ATC Assistance with WX

troopernflight

Well-Known Member
#1
Why is it that some controllers seem to be eager to assist with decision making in regards to thunderstorm avoidance while others brush it off like “its your problem, you deal with it”? It’s always refreshing when you’re coming into the terminal environment and you’re painting crap all over the place, and your check-in controller calmly states “ok, we got some cells blocking the approach corridor, but I’ve got a gap I can get you through to vector you onto the approach”. Ahhh, it’s so refreshing to hear that! Especially when you’re busy trying to differentiate ground clutter from cells. Is it a matter of some controllers not having good equipment, too busy, lack of expertise, don’t care...? Is it a resource we should be expecting to be able to depend on getting information, or do we as pilots have too high of expectations as to the assistance that ATC can provide? I’m not trying to dog any controllers, but I’m just trying to determine what information should be reasonably expected from ATC. My airline doesn’t allow us to use computer WX resources and it seems like every week we get into iffy situations with this weather in the afternoon. I’ve gotten pretty good at using the on-board radar, but I still make mistakes in what I’m seeing from time to time, especially at night when you can’t back it up visually. I do want to say thanks to those controllers who are overly helpful in these situations. It’s a comfortable feeling having a second set of eyes watching out for us!
Thanks
 

greg1016

Trustworthy Source
#2
There are a lot of misconceptions about weather radar, and training and knowledge varies widely. A lot of controllers have a misconception that onboard radar is better than our ground based weather radar. It is true that onboard radar is more up to date than what we see on our scope, but our scope paints a different and potentially more useful picture. We are required to give radar weather advisories, but some controllers have a mentality that if they take on the responsibility of vectoring for weather or giving specific navigational guidance with respect to weather that if something happens to the aircraft that controller might somehow share responsibility.
 

A80TRACON

I do the best imitation of myself
#3
some controllers have a mentality that if they take on the responsibility of vectoring for weather or giving specific navigational guidance with respect to weather that if something happens to the aircraft that controller might somehow share responsibility.
ATC radar sees precipitation, and nothing else. We cannot help you deviate around cells and only go buy what information has been passed on by previous attempts through a particular area.

The controller, or should I say the FAA, WILL share in the responsibility if something happens.

Seen a few too many friends end up in a witness chair after trying too hard to fly the plane for the pilot. Give as much useful info you can, but let the pilot make the final determination.

I always appreciated the pilots input to a course of action (and one I'd continue to use and update as necessary), because at that time in my career up until retirement in '15, their equipment was much better at devising a strategy. Don't know about nowadays however.
 
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troopernflight

Well-Known Member
#4
I assumed there was probably the issue with some liability on the part of the contoller. Usually, if I have concerns I will query the controller about the situation and ask if they agree with a heading that will deviate safely. I guess I will continue this strategy. Thanks for the insight.
 

NovemberEcho

Dergs favorite member
#5
When I'm vectoring for weather I'll try and tell the pilot my plan and throw in a "do you concur?". But sometimes you're so busy that you're kind of relying on the pilots to ask for deviations. When there's a lot of wx in the area working 5 planes can feel like 10. Plus, as A80 said if there's no precipitation in those cells, we can't see them and are wholly reliant on you to ask for a deviation around them. And then there's always that one guy who will refuse to fly the route that everyone in front and behind him is willing to go.
 

troopernflight

Well-Known Member
#8
I’ve heard of these dispatchers who actually give updates on WX via ACARS, but I’m yet to actually have one send us an update! It sure would be nice. They are overworked though, I know. I flew with an ex Comair Captain the other day who said the dispatchers at Comair would give regular updates while you were enroute. That would be great if it actually happened! Unfortunately, we have to regularly ask for new routing when they just give us the standard route which puts you right through a frontal line of storms.
 

greg1016

Trustworthy Source
#9
ATC radar sees precipitation, and nothing else. We cannot help you deviate around cells and only go buy what information has been passed on by previous attempts through a particular area.

The controller, or should I say the FAA, WILL share in the responsibility if something happens.

Seen a few too many friends end up in a witness chair after trying too hard to fly the plane for the pilot. Give as much useful info you can, but let the pilot make the final determination.

I always appreciated the pilots input to a course of action (and one I'd continue to use and update as necessary), because at that time in my career up until retirement in '15, their equipment was much better at devising a strategy. Don't know about nowadays however.
Sorry I don't consider what I might have to say in a witness stand as long as I can sleep at night. I hate that crap. Like I said, misconceptions about the limits and advantages of what our radar shows verses onboard radar.
 

Stinger

Well-Known Member
#10
ATC radar sees precipitation, and nothing else. We cannot help you deviate around cells and only go buy what information has been passed on by previous attempts through a particular area.

The controller, or should I say the FAA, WILL share in the responsibility if something happens.

Seen a few too many friends end up in a witness chair after trying too hard to fly the plane for the pilot. Give as much useful info you can, but let the pilot make the final determination.

I always appreciated the pilots input to a course of action (and one I'd continue to use and update as necessary), because at that time in my career up until retirement in '15, their equipment was much better at devising a strategy. Don't know about nowadays however.
We absolutely can and should help pilots deviate around cells that we see on radar. I don't worry too much about light precipitation....but I'll vector around moderate....and thunderstorms that are only showing light precip will usually get vectors around too.

Worrying about who has responsibility in the event of an incident is a huge cop-out. If you do the correct actions, any possible incident has been lessened.

