[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 118 (Thursday, June 19, 2014)]
[Pages 35211-35212]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-14364]



Federal Aviation Administration

Aviation Weather Product Change: Transition of Select Area 
Forecasts (FAs) to Digital and Graphical Alternatives

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in coordination 
with the National Weather Service (NWS), will transition seven (7) Area 
Forecasts (FAs), currently used as flight planning and pilot weather 
briefing aids, to digital and graphical alternatives. A joint-agency 
working group has concluded that these digital and graphical 
alternatives better-meet the needs of today's aviation users. Guidance 
with respect to the proper use of these alternatives is forthcoming.

    Note: Area Forecasts (FAs) for Alaska, the Caribbean, and the 
Gulf of Mexico will remain unaffected at this time.

DATES: The Federal Aviation Administration must receive comments on or 
before August 4, 2014. The Agencies are targeting early 2015 for 

ADDRESSES: Please mail comments concerning this notice to the NextGen

[[Page 35212]]

Aviation Weather Division (ANG-C6), Federal Aviation Administration, 
800 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20591.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stewart Stepney, 202-385-7182 or 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: United States Code (citation below) directs 
the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make 
recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce on providing 
meteorological services necessary for the safe and efficient movement 
of aircraft. The Secretary, in turn, is directed to cooperate with the 
Administrator and give complete consideration to these recommendations. 
As such, FAA has coordinated extensively with the National Weather 
Service (NWS) to review current and future aviation weather information 
    The Area Forecast (FA) is an abbreviated, plain-language forecast 
of specified weather phenomena, covering a geographical area designated 
by the FAA. The Area Forecast (FA) is used to determine en-route 
weather and to estimate conditions at airports that do not have a 
Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF). It is produced by the National 
Weather Service (NWS) under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration (NOAA), within the Department of Commerce (DoC).
    The Area Forecast (FA) contains weather information in a format 
originally developed in the 1930s. By design, it carries a character-
count limitation and is prohibited from describing Instrument Flight 
Rule (IFR) conditions (reserved for AIRMETs and SIGMETs). It covers an 
extremely large geographical area (typically, several states) and is 
only issued 3-4x daily (each valid for 18hrs).
    These specifications tend to produce a broad forecast of limited 
value. While the Area Forecast (FA) met aviation weather information 
needs for many years, today NWS provides equivalent information through 
a number of better alternatives.
    An FAA-NWS joint-agency working group recently recommended that the 
Area Forecast (FA) be transitioned to more-modern digital and graphical 
forecasts, observations, and communications capabilities that provide 
improved weather information to decision-makers.
    Therefore, the FAA will formally recommend that NWS transition six 
(6) Area Forecasts (FAs) covering separate geographical areas of the 
Contiguous United States (CONUS) and one (1) Area Forecast (FA) 
covering Hawaii to digital and graphical alternatives already being 
produced by NWS.
    The seven (7) Area Forecasts (FAs) affected include: FAUS41 (BOS), 
and FAHW31 (Hawaii).

    Note: Area Forecasts (FAs) for Alaska, the Caribbean, and the 
Gulf of Mexico will remain unaffected at this time.

    Existing potential alternatives identified by the joint-agency 
working group include, but are not limited to:

 Surface weather analyses and prognostic charts
 public forecast discussions
 Significant Weather (SIGWX) charts
 National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD)
 Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs)
 Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMETs)

    Aviation users are already accustomed to consulting many of these 
weather products during normal flight planning. Together, they provide 
information similar to that found in the Area Forecast (FA), in higher 
resolution and with the added benefit of graphical depictions.
    The joint-agency working group's membership included broad subject-
matter expertise from both FAA and NWS, as well as the National 
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Members collected insight from 
additional aviation weather stakeholders including various pilot 
organizations, weather briefers, airlines and air traffic controllers.
    Before the transition takes place, the FAA will conduct a formal 
Safety Risk Assessment as part of FAA's Safety Management System. 
Guidance with respect to the proper use of proposed alternatives is 
    Interested parties and stakeholders may submit comments regarding 
the planned transition by standard mail or by email ([email protected]). 
Comments must be received on or before August 4, 2014. The Agencies are 
targeting early 2015 for transition.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. Sec.  44720(a).

    Dated: June 11, 2014.
Richard J. Heuwinkel,
Manager, Aviation Weather Division.
[FR Doc. 2014-14364 Filed 6-18-14; 8:45 am]