Military News

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tuning in with a daily forecast

by Senior Airman Keenan Berry
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


3/20/2015 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Weather is unpredictable in its nature; aircraft missions, traveling and recreational activities bend to its will. Daily decisions are made by everyone from family members to operators based on the forecast.

That's why it's important to maintain a steady flow of information. The 509th Operations Support Squadron weather flight assumes this mission and aims to provide accurate forecasts at all times.

"The dedicated warriors in the weather flight are here to deliver accurate and effective environmental intelligence," said Staff Sgt. Franklin Kapuchuck, 509th OSS weather forecaster. "This helps shape the global battlespace and enhance the availability of the nation's most feared weapon system."

The weather flight develops mission execution forecasts for the airfield and pilots traveling over long distances.

"We produce a 24-hour forecast every 8 hours, which lets our aviators know exactly what to expect within five miles of the airfield for their local flying operations," Kapuchuck said. "Any time we have an aircraft departing from the local area, the pilots will come into our office to receive a specialized briefing according to their mission."

Briefings consist of weather guidelines for local takeoffs and landings, and en route hazards, such as icing, turbulence or thunderstorms. This information lets the pilots know how to deviate as necessary and avoid these hazards.

The weather flight also reviews airfield weather updates to other bases to brief pilots before their departure. Icing is a constant threat for aircraft flying through clouds in freezing temperatures, thousands of feet above the surface of the earth. Most planes are not equipped with de-icing and must be informed of the conditions prior to takeoff.
They also play a dual role in the Whiteman mission. The flight provides weather information for the installation in addition to briefings they give to pilots.

"If we have any severe weather such as heavy snow and thunderstorms, we must do our best to ensure the base populace is informed," said Master Sgt. Aaron Downing, 509th OSS NCO in charge of mission services. "Whenever there are severe weather outbreaks, we increase the number of Airmen on shift to ensure we analyze each cell and other installation's update the information in a timely manner."

In addition, the weather flight relies on the joint environmental toolkit to issue severe weather watches and warnings. Once they are issued, it makes automated phone calls to other agencies on base.

The weather flight also records surface observations every hour, which entails going outside to view weather conditions. If weather constantly changes, they will go outside often in order to maintain a consistently updated weather report.

Unceasing vigilance and readiness are key to preventing weather discrepancies from happening.

"We conduct training to ensure we are prepared before each severe weather season begins," Downing said. "We review our past information on the upcoming season so we know what kind of severe weather to expect. This allows time to organize briefings and prepare so we aren't caught off guard by severe weather."

Although ensuring pilots and the base populace are informed of weather changes can be challenging, Airmen from the weather flight remain up to the task. 

"Every day there is something different in our career field," Downing said. "We are always dealing with something new and in turn, it motivates us to be more effective in what we do. There is always something to learn about this job."

The weather flight maintains a Facebook page that is continually updated Monday - Friday.

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