FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The FAA wants to close 57 of the 136 Contract Weather Offices across the nation, including the office at the Fort Wayne Airport. These are not affiliated with the National Weather Service, but the NWS gets their official climate data from this office. The NWS isn’t the only group who uses this data; meteorologists, forecasters, businesses, pilots, airlines, and researchers also use it. The observers have been recording weather and climate data at the Fort Wayne Airport for over 100 years.
The FAA wants to close the office and transfer the same duties to the air traffic controllers. This switch has already been made at dozens of airports across the nation, including South Bend. The FAA says accuracy of the data hasn’t suffered, but weather office employees here say they have proof that reports from South Bend are inaccurate or missing nearly one third of the time.
There is an automated set of instruments to measure all different weather variables. The weather observers make sure those are reporting correct information, and when they’re not, observers fix the wrong data. As such, the employees spend much of their shift outside observing the weather. However, air traffic controllers cannot leave the tower during their shift like the weather observers can. This means if the automated system reports wrong information, it will either stay wrong or be corrected by air traffic controllers. If the controllers correct it, they are using weather conditions from the top of the tower, which at FWA is 200 ft. in the air.
This potential inaccuracy in current weather data can cause safety issues. Pilots rely on this information for safe take-offs and landings.