The Federal Aviation Administration is considering closing 57 of 136 contract weather offices across the country, including the office at Dayton International Airport.
The James M. Cox Dayton International Airport’s seven weather observers have been collecting weather and climate data there for years. They then supply that information to pilots and airlines, the National Weather Service and meteorologists.
In a prepared statement, the FAA said, in part, “FAA controllers and its contract tower controllers already provide critical weather reporting services at more than 390 airports. The FAA is committed to ensuring that human weather observers augment and back up the automated weather reporting systems at all of its towered airports.”
Doug Sutherland, senior weather observer at the Dayton contract weather office, said he and his employees use an automated system, called ASOS, to keep track of the skies. But it does not always catch everything.
“Take, for example, thunderstorms. The automated system only detects one in four kinds of lighting,” Sutherland said. “They will not detect cloud in cloud, cloud to cloud, or cloud to air strikes.”
Sutherland said his team corrects or augments data collected by the system 15,000 times a year, on average. “We actually go outside, actually feel the surfaces, see if the precipitation is freezing or on the surfaces, check for ice conditions,” he said.
If the weather office closes, air traffic controllers would be in charge of monitoring the system. However, they would not be permitted to leave the control tower as their primary task would remain ensuring that the airplanes do not cross paths.
The office did not, however, respond to this newspaper’s request for data supporting their claim that those airports have not experienced inaccuracies as a result.
A safety review management panel is scheduled for Jan. 12. The FAA has not determined when any type of decision will be made.