Proactive forecasting prevents disaster

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
While a commute to work in the rain could be unpleasant, a flight through severe weather in a multi-million-dollar aircraft at high speeds could be catastrophic without the proper information from forecasters on the ground.

Weather plays an integral factor for the two F-16CM fighter squadrons here that are dependent upon an accurate forecast to complete their mission.

"Within the field of meteorology, aviation weather is highly technical. The 31st Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight dissects the European airspace to provide tailored meteorological data for commanders, pilots, mission planners and decision makers," said 1st Lt. David DeMeuse, 31st OSS Weather Flight commander. "Like what the National Weather Service does for the civilian side in the U.S.; the Air Force weather flight provides highly precise watches, warnings, and advisories as a means to protect our Airmen and assets."

The challenge of developing an accurate analysis of the weather is due to a unique weather pattern developed from mountain ranges and valleys in the immediate area. The changes in elevation make frequent fog, low clouds and precipitation a challenge that the weather flight faces on a daily basis.

"The biggest thing is the challenge of weather here," stressed DeMeuse. "Coming here is difficult because the model data doesn't exist here like it does in the states. It can be very difficult to predict the weather--especially here in Aviano. In the winter months we have a unique fog pattern that's very tough to predict and during the summer we can expect severe weather and hail."

According to DeMeuse, to help ease the unpredictability of creating a weather forecast specific to Aviano, the 31st OSS Weather Flight utilizes the use of advanced technology.

"We employ the "eyes forward" approach using real-time radar, satellite imagery, sensor readouts and visual observations to tailor weather conditions specifically for the 31st Fighter Wing," said DeMeuse. "We use the most state-of-the-art science and technology so that our leaders, warfighters, and NATO allies can gain an environmental intelligence advantage."

The five-person weather crew can be dissected into three elements including airfield services, mission services and staff support.

What could be regarded as the most well-known aspect, due to their wide dissemination of advisories during inclement weather, is airfield services. These individuals take care of the weather observations for the base and coordinate the watches, warning and advisories that go out for resource protection. Also, if there is severe weather approaching, they facilitate the use of a portable Doppler radar unit, which is a rare commodity that allows for an up-to-date analysis of severe storms approaching the base.

Another essential piece of the puzzle is mission services. A representative from the weather flight embeds into the fighter squadron units to brief the pilots on the weather conditions of the airfields they fly in throughout Europe.

Lastly, staff support handles the administrative and functional roles of briefings throughout the base.

"If a commander wants a safety brief before a long weekend or the general needs timely information to make a judgment call on reporting times, that's our staff support," said DeMeuse. "Most of the time this involves Army jump operations that come in here and need a brief about the weather at the time of the jump."

DeMeuse says every section needs to work together seamlessly to ensure mission success. At the end of the day, it's everything he wants.

"This is what I love to do, this is what I went to school for, weather is what I want to do," said DeMeuse. "I can't believe I get paid for what I do every day. Meteorology is my thing. My favorite part of this job is doing what I love every day."