Single GA Portal
Airways is working on the software revisions needed to implement the single GA portal for NOTAM, aerodrome, and MET information within their IFIS system (which in itself is currently undergoing a makeover). Implementation is now expected in September 2016 (note that work will continue past this date to find a way of providing graphical MET information over the same platform).
The CAA has completed its review on the MET needs of Queenstown Airport with respect to its increasing international operations. As a result the NZQN TAF format will not be changed from its current domestic form but will now be made available through the ICAO OPMET exchange systems (ROBEX bulletins). To better inform MetService forecasters, Airways will provide textual AFIS information directly, and a new 360 degree camera system is expected to be installed. Given the continuing growth of international traffic at Queenstown, a further MET review will be undertaken in a few years.
CAA is currently well down the track in the process of reviewing the MET syllabi for PPL, CPL and ATPL. Greg Reeve, MetService Military Meteorologist, has been providing significant expert support to the project. As previously reported the basic idea is to streamline each syllabus ensuring what that it provides a clear practical benefit in the conduct of PPL, CPL and ATPL operations.
CAA continues to work with MetService as they gradually develop their alternate aviation MET production site in Auckland with MetService beginning operating aviation MET production shifts from their new production centre in Auckland at the beginning of July.
The ICAO MET Panel is due for its second Meeting in October 2016. What is becoming clear to all of the Met Panel experts and advisers is that the systems and very nature of provision of meteorological information to international aviation needs to be completely revised. In this regard, several MET Panel working groups are beginning work on future user requirements and technology GAP analyses. In parallel a White Paper on Aviation MET Information Delivery in 2035 is currently being refined for presentation at the MET Panel meeting. The work involved in defining and implementing this global change will be extensive. It will require significant long term support from New Zealand.
One of the key aspects of the new global MET system is likely to be the provision of 4 dimensional seamless hazardous weather information and data (ash, tropical cyclone, icing, turbulence, thunderstorms, mountain waves, radiation).
High Level Ice Crystal Icing
Readers are reminded of this emerging issue. A recently published major incident report noted probable cause as ice-crystal icing. See A346, en route, eastern Indian Ocean, 2013(external link) on Skybrary, and on the CAA MET web page, High Level Ice Crystal Icing.
Importantly it should be noted that that SIGMETs and SIGWX forecasts do not currently provide specific information about ice crystal icing. However, the inclusion of information concerning thunderstorms, especially in tropical areas, can provide pilots with an indication of the potential risk of encountering high level areas of hazardous ice crystals.
VAAC Confidence levels
Following agreement at WMO Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) “Best Practice” Workshop earlier in 2016, it was agreed to trial the use of a statement outlining the forecaster confidence in the T+0 ash polygon (T+0 means the time of the observed or estimated ash polygon). The statement will appear at the start of the RMK section of the Volcanic Ash Advisory message (VAA) and will take the form “T+0 CONFIDENCE HIGH” or “T+0 CONFIDENCE LOW”. Note – for a VAA to be issued, a forecaster must first have high confidence in the existence of ash. The confidence statement in the VAA RMK then refers to the area of the ash depicted.
If “T+0 CONFIDENCE HIGH” is used, this means that recent satellite imagery provides strong evidence of the horizontal boundary of the ash cloud. The ash is clearly discernible on RGB and/or visible imagery. In addition, the forecaster must also have strong evidence of the vertical extent of the ash cloud – this may be in the form of radar imagery if there is a radar close enough to the volcano, or it could be a volcanologist observation.
If “T+0 CONFIDENCE LOW” is used, this means that there may only be strong evidence for either the horizontal or vertical extent of the ash cloud – not both. This may be due to the ash cloud being either partially or fully obscured by meteorological cloud, or due to no strong observations of the vertical extent of the ash cloud.
Volcanic Ash Exercise
A further ICAO co-ordinated VOLPHIN 16/2 volcanic ash exercise is being planned with the Wellington VAAC (MetService) again playing a watching role. In future exercises in the Australia/Pacific/NZ areas VAAC Wellington will take a more significant part.