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Metro Aviation Tests FAA Weather Cams in Effort to Reduce Canceled Flights

Metro Aviation will begin a year-long project to test the use of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) weather camera at its Ann Arbor, Michigan base, to see if a reduction in canceled flights due to weather can be achieved. Metro Aviation operates roughly 20-45 flights each month out of Ann Arbor, but cancels up to 15% due to incorrect or misleading weather reports.Pilots with Metro use automated surface observing systems (ASOS) to obtain weather data, but the accuracy can vary by location. If the FAA weather cameras can provide more accurate weather data than ASOS, Metro and other helicopter air ambulance operators could see fewer canceled flights.ASOS systems serve as the nation's primary surface weather observing network and report basic weather elements, such as cloud height and mount up to 12,000 feet, visibility to at least 10 statute miles, fog, haze, wind direction, speed, and more. While the data provided by ASOS is beneficial to operators, the systems can be skewed based on their locations, which is the case for Ann Arbor.University of Michigan Survival Flight, the critical care transport program of Michigan Medicine, relies heavily on an ASOS that sits in a valley five miles away, as the hospital does not have its own weather reporting system. "The way it sits, it gives off lower-than-perceived visibility reports," said Laennec Ratard, an FAA Flight Standards employee and principal operations inspector overseeing Metro. Ratard believes the skewed data is leading to unnecessary flight cancellations.The FAA began its Weather Camera Program in 1999 to help pilots in Alaska navigate the region's severe and rapidly changing weather conditions. The program has since expanded, exclusively working with the state governments in Colorado, Hawaii, and Montana. Metro Aviation is the first non-government entity to participate in the program.If the weather cameras prove to be successful, Metro Aviation plans to offer cameras to the remaining 38 operations programs in the Metro family at its more than 140 bases across the country.
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