By Senior Airman John Linzmeier, 18th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 27, 2017
Members of the 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight monitor weather conditions April 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The information gathered will be used to update slides viewed by pilots keeping them informed on weather conditions they are likely to encounter while flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Bradley, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 51 C-20G Gulfstream pilot, stops by the 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight for a weather update April 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The weather flight is responsible for keeping the base and flyers updated on current weather conditions as well as relaying information to aircraft in the sky regarding any changes that might affect their flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joshua Tuckett, 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight weather apprentice, conducts weather observation using a kestrel reader April 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The kestrel is used to measure air pressure, relative humidity, wind speed and direction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joshua Tuckett, 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight weather apprentice, holds an anemometer April 21, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Manual devices such as the anemometer were used to measure wind speeds, but have since been replaced by automated systems that can provide instant data to forecasters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
When you’re about to hop on an airplane for a well-deserved holiday, it’s nice to know what kind of weather you can expect; but for a pilot, having a detailed analysis of the weather is crucial in order to conduct a safe flight.
This is why Airmen of 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight are always here to keep pilots updated on the weather forecast, making sure they’re prepared to work around everything Mother Nature throws at them during the mission.
Weather forecasters take on a workflow that constantly sways between observing conditions through an array of sophisticated instruments and passing along the information to aircrew members.
Details such as air temperature, air pressure and the altitudes of clouds over the airfield are always communicated, since they affect every sortie.
“If there are restrictions due to visibility, we’ll make sure they’re aware because that sort of condition requires a pilot who’s current in certain qualifications,” said Airman 1st Class Joshua Tuckett, 18th OSS weather apprentice. “Knowing the air pressure is also really important because it affects the altimeter, which lets pilots know how high they are above the runway.”
Apart from the air pressure, the job entails a bit of social pressure as well, particularly when forecasters have unfavorable weather reports to deliver.
“Sometimes we have to notify a whole squadron that’s ready to fly and tell them they should cancel or change their plans because of our forecast,” said Tuckett. “It's not always received well, but it’s important for us to call those shots to make sure everything is done safely.”
While the process of relaying good or bad news hasn’t changed much in recent history, plenty of the technological aspects of the weather flight has.
“We used to have to compile information manually on our own and it took up a lot of time,” said Master Sgt. Michael Rosales, 18th OSS weather flight chief. “A lot of our systems are now automated, which allows us to focus our attention elsewhere, such as interpreting our satellite and radar, which lets us create a bigger and more accurate picture for our customers at the Wing.”
Data collected from the weather flight goes beyond the operational level as well. The Shogun Weather website keeps the Okinawan community updated with a weekly weather forecast, the current tropical cyclone condition of readiness, current sea conditions and more.
To access the 18th OSS Weather flight’s latest updates, visit www.shogunweather.com.