Friday, May 13, 2011

More on Tornadoes and Aviation

Please see posting below including the comments section. 

Here is an interview done February 18, two months before the tornado struck Lambert Field.
The interview is from Its All Good with Sierra Scott. The mess at Lambert during the Good Friday Tornado was absolutely predictable. As I state in my book, I believe it will happen again unless the FAA makes changes in their regulations that mandate ATC towers and TRACONs be furnished with tornado warnings and those warnings be shared with aircraft under their control. 

In the comments from the posting below, I'm asked about linkage between the FAA and airports. Let me clear up several items:
  • The FAA does no weather forecasting. They contract with the National Weather Service for aviation forecasts. The NWS runs a national aviation weather forecasting center in Kansas City and separate aviation forecast desks in many of their forecast centers.
  • There is a separate set of aviation products that, in general, run on their own communications systems.
  • National Weather Service tornado warnings are not "aviation products" and do run on the aviation weather weather communication systems. 
  • The aviation industry has to go outside their normal communications channels to obtain tornado warnings. 
People who have read Warnings express astonishment about this all the time. It is unbelievable but true. 

Airlines can use information from the NWS, their own weather department, or from a contractor (WeatherData used to have airlines as clients) if the airline's "principal operations inspector" (POI, the person the FAA assigns to oversee the airline's operations) approves.  FedEx, UPS, and Delta have their own weather departments. At one time, American, United, TWA, and Eastern had their own meteorology departments but those have been a victim of cost-cutting the last two decades. 

If the POI were to approve an airline meteorology department creating their own tornado warnings, the airline could use them. To the best of my knowledge, no airline does that at the present time. 

Airports themselves are free to get weather information from anyone they wish and some get it from commercial weather companies. The airport, for example, is responsible for clearing snow off runways and for the safety of people inside the terminal as indicated in the Washington Post story. 


  1. "principle operations inspector"? You sure that isn't "principal"?

  2. You are correct! Thank you, I'll correct.

  3. Mike, you know my thoughts on this...Its totally insane how the FAA and Airlines view passenger safety. They are playing with peoples lives. Atlanta on the night of the huge outbreak in MS/AL/GA had planes holding on the tarmac for hours...reason? Crosswinds above threshold. All runways at ATL run East/West. But there were tornados within 30 miles of the airport, both north and south. Would be interesting to find out what BMH did during the outbreak.