NTSB recently issued a safety alert on IFR flights and thunderstorms. Back in 2004 we had 10 accidents ( 9 fatal) involving aircraft on IFR flight plans that tangled with thunderstorms. ASF, FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, Flight Standards, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association ( NATCA ) and the National Weather Service worked together to help produce ASF’s online course Weatherwise: Thunderstorms and ATC. So far, more than 32,000 pilots have completed online but that’s still not enough!!
ASF also produced a controller’s version of the course, jointly funded by FAA and ASF, to help controllers understand the challenges faced by pilots. This was required training for Center controllers this year. Additionally we sent out almost 200,000 CDs to IFR pilots and thousands of safety advisors on how to use the system intelligently and safety.
We are doing much better for two reasons. Pilots are asking for information about the weather and ATC is providing it. But we’re not at 100% yet as the Scott Crossfield accident in 2006 showed ( hence the asterisk) but there is much improvement.
Three points for discussion:
- ATC is REQUIRED to advise pilots of significant precipitation ( the radar shows precip not thunderstorms per se) when they see it on the scope.
- Pilots should ASK for information on precip if there is any uncertainty.
- YOU are PIC and must make the decisions regarding safety of flight. ATC can assist but it’s your choice – this also means that you do not have to accept routing into weather that would jeopardize your safety. However, a significant disruption may require some explanation.
We’ve all had ATC interactions regarding weather and it’s critical to understand how the system works. For VFR pilots, even though this is geared to IFR, you can learn a lot. If you haven’t taken this course – I strongly recommend it. Many, if not all, of the accident pilots would be alive today if they had.