The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a recommendation to both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Weather Service Tuesday, urging both agencies to work toward placing more weather information in pilots' hands.
The NTSB wants those agencies to do a better job in sharing more real-time weather information with pilots, and do a better job of teaching them about dangerous weather conditions they may face.
“We find about 40 percent of the accidents, pilots did not get a weather briefing so we certainly encourage and try and get people to get weather briefings before they go flying,” said Earl Weener, one of the NTSB's five members.
NTSB members, who are appointed by the president, investigate about 15,000 general-aviation accidents a year. About 20 percent of those involve weather conditions such as wind, fog, icing and turbulence.
Currently information on these potentially dangerous conditions exists, but it’s not always provided to pilots during pre-flight weather forecasts.
“We’re trying to make sure that we get the most up-to-date, accurate weather information into the hand of the end user -- which is obviously the pilot or (flying) operation in this case,” said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB's Alaska office.
In 2012, a Learjet had icing on the wind screens and ended up going off a runway at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport while trying to land. Investigators later found out that pilot hadn’t been told about a pilot report at nearby Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson that warned of severe icing.
“Unfortunately that information wasn’t transmitted to the crew, and ultimately they continued to approach and went off the runway,” Johnson said.
What does this recommendation mean for Alaska, with its harsh climates and sometimes unpredictable weather?
“What it means for Alaska is working together with the FAA and National Weather Service to get that information to the pilots in a more expeditious manner,” Johnson said.
FAA officials declined immediate comment Tuesday but wrote in an email that “the FAA takes NTSB recommendations very seriously. The agency has 90 days to respond to NTSB recommendations and will do so within that time frame.”
In a separate recommendation last week, the NTSB specifically urged the FAA to examine its oversight of rural Alaska air carrier owner HoTH Inc., due to six incidents ranging from forced landings to fatal crashes under HoTH's umbrella since 2012.
Like the FAA, the National Weather Service also said Tuesday that it needs to review the recommendations before making any comment.