Technology, social media aid Fort Rucker weather operations
August 22, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 22, 2013) -- Pilots have enough to worry about when it comes to flying an aircraft, but when weather is added to the mix, that can make their job downright stressful.
That's why Fort Rucker Weather Operations makes it easier for pilots and Aviators to get weather updates by using existing technology, according to Cindy Howell, weather forecaster for Fort Rucker Weather Operations.
"We're utilizing free technology to quickly pass information to pilots and other customers," she said, adding that their focus is on three main outlets: Facebook, Twitter and a mobile app.
"Facebook is a big one," said Howell. "Every morning we post a detailed forecast so everyone knows what to expect, whether you are an Aviator or not. We post all weather watches, warnings, and advisories as well as amendments to the Mission Execution Forecast (MEF) to our social media sites. Facebook is nice because it notifies our customers via email of changes to the forecast. For Aviators, Twitter might be even more useful, as you can set it up to receive text messages when the weather changes.
"Utilizing social media is a must because the technology is there, it's free, and it's a fast and effective method to reach people," said Howell. "People check their Facebook all the time and people are receiving texts all the time. If that little beep makes you go in and check the latest weather data, then that's great."
The third technology that Fort Rucker Weather Operations uses is a mobile weather app. The app is tailored specifically to Fort Rucker pilots and shows all the MEFs, amendments, watches, warnings and advisories that are important for them to have, according to Howell.
But you won't find the free app in the App Store; it's actually a mobile web site, which makes it universally available on both Android and iOS platforms.
The goal of utilizing these technologies and social media is to make it easier for pilots to get their weather forecasts, check for updates and check live radar with observations.
One of the ways the mobile app makes getting information easier for pilots is by offering a scrolling banner, much like a news ticker that updates immediately when any warnings, watches or amendments are issued, said Howell.
"The scrolling updates will keep pilots updated with the most recent information and updates to the weather," she said.
"One thing I always tell our customers is that while Facebook, Twitter, and the app may not be considered as an 'official' means of obtaining weather information, they are very likely to be the quickest means," said Howell. "It takes us about 60 seconds to update all three sites, and we can reach many, many people this way.
"We've got to leverage technology," she continued. "Technology is all around us. Either we embrace it or we get left in the dust. To the best of my knowledge, we are the only Air Force weather unit that uses social media in an operational sense. It works well for us, and we want to continue to engage our customers and keep the Fort Rucker community informed."
To get the most recent weather updates, MEFs and amendments, visit facebook.com/ftruckerwx, or follow Fort Rucker weather operations on Twitter at @ftruckerwx.
To download the weather app, visit www.ftrucker.mobi.