NTSB Issues Alert On Thunderstorm Avoidance

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The NTSB says pilots and air traffic controllers need to cooperate better to keep airplanes from flying into extreme weather. In a safety alert issued last week, the NTSB says avoiding thunderstorms is mainly the pilot's responsibility but air traffic controller training and briefings "have not been sufficient to ensure that pilots receive the weather advisories needed to support good in-flight weather avoidance decisions." The alert cited four fatal accidents in which the aircraft involved were flying IFR and under ATC control when they hit the weather. Among the accidents cited was the one that killed former test pilot Scott Crossfield in Georgia last April.h

The NTSB safety alert acknowledges that the primary responsibility of ATC is to maintain separation, but that it has the secondary role of monitoring and warning pilots about hazardous flight conditions. The alert notes that the quality of information is bound to be inconsistent because of the wide variations in equipment available to controllers. Some see the world in black and white via decades-old analog stations while others can see remarkable detail in a storm's behavior as reflected by radar returns from water droplets. Pilots are urged to never assume that controllers are watching the weather ahead for them and controllers are reminded that pilots can't necessarily see what they're up against.