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