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Bad weather can disrupt air traffic flow at
Changi and Seletar Airports.
(Image from Meteorological Service Singapore)

   Safer Skies with Enhanced Meteorological Services

The relationship between aviation and meteorology is a long-standing one. Adverse weather conditions such as heavy thunderstorms and strong wind shear may impact the safety of flight operations. But with timely and accurate meteorological information, the aircraft may be able to pilot through severe weather.

Enhancing Meteorological Information and Tools

Given this close relationship, an improved integration of meteorological information within the flight planning and Air Traffic Management (ATM) processes will help increase capacity at the busiest aerodromes in a safe manner. To better support flight operations globally, ICAO has been working with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) over the past few years on several new initiatives aimed at providing enhanced meteorological information. One such initiative is the development of a new terminal forecast, which will provide meteorological information for the terminal airspace around an aerodrome. This is currently lacking globally. The work involves developing forecasts of weather elements in the terminal airspace with much finer resolution of space and time. The scope of this development will be expanded to cover overall ATM requirements. Another initiative requires all meteorological service providers to implement a quality management system. This seeks to ensure the integrity and reliability of meteorological information provided to aviation users. This requirement became applicable on 15 November 2012.

At its 12th Air Navigation Conference held in November last year, ICAO presented a plan to enhance global air navigation capacity and efficiency. One of the strategies is to use intelligent decision support tools to translate pure meteorological information into weather impact on aircraft operations. These tools will also formulate the most efficient air traffic routing and flight profile solutions, and continually account for inherently dynamic weather phenomena. What this means is that pilots and controllers in the future will not need to struggle with interpreting weather information which is often not easy to understand. Instead, they will be able to make informed decisions based on the more user-friendly information on impact of the forecast weather on their flight operations. With the produced solution sets for avoidance of hazardous weather conditions, ATM would be enhanced and safety improved.

Some other elements of ICAO’s strategy to enhance the use of meteorological information include increasing use of airborne capabilities to detect and report meteorological parameters, and better cockpit displays of meteorological information to enhance the situational awareness of flight crew.

Not an Exact Science last decade?

Despite great advances in meteorology over the last 50 years, no automatic model-based forecasting system can yet replace those crucial forecast decisions made by a human forecaster. For example, the local thunderstorms experienced in Singapore are small-scale weather systems which are difficult for the computer models to predict. Therefore, much still depends on the quality of operational weather forecasters to provide accurate, timely and reliable forecasts. WMO and ICAO are meeting this challenge by requiring all aeronautical meteorological personnel to meet new stringent competency standards by December 2013. This is to ensure that these personnel have a solid foundation and capabilities to provide quality meteorological services. CAAS, as the regulator of aeronautical meteorological services in Singapore, will oversee Meteorological Service Singapore’s compliance with these new competency standards.

For ICAO’s strategy to be successfully implemented, close collaboration between all relevant stakeholders is necessary. Air navigation service providers and pilots would have to articulate their requirements of meteorological information, specific to their operating environment. Aeronautical meteorologists would have to better understand the complexity of flight operations and the use of weather forecasts by the aviation users. In the near future, CAAS hopes to bring together all relevant stakeholders to collaborate in this important role of enhancing our air traffic efficiency and safety through improved integration and better use of aeronautical meteorological information.

By Lim Lay Eng
Senior Inspector (Meteorology)



Singapore Aviation Academy, a division of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.
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