efficient movement of aircraft in air commerce."2 Title 49 contains additional language that indirectly requires the FAA to take an interest in weather that goes beyond simply identifying what meteorological services are needed by aviation. In particular, Title 49 requires the FAA Administrator to "develop plans for and formulate policy ... to insure the safety of aircraft and the efficient utilization of [the navigable] airspace." Title 49 also directs the FAA Administrator to formulate long-range research and development plans, conduct or supervise research, and develop the systems and procedures needed to enhance aviation safety and efficiency, particularly with regard to the performance of pilots and air traffic controllers. The term "safe and efficient" appears many other times in Title 49, particularly with regard to FAA staffing, airspace usage, and research and development of new systems and procedures.

The committee generated the following finding and general recommendation concerning FAA responsibilities for weather services. (The committee's findings and general recommendations appear throughout the report as separate paragraphs in italic text. In addition, the committee's nine major recommendations are numbered and boxed. Appendix A lists all of the committee's findings and recommendations.)

Finding: Federal regulations create an implicit responsibility for the FAA to ensure that weather services are available to meet the needs of aviation.

Recommendation: The FAA should view meteorology as a significant component of every area of its responsibility in which weather could affect safety or efficiency.

Safety issues—and the publicity associated with air crashes and passenger fatalities—often motivate the government to take aggressive action to improve safety. However, Title 49 repeatedly mentions both safety and efficiency as goals that the FAA and the Department of Commerce (i.e., the NWS) should have for the national airspace system and related aviation weather services. For example, Title 49 plainly states that "the Administrator shall develop, modify, test, and evaluate systems, procedures, facilities, and devices ... to meet the needs for safe and efficient navigation and traffic control...." Although increases in efficiency should not come at the expense of safety, Title 49 clearly implies that the FAA should develop new systems and procedures that increase the efficiency of air commerce. Low efficiency creates unnecessary passenger delays, increases costs, and interferes with long-term efforts to improve the financial stability of U.S. air carriers.

Recommendation: The FAA should aggressively strive to improve the efficiency of air commerce just as it already strives to improve safety.

The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, as amended and incorporated into Title 42 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, specifies that NASA's mission includes fundamental research and technology development activities in aeronautical disciplines to improve the safety and efficiency of the U.S. air transportation system. NASA's mission also includes the provision of technical assistance and facility support to other government agencies and the private sector. For example, NASA recently completed a technology development program for airborne windshear detection and avoidance technology. Other ongoing NASA programs are focused on the impact of reduced visibility and cloud ceilings on airport operations, methodologies for designing aircraft with improved icing resistance, and nowcasting volcanic hazards and upper-air winds (Schlickenmaier, 1994). NASA and the FAA use the FAA-NASA Coordinating Committee to facilitate the coordination of research programs of common interest to NASA and the FAA.

As part of the ongoing NWS Modernization Program, the NWS is relocating many of its local weather offices and installing new systems such as weather radars and automated observing systems. These changes directly impact the ability of the NWS to provide aviation weather services. In order to ensure that these changes do not degrade local weather services, the U.S. Congress included specific conditions within the Weather Services Modernization Act that the Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Transportation must meet prior to closing weather service field offices or replacing airport weather observers with automated weather observing systems.3

The Department of Commerce Appropriations Act of 1963 established a requirement for the Bureau of the Budget to include in each year's budget presentation a summary of all federal programs for meteorology, including goals and expected costs. This requirement, which has

2  

The NWS is part of NOAA, which currently is itself a component of the Department of Commerce. Thus, when discussing the duties and responsibilities of the NWS, some documents refer to the Department of Commerce or NOAA.

3  

The Weather Services Modernization Act does not allow the NWS to close or relocate any weather service field office that is located at an airport unless the Secretary of Commerce "in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation ... determines that such action will not result in degradation of service that affects aircraft safety." The act also does not allow the NWS to "commission an automated surface observing system located at an airport unless it is determined, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, that the weather services provided after commissioning will continue to be in full compliance with applicable flight aviation rules promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration."



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