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Fairchild weather ‘forecasts’ mission success

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Johnny McGuire, 92nd Operational Support Squadron weather forecaster, uses a Kestrel device to gather an hourly record of weather data at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 14, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Johnny McGuire, 92nd Operational Support Squadron weather forecaster, uses a Kestrel device to gather an hourly record of weather data at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 14, 2019. The Kestrel allows for manual observing of current weather conditions including dew point, pressure altitude, barometric pressure and several other metrics. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Anneliese Kaiser)

Jacob Marche, 92nd Operational Support Squadron weather technician, explains the current cloud cover shown on the satellite and Doppler radar at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 14, 2019.

Jacob Marche, 92nd Operational Support Squadron weather technician, explains the current cloud cover shown on the satellite and Doppler radar at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 14, 2019. The radar and satellite feed prepare data used to inform pilots of weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Anneliese Kaiser)

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Johnny McGuire, 92nd Operational Support Squadron weather forecaster, looks at the main data display on the TMQ-53 weather sensor at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 14, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Johnny McGuire, 92nd Operational Support Squadron weather forecaster, looks at the main data display on the TMQ-53 weather sensor at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 14, 2019. This tactical meteorological observing system is one of several at Fairchild and can be set up in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Anneliese Kaiser)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

During an early winter morning, a 92nd Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster sits below a Doppler radar monitoring weather patterns. When he looks up, he sees a sudden change in the pattern - an ominous snow storm shifting its sights toward Fairchild.

 

The forecaster urgently sends his findings to the command post and requests a delay for aircraft preparing for take-off, as well as Airmen before driving to base for work. Due to the forecaster’s decisive actions, the warning was sent, ensuring the safety of Airmen and aircraft.

 

Each 92nd OSS weather Airman works around the clock to ensure mission success by protecting resources, performing watches, and sending out warnings and advisories for significant weather.

 

“We are always involved in every aspect [of mission planning], execution, and the feedback loop so we can continue to get better at ensuring mission safety and success,” said Senior Master Sgt. William Caskey, 92nd OSS weather flight chief.

 

Weather can significantly affect aircraft operations. Low clouds, fog and rain may obstruct visibility, while thunderstorms and lightning can cause serious safety concerns. By staying involved and knowledgeable, the weather flight can gather data from around the world and brief aircrew about weather patterns that may affect takeoff, landing and flight during their missions.

 

“We give leadership the atmospheric intelligence to make a decision on refueling,” Caskey said.We put a package together for them so if they get called, they have accurate information at a moment’s notice.”

 

Fairchild’s weather flight communicates with the National Weather Service and the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing them to share data. This collaboration ensures everyone is on the same page, inconsistencies can be scrutinized, and the risk of bad weather reports due to faulty equipment can be mitigated.

 

“It is important for meteorologists in our office and at Fairchild to be seeing the same thing or something very similar, otherwise, you’re left either in distress or having to judge which one you trust,” said Ron Miller, NWS Spokane meteorologist in charge.

 

Fairchild’s weather flight ensures accurate forecasts for Airmen on base, especially in cases of severe weather, because of their communication with the NWS. In turn, the NWS can create more accurate forecasts for the public.

 

“Having open communication with NWS and FAA is vital for everyone to be on the same page,” Caskey said. “It’s better for the public and it’s better for our operations.”

 

Regardless of rain or shine, Team Fairchild’s forecasters are essential to the mission, preparing pilots to deliver strength and hope through operations preparedness.