NOUS41 KWBC 251714



Service Change Notice 17-89

National Weather Service Headquarters Silver Spring MD

114 PM EDT Tue Jul 25 2017


To:      Subscribers:

         -NOAA Weather Wire Service

         -Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Offices


         Other NWS and NOS Partners and NOAA Employees


From:    William Bauman

         Chief, Aviation and Space Weather Services Branch


Subject: Termination of CONUS Aviation Area Forecast Effective

         October 10, 2017


Effective on October 10, 2017, the NWS will cease production of

the Area Forecasts (FA) issued by the Aviation Weather Center

(AWC) covering the Contiguous United States (CONUS). The six (6)

FAs affected are:  









The NWS and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), have

coordinated to transition six (6) FAs, currently used as flight

planning and pilot weather briefing aids, to digital and

graphical alternatives. A joint-Agency working group concluded

that these digital and graphical alternatives better-meet the

needs of today's aviation users.


The change was considered over a period of nearly four years,

with significant subject-matter analysis and feedback from both

Agencies, as well as industry, and with multiple safety risk

assessments completed. Guidance with respect to the proper use of

the alternatives is available through standard FAA and NWS

documentation, with changes to corresponding FAA Orders and NWS

Directives following normal update cycles and expected to be

completed by the end of CY 2017.


NOTE: FAs for Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of

Mexico remain unaffected at this time. Any potential changes to

FAs outside of the CONUS will be communicated separately.


The FAA and NWS agreed upon the 10 July 2017 transition date, to

be followed by a period of three (3) months parallel product

availability, where legacy text CONUS FAs will continue to be

made available in order to ensure a smooth transition.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: United States Code directs the

Administrator of the FAA to make recommendations to the Secretary

of Commerce on providing meteorological services necessary for

the safe and efficient movement of aircraft. The Secretary, in

turn, is directed to cooperate with the Administrator and give

complete consideration to any recommendations. As such, FAA has

coordinated extensively with the NWS to review current and future

aviation weather information requirements.


The FA is an abbreviated, plain-language forecast of specified

weather phenomena, covering a geographical area designated by the

FAA. The FA is used to determine en-route weather and to estimate

conditions at airports without a Terminal Aerodrome Forecast



The FA contains weather information in a format originally

developed in the 1930s.  By design, it carries a character-count

limitation and was prohibited from describing Instrument Flight

Rule (IFR) conditions (reserved for AIRMETs and SIGMETs). Each FA

covers an extremely large geographical area (typically, several

states) and is issued 3x daily (each valid for 18hrs).


These specifications tend to produce a broad forecast of limited

value to the aviation end-user. While the FA met aviation weather

information needs for many years, NWS now provides equivalent

information through a number of significantly better



Given these limitations, the FAA-NWS joint-agency working group

recommended that the FA be transitioned to more-modern digital

and graphical forecasts and observations already providing

improved weather information to aviation decision-makers.


FAA formally recommended that NWS transition six (6) FAs covering

separate geographical areas of CONUS on 30 April 2015.  Since

then, both Agencies have been working actively to implement the



NOTE: FAs for Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean and the Gulf of

Mexico will remain unaffected at this time.


Existing alternative products identified by the joint-agency

working group include, but are not limited to:


- surface weather analyses and prognostic charts

- public forecast discussions

- Significant Weather (SIGWX) charts

- National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD)

- Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs)

- Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMETs)


Aviation end-users are already accustomed to consulting many of

the weather products listed above, during normal flight planning.

Together, they provide information similar to that found in the

FA, in higher resolution and with the added benefit of graphical



To simplify access to the above aviation weather products and

information, and to ensure a smooth transition for pilots and

other end-users, NWS has developed a web tool that centralizes

all weather information needed to replace the legacy FA. This web

tool, called the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) tool, is

available at To ensure

access to the information for limited communication bandwidth

locations, the NWS also implemented the Aviation Surface and

Clouds Forecasts (i.e., GFA Static Graphics) available on

NOAAPORT and the website.


The joint-agency working group's membership included broad

subject-matter expertise from both FAA and NWS, as well as the

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Members also

collected insight and formal comment(s) from additional aviation

weather stakeholders including pilot organizations, weather

briefers, airlines and air traffic controllers.


Multiple Safety Risk Assessments were completed as part of FAA's

Safety Management System. Guidance with respect to the proper use

of the alternative products is available.


For technical questions regarding this notice, please contact:


Debra Blondin

Domestic Operations Branch Chief

Aviation Weather Center

Kansas City, MO 64153



For policy questions regarding this notice, please contact:


Kevin Stone


National Weather Service Headquarters

Silver Spring, MD



National Weather Service Change Notices are online at: