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Forecasters, pilots partner for mission success

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
An armada of aircraft is one of the elements that makes the 18th Wing the largest combat wing in the Air Force and a provider of unmatched air superiority in the Pacific.
But none of those aircraft can get off the ground without knowing about a critical piece of information...the weather. 

The task of providing that vital mission link is the job of the 18th Operations Support Squadron weather flight. 

The weather flight gathers forecast information through satellite imagery and radar imagery as well as flightline observations. These methods enable weather forecasters to make accurate, timely predictions for the aircrews. 

"We have a huge impact when it comes to briefing pilots, because we have to forecast the weather conditions they should expect before and after their flying missions." said Senior Airman Elisa Bengoa, 18th OSS weather forecaster. 

For the pilots, knowing what to expect from Mother Nature is as critical as any step in the mission planning process. 

"It is important to know what the weather is going to be like when we train or fight and how it impacts our mission," said Lt. Col. Robert Novotny, 67th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "We can be well prepared for any situation if we know the weather conditions." 

Weather support continues even after the aircraft take off. But the responsibility for communicating updates shifts to the supervisor of flying in the air traffic control tower. The SOF relays the information from the forecasters to the aircraft via radio. 

"We pass on the weather information to the SOF who is able to guide the aircrew if there is a changing situation either here or in other areas," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Mattern, 18th OSS weather forecaster. "Through the SOF we can provide them with the most up-to-date information so they can be aware of any changes in weather." 

Because weather can have a significant impact on flying, the forecasters are constantly monitoring their radar and satellite imagery. Pilots also keep a watchful eye while airborne and relay any pertinent information to the SOF. 

"It's [the pilot] a set of eyes out there letting us know what is actually going on," said Senior Airman Brianna Riedel, 18th OSS weather forecaster. "It's so much more helpful than just animated charts or models and satellites." 

The weather flight has valuable technological tools at their disposal but the best information is when pilots report back what they're seeing in the air, said Colonel Novotny. This allows them to correlate what they are seeing on the satellite imagery.
"[They can] find a median between those key pieces and come up with the best weather forecast that is available," said the colonel. 

The mutual relationship between forecaster and pilot ensures the overall success of the flying mission here.