Weather Airmen help ensure flight safety
By Senior Airman Areca T. Wilson, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 14, 2015
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) -- For many, knowing weather conditions before leaving home can make a difference between deciding to wear a jacket or shorts. These concerns pale in comparison to Airmen of the 31st Operations Support Squadron’s weather flight, who provide information on atmospheric conditions that may impact the pilots operating in the skies.
Aviano's weather forecasters also deliver staff support to the 31st Fighter Wing and act as a liaison to the 21st Operational Weather Squadron for 24/7 base resource protection, during installation closures.
"Weather impacts everything, and we (can't) control it," said Senior Airman Aaron Antwine, a 31st OSS weather forecaster. "The best we can do is forecast conditions that have the potential to impact operations and provide the information to pilots, planners and leadership to help mitigate Mother Nature's effects."
Weather Airmen help foresee conditions by analyzing high-resolution satellite imagery, using next-generation radar, monitoring upstream observations and gathering information to produce high-quality airspace forecasts. This information is then relayed to pilots for flying missions and is used to issue warnings, watches and advisories for adverse weather conditions affecting Aviano.
Though each period of the year comes with its own challenges, Antwine said the summer months are the busiest.
"Due to Aviano's close proximity to the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, thunderstorms can develop almost every afternoon and last into the evening," he said. "The heavy rain from thunderstorms can prevent pilots from landing on the runway causing them to divert to another airfield. Hail and strong winds can damage aircraft and cause injuries. Our job is to mitigate the effects of these hazards with updates to our pilots and weather warnings for the base."
In addition to unique challenges during each season, Antwine said the main obstacle faced daily is the constantly changing weather.
"Weather is never the same day to day. It is similar, but never the same," he said. "Today is a sunny day and tomorrow too, but temperatures, dew points, cloud cover, wind direction or speed or any other number of variables will change."
To provide the best report, Antwine said he and his fellow Airmen maintain situational awareness, remain vigilant in their watch and continue to train, to accomplish the mission.
"We have to be able to tell a pilot when thunderstorms are going to develop over the airfield and how long they will last," he said. "The mission, operations and even lives are dependent on how accurate our forecasts can be."