HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

The weather team prepared to weather a malfunction

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexander Marsh, 86th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of air field services element, constructs the Tactical Meteorological eQuipment – 53 during a team training exercise, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 8, 2017. The weather team performs these exercises routinely to ensure they are prepared to make manual observations.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexander Marsh, 86th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of air field services element, constructs the Tactical Meteorological eQuipment – 53 during a team training exercise, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 8, 2017. The weather team performs these exercises routinely to ensure they are prepared to make manual observations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristof J. Rixmann)

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 86th Operations Support Squadron fine tune settings on a Tactical Meteorological eQuipment – 53, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 8, 2017. The TMQ-53 is the deployable version of the Field Meteorological eQuipment – 19. It is less precise than the FMQ-19 but has the same function.

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 86th Operations Support Squadron fine tune settings on a Tactical Meteorological eQuipment – 53, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 8, 2017. The TMQ-53 is the deployable version of the Field Meteorological eQuipment – 19. It is less precise than the FMQ-19 but has the same function. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristof J. Rixmann)

U.S. Air Force Airman Hannah Arreguini, 86th Operations Support Squadron weather apprentice, begins taking down the Tactical Meteorological eQuipment – 53 in conclusion of an exercise, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 8, 2017. When Field Meteorological eQuipment goes down the weather team needs to manually obtain a weather report for the pilots at a moment’s notice.

U.S. Air Force Airman Hannah Arreguini, 86th Operations Support Squadron weather apprentice, begins taking down the Tactical Meteorological eQuipment – 53 in conclusion of an exercise, on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 8, 2017. When Field Meteorological eQuipment goes down the weather team needs to manually obtain a weather report for the pilots at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristof J. Rixmann)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Many logistical variables go into a plane leaving the runway and the 86th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight plans for those the Air Force cannot control.

For weather reports, the team typically relies on state-of-the-art weather monitoring equipment, known as the Field Meteorological eQuipment – 19, to record minute-by-minute comprehensive weather observations.

The FMQ-19 records different weather variables such as wind speed, wind direction, temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, visibility, and cloud height. These findings are sent to the weather team for verification and accuracy.

Staff Sgt. Stephanie Rey, 86th Operations Support Squadron weather flight craftsman said, the FMQ-19 makes the mission more streamlined and efficient because of its constant weather monitoring. These automatic reports ultimately save the Air Force money by requiring less manning at each weather station.

However, when the FMQ-19 malfunctions or is undergoing maintenance, it is up to the weather team to keep the mission going.

“When the FMQ-19 goes down we are basically on 100-percent manual observations,” said Rey. “We obtain manual observations, using the training we receive, and still put out a weather report on schedule.”

In these situations, they utilize tools such as a laser range-finder to determine cloud height and a barometer to measure atmospheric pressure. The findings are double checked for accuracy and are manually recorded on a weather report template.

Going out in the field, utilizing the equipment properly and safely, and ensuring the readings from the equipment are accurate can seem like daunting tasks. The weather team, however, remains vigilant and proactive in their training to ensure they are always prepared to manually obtain a weather report for the pilots at a moment’s notice.

To make this possible, Airmen on the weather team are required to partake in extensive training through nine volumes of CDCs while learning to adhere to five volumes of regulations and guidelines. This much information makes on the job training imperative so Airmen may apply this knowledge and cement it into their minds, especially in scenarios where the FMQ-19 goes down.

“When the FMQ-19 goes down the mission keeps going,” said Master Sgt. Jason Ramos, 86th OSS weather flight chief. “We keep our Airmen trained and run them through practice scenarios regularly to test their knowledge of taking manual observations so their skills remain fresh. So, in the event of a power outage we will always be prepared to keep the mission going.”

Rey said the FMQ-19 fortunately does not malfunction or go down often. When it does, however, the 86th OSS weather flight will be ready.