Weather flight keeps pilots safe

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ted Froats
  • Det. 6, Air Force News Agency
When planning a mission, Airmen must consider equipment, manpower and cost; however, there is one element that could have a serious impact if not properly planned for -- the weather.

Because of Lajes Field's location as the mid-point between the United States and Europe, military flights regularly stop at the base to refuel, and before any flight can take off from the base, members of the 65th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight provide an in-depth briefing covering the weather at Lajes Field, the destination, and all points in between.

"We check flight level winds for their en route weather," said Jose Faria, a weather briefer. "Tidal winds, head winds and crosswinds -- they can all affect how much gas a jet needs and how long a trip will take. We even cover sea surface temperatures so if the pilot has to eject, he knows where the warmest water is."

Even if the weather forecast is for a clear sky, pilots know anything can happen when you are airborne. If there is a problem, the pilots will attempt to reach an abort base.

"The abort base is a possible location planned in advance, that a pilot can land at if there is an in-flight emergency," said Katrina Blanchard, the NCO in charge of the 65th OSS Weather Flight. "We review the weather forecasts for between 10 and 17 different destinations that might be used as an abort base."

Lt. Col. Mike Miller, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot stopping at Lajes Field en route to Poland, has learned the importance of the weather flight's brief after 25 years in the cockpit.

"You can look out your window and get an idea of what the weather is like right now. You can call your destination and find out what the weather is like there. But there's no way to find out what the flight winds are going to be over the Atlantic Ocean without the support of the weather flight," Colonel Miller said. "Anything can happen in the sky, and the only way to prepare is to get as much information as possible before you takeoff."

Colonel Miller and other pilots know it may not always be smooth flying, but with the continued support of the weather flight, they can avoid a dangerous sky.