A change in weather
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Mar 19, 2000
The human factor will play the largest role in the Clinton administration's
plan to reduce the number of weather-related delays that plagued air travelers
In this case, "human factor," which has become the buzzword of air traffic
system modernization, refers to the partnerships used to craft the new severe-weather
policy and the collaboration between government and industry needed to carry
it out. The policy will be implemented April 1.
"It's a first. We've never had collaborative decision-making," said
Mike McNally, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
"Now airlines would be right there with us in that decision process."
The Spring 2000 Initiative, announced March 10 by President Clinton
and Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, aims to fight delays with better
communication and advanced information technology.
One of the key ingredients is a new collaborative decision-making tool
designed by the National Weather Service, airline meteorologists and the
Federal Aviation Administration. The Collaborative Convective Forecast Product
will allow commercial airline meteorologists, National Weather Service Air
Traffic Weather Service Units and FAA personnel at the National Air Traffic
Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., to review forecasts over
the Internet several times a day and update routes based on real-time information.
"The whole concept is to have ongoing daily, continuous information,"
Dorothy Haldeman, aviation weather program manager at NWS, said the
new tool offers the airline, weather and aviation officials a chance to
see and offer their opinions on the meteorologists' forecast map as well
as discuss the air traffic plan for the day in an online chat room.
Officials will be able to reconvene throughout the day to update the
forecast, a capability they did not have in the past, she said.
"This couldn't have been done without that kind of technology," Haldeman
said. "It really is the impetus for a lot more collaboration. I don't doubt
that it will improve our forecasting."
Organizations participating in the severe weather initiative include
the Transportation Department, the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers
Association, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Air Transport Association
(which represents major airlines), the Airline Dispatchers Federation, the
Defense Department, the National Business Aviation Association and the Regional
But public-private collaboration may not always be the ideal, particularly
if the private sector already is in the market.
As part of the Spring 2000 Initiative, the FAA will launch a new World
Wide Web site April 3 to provide travelers updated information about weather
conditions and regional air travel delays. However, a similar commercial
site called Trip.com already offers similar information and allows the public
to track flights across the country based on FAA data.
It may be wise for the FAA to outsource a Web site to a commercial firm
that has more expertise with the Web, said George Molaski, chief information
officer of the Transportation Department. Government needs fresh ideas and
is not equipped to move ahead at the speed of the Internet, he said.
Though Clinton noted that Congress has nearly finalized an FAA authorization
bill for $40 billion over three years, he stressed the need for reforms
that go beyond the steps contained in the bill.