Editorial: Why Check the Weather, We are Going to Go Anyway

By Ed Downs

Okay, perhaps the title of this collection of thoughts is a bit sarcastic, but this writer has heard those words uttered in the world of airline ops and charter flying. For sure, airlines ads and proponents of ATC privatization have convinced unknowing passengers that “we always get you there on time” and/or “all delays will end with privatization.” They specialize in marketing and politics, not necessarily flying.

This subject came to mind just the other day, as a particularly harsh winter storm shut down major terminals, causing massive flight cancelations and passenger inconvenience. As is so often the case, major media jumped on the story and sped to the airports (slipping and sliding on icy roads) to interview desperate passengers, huddled pitifully (as said by one reporter as she gushed with Oscar award winning emotion) amongst the airport restaurants that sell a $2 hot dog for nine bucks. Yes, being captured in a secured area and surrounded by armed guards does seem to limit the competitive urge food (??) sellers have to participate in open market competition.

But back to the weather. Stranded passengers were interviewed, and only the most critical or desperate of remarks made to “news at 10.” One comment caught the attention of this pilot by observing “I can’t see what the problem is; the weather doesn’t look that bad.” Yep, how much can a quarter inch of glaze ice really weigh on the wings of a plane… shucks, they have lots of horsepower, let’s just go. Why check the weather, we are going to go anyway.

Okay, this is only one passenger, but there is a strong tendency for newbies in aviation to believe that technology can overcome the forces of nature. We have an amazing number of technological recourses available to us today that simply did not exist just a few years ago. The military and airline world have been working on “all weather” technology for years. First came the toughening of airframes, followed by more reliable engines, creation of anti/deice systems, weather radar, high altitude flight above the weather and now, communication technology that keeps one connected with weather resources 24/7. All of this has been in the quest of “all weather flying.”

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