Discontinuation of Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS) in the Contiguous United States

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 236 (Monday, December 9, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 236 (Monday, December 9, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 67336-67337]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-26386]
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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration
[Docket No. FAA-2018-0649]
Discontinuation of Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service
(HIWAS) in the Contiguous United States
AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of final decision.
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SUMMARY: This action sets forth the final determination by the FAA to
discontinue the Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS).
DATES: This action begins January 8, 2020.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Jeff Black, Flight Service, Federal
Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC
20591; telephone: (202) 267-6500.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
Background
    Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS) is a continuous
broadcast of weather advisories over a limited nationwide network of
VORs that provide pilots with meteorological information relating to
hazardous weather. Since the early 1980s, the broadcast, available in
various locations of the contiguous United States (CONUS) allows pilots
to access hazardous weather information while inflight without going
through a Flight Service specialist.
    With the advent of the internet and other technology, the demand
for inflight services from Flight Service specialists has declined.
Staffing was 3,000+ specialists in more than 300 facilities during the
early 1980s and now consists of three hub facilities. In 2018, radio
contacts dropped to less than 900 per day from an average of 10,000
radio contacts per day.
    Demand for inflight services has diminished since the inception of
HIWAS while access has never been greater, which indicates that pilots
are migrating to other means of obtaining inflight weather advisories.
Multiple sources are available that provide access to weather and
aeronautical information to pilots in the cockpit, often presented in a
graphical format, making it easier to visualize what is going on along
the route of flight. Pilots are no longer limited to only contacting a
Flight Service specialist in order to adhere to 14 CFR 91.103, numerous
options are available to them to help maintain awareness of hazardous
weather advisories along their route of flight.
    On July 23, 2018, the FAA published a notice of proposal to
discontinue HIWAS in the CONUS.
Discussions of Comments
    The FAA received 27 comments on the proposed agency action. The
following summary identifies the issues raised from all the commenters
to our initial proposal but does not restate each comment received.
Thirteen (13) comments either supported the initiative or were neutral
towards the FAA's proposal. Three (3) comments did not apply as they
referred to HIWAS in Alaska, which does not exist. Of the remaining
comments, a number of them focused on technology and the inability of
pilots to obtain weather from alternate sources such as Electronic
[[Page 67337]]
Flight Bags (EFB), Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B), or
similar digital products. Commenters cited costs, aging aircraft, and
lack of infrastructure as reasons to retain the broadcast.
    FAA air traffic controllers (ATC) will continue to advise pilots of
hazardous weather that may affect operations within 150 nautical miles
of their sector or area of jurisdiction. Hazardous weather information
includes Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET), Significant
Meteorological Information (SIGMET), Convective SIGMET (WST), Urgent
Pilot Reports (UUA), and Center Weather Advisories (CWA). ATC will also
direct pilots to contact a Flight Service Specialist through an air-to-
ground radio frequency if they need additional information.
    A number of commenters, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots
Association (AOPA), cited safety concerns with the removal of this
service because pilots may unexpectedly encounter hazardous weather and
have no other means to obtain the information. In addition, AOPA
surveys indicated that a small segment of pilots rely on HIWAS to
satisfy their need for adverse weather information while en route. The
FAA instituted FIS-B as a replacement for this legacy system that
provides a range of aeronautical information products and often in a
graphical format, which is not available via HIWAS. For pilots who
choose not to equip their aircraft with this new technology, as noted
earlier, a Flight Service Specialist is still available over a radio
outlet.
    A Safety Risk Management Panel was held on February 26, 2019 to
review this proposal and address the concerns raised by
stakeholders.\1\ The panel consisted of representatives throughout the
FAA and industry, including AOPA. The panel reviewed all comments noted
above and the participants were unanimous in their opinion that
removing the legacy service would not add any additional risk to the
National Airspace System.
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    \1\ The SRMP was held after the close of the comment period to
address concerns raised by commenters.
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    To the extent that AOPA expressed concerns that FAA should update
its guidance material to address the discontinuance of HIWAS, the FAA
notes that all FAA documents, exams, and orders will be updated to
reflect this change. The FAA published articles and safety team emails
to inform pilots of this change and will issue Notices to Airmen
(NOTAMs) for every outlet where the service is to be discontinued prior
to removal from the charts and other publications.
Final Decision
    In accordance with the above, the FAA will discontinue the
Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service in the contiguous United
States, effective January 8, 2020.
    As part of FAA efforts to modernize and streamline service
delivery, the agency will discontinue the Hazardous Inflight Weather
Advisory Service. The FAA will issue Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and
conduct outreach to inform pilots that the service is no longer
available.
    Issued in Washington, DC, on: December 3, 2019.
Steven Villanueva,
Flight Service Director, Federal Aviation Administration.
[FR Doc. 2019-26386 Filed 12-6-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-13-P