How's the Weather?

by Rick Domingo, FAA Flight Standards Service Executive Director

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. — Mark Twain

Heavy rain is falling as I write this column. Since I would strongly prefer to be doing things outside, the late American humorist Mark Twain’s famous lament quickly comes to mind. If you are a VFR-only pilot, you may be especially in sync with these sentiments. But even if you are instrument rated, it’s not possible (and certainly not safe) to fly in all weather conditions. Conditions that are at or below minimums can keep you grounded, as can widespread convective activity or icing conditions. Those of us in maintenance/airworthiness occupations may sometimes have the benefit of a roof, but not always. In short, inclement weather can, and does, affect anyone and everyone in aviation.

Even with all of today’s whiz-bang technology, there’s not a lot that we can do to stop rain, ice, turbulence, or other conditions adverse to GA activity. But there is now an astonishing variety of tools and technologies that aviators can use to avoid or work safely around a wide range of UMC — “unfriendly meteorological conditions.” Thanks to the unstinting work of weather researchers, tools we can’t even imagine are already in the works.

WTIC, ICICLE, and More

With that backdrop in mind, and as the spring flying season gets GA airplanes and pilots moving again, the FAA Safety Briefing team thought it would be a great time for a fresh look at some of these developments in weather awareness. We’ll start off with an overview of the FAA’s Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WTIC) program. As you will learn, this NextGen weather research endeavor is working on ways to ensure that cockpit and portable weather displays convey critical weather information more effectively. The magazine team also takes a look at how the WTIC program is working with researchers at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center, the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI), and academia (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility, and Sustainability (PEGASAS)).

Winter may be waning, but aircraft icing can occur at any time of year if the conditions are right. Given how dangerous inflight icing can be, another article covers a field program called In-Cloud ICing and Large-drop Experiment (ICICLE). ICICLE, which started in early 2019, saw the FAA working with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). This team used research aircraft to compile new, high-quality measurements covering a broad spectrum of icing conditions (freezing drizzle, freezing rain, “small drop” icing, high liquid water contents) as well as non-icing conditions (glaciated environments and clear air).

We’ll take a look at the FAA’s weather camera program, which is wildly popular in Alaska. One of our most popular magazine alumnae, Sabrina Woods, makes a return appearance with her intriguingly titled “Mind the Gap” piece on … well, I’ll let you discover the subject as you read.

Meet the New Administrator

Last but definitely not least, we are delighted to feature an interview with the FAA’s new Administrator, Steve Dickson. Administrator Dickson has quickly become known around the FAA for his weekly “Straight from Steve” video messages, and he received a great introduction to GA issues when he hosted a GA Safety Roundtable late last year.

What is WTIC?

Making Weather Technology and Information in the Cockpit Work for You

Will You Make Good Decisions About Bad Weather?

The FAA’s Weather Research Program Has Answers

Mind The Gap

Understanding Latency Issues With In-Cockpit Weather Imagery

Operation ICICLE

New FAA Program Tackles Aircraft Icing


The Gift of Being and “Seeing” Elsewhere

Straight From Steve

Meet FAA Administrator Steve Dickson


How Non-Equipped Operators Can Request Access to ADS-B Rule Airspace

All Departments

Links to Each Regular Column

This article was originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.
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FAA Safety Team