WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Weather Service aviation offices that provide forecasts for New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.'s airspace were closed during busy daytime travel over the holidays, jeopardizing the safety of the flying public. The closures continue as four aviation forecast offices continue to juggle shifts, doubling the size of airspace they watch as they substitute for each other due to severe staffing shortages.
NWS Center Weather Service Units (CWSU) are aviation forecast offices embedded at each of the FAA's Air Route Traffic Control Centers. NWS aviation meteorologists at the CWSUs prepare specialized airspace forecasts and warnings for air traffic and safety. They communicate these forecasts directly to FAA air traffic control managers. These face-to-face, on-the-spot briefings are vital to helping air traffic controllers safely and efficiently route traffic, especially during thunderstorms, snow, and conditions that cause icing on aircrafts' wings.
Four aviation meteorologists are assigned to each CWSU. Only two of these "Emergency Essential" positions are filled at the New York CWSU, causing the entire unit to close from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on December 25, 2016. The unit was also closed for shifts on December 23, 24, and the first week of January 2017. During this time, the aviation meteorologist responsible for covering Washington D.C. and surrounding areas had to double his watch to include forecasting the airspace for both New York south to the Caribbean over the Atlantic. The Washington D.C. CWSU is dealing with its own staffing shortage, operating with only three aviation meteorologists, closing for daytime shifts, and causing the NWS to scramble to cover the airspace.
"The NWS is putting the flying public at risk by keeping these positions vacant," said NWSEO Vice President Bill Hopkins. "The degradation of service is threatening the flying public with no plans for an emergency."
In November, a New York air traffic control manager wrote to the FAA's Chief Meteorologist in Washington D.C.:
"Having less than 4 mets at ZNY CWSU to me is not acceptable but going to 2 is out of the question and unsafe. With the vast amount of airspace we operate in, including a large portion of the Atlantic Ocean we need that weather information from the mets. This is a safety matter …"
The National Weather Service is experiencing a staffing crisis nationwide with a 16 percent vacancy rate.
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nwseo-northeasts-busiest-airports-operate-with-aviation-forecast-office-closures-due-to-nws-vacancies-300388686.html
SOURCE National Weather Service Employees Organization