ATC radar gets some false weather returns, but it's usually the same areas so we should know if it's reliable or not. Weather radar on-board airplanes has been about the same for the last ten years. NEXRAD/XM/ADSB weather is all delayed but shows the all over picture, but may be 5+ minutes behind....a long time in thunderstorms. Active radar can be tilted up/down to get a real-time image of what's mostly straight ahead of the aircraft +-30ish degrees....isn't very effective at picking up precipitation behind other cells since there's a shadow cast on the storms in the background.

Sorry I don't consider what I might have to say in a witness stand as long as I can sleep at night. I hate that crap. Like I said, misconceptions about the limits and advantages of what our radar shows verses onboard radar.
100% on board with you.

When I'm vectoring around weather, I put them on headings that will avoid most of it and tell them "area of moderate to heavy precipitation 1 oclock and 15 miles, extending to the NE for another 30 miles, when able proceed direct XXX"

It's not necessary to let the pilot request a deviation when I'm aware other pilots have been deviating around storms. Really the only time I ask for pilot concurrence is when there's a fairly narrow gap in the precipitation and if the pilot doesn't want to go through it he'll have to be vectored a significant distance around everything.
 

greg1016

Trustworthy Source
#11
^^^this, so much.

I didn't want to get into elaborating the differences, but that is a good explanation. I always try to give pilots all the info I have based on nexrad and pireps. I've witnessed many instances where a pilot ignores ATC advice and ends up deviating so much farther than everyone else. Of course if ATC isn't giving that advise, the pilot doesn't even have a chance. No secrets in ATC.
 

AM011309

Well-Known Member
#12
Couple things—I try to overshare what I see, what I’ve been pirep’d, what my plan is if they’re going to have to do something weird, etc., but sometimes I feel like I’m annoying the pilots like they think, uhhhh yeah no crap we have a wx radar.

There are some GA pilots who go out in crap level 5-6 storms/precip or really bad icing that stretches from their origin to their destination and first thing they say when they check on is, “I don’t have wx info on board, can you vector me around everything?”

That’s what really ticks me off because he had no business ever taking off in the first place and now it’s my responsibility to keep them out of everything, but like he said above we only show precipitation and if I vector them into something that I can’t see and something happens, now I am the one in the hot seat having to justify my actions when maybe he should be in the hot seat trying to explain and justify why he even took off in the first place.

But he’s dead so he can’t and it falls on me. I’m all about providing as much service as I can and have no problem doing so but that kind of thing irritates me. The idea of being in a deposition makes me actually way overprovide to the extent I can, just the situations like I just described aren’t cool.
 
#13
Couple things—I try to overshare what I see, what I’ve been pirep’d, what my plan is if they’re going to have to do something weird, etc., but sometimes I feel like I’m annoying the pilots like they think, uhhhh yeah no crap we have a wx radar.

There are some GA pilots who go out in crap level 5-6 storms/precip or really bad icing that stretches from their origin to their destination and first thing they say when they check on is, “I don’t have wx info on board, can you vector me around everything?”

That’s what really ticks me off because he had no business ever taking off in the first place and now it’s my responsibility to keep them out of everything, but like he said above we only show precipitation and if I vector them into something that I can’t see and something happens, now I am the one in the hot seat having to justify my actions when maybe he should be in the hot seat trying to explain and justify why he even took off in the first place.

But he’s dead so he can’t and it falls on me. I’m all about providing as much service as I can and have no problem doing so but that kind of thing irritates me. The idea of being in a deposition makes me actually way overprovide to the extent I can, just the situations like I just described aren’t cool.
I like oversharing. So many times working around weather is picking the path of least suck. It's kind of an art form and different people have different tolerances for how close they're willing to get to stuff.

Just like "follow that airplane" taxi clearances in ORD, I like it when I can cheat off someone else paper and tweak as necessary. Follow the TCAS target unless they do something scary. Also "deviate as necessary" clearances are amazing. I know they're not always possible from your end because of other planes.
 

greg1016

Trustworthy Source
#15
Couple things—I try to overshare what I see, what I’ve been pirep’d, what my plan is if they’re going to have to do something weird, etc., but sometimes I feel like I’m annoying the pilots like they think, uhhhh yeah no crap we have a wx radar.

There are some GA pilots who go out in crap level 5-6 storms/precip or really bad icing that stretches from their origin to their destination and first thing they say when they check on is, “I don’t have wx info on board, can you vector me around everything?”

That’s what really ticks me off because he had no business ever taking off in the first place and now it’s my responsibility to keep them out of everything, but like he said above we only show precipitation and if I vector them into something that I can’t see and something happens, now I am the one in the hot seat having to justify my actions when maybe he should be in the hot seat trying to explain and justify why he even took off in the first place.

But he’s dead so he can’t and it falls on me. I’m all about providing as much service as I can and have no problem doing so but that kind of thing irritates me. The idea of being in a deposition makes me actually way overprovide to the extent I can, just the situations like I just described aren’t cool.

You can't fly the plane for them, my conscience would be clear.
 

jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
#17
When I'm vectoring for weather I'll try and tell the pilot my plan and throw in a "do you concur?". But sometimes you're so busy that you're kind of relying on the pilots to ask for deviations. When there's a lot of wx in the area working 5 planes can feel like 10. Plus, as A80 said if there's no precipitation in those cells, we can't see them and are wholly reliant on you to ask for a deviation around them. And then there's always that one guy who will refuse to fly the route that everyone in front and behind him is willing to go.
You'd be shocked up quickly holes can close and open up, and how generally dynamic convective weather can be. I've been vectored toward a wall of precip by controllers and asked what my problem is when I've refused to go through it when the last 5 guys went through just fine. Problem is that the hole closed between the guy in front of us and me.

I know it seems like we're just trying to be a pain in the butt, but we don't want this to be us because the last guy made it through:

 
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greg1016

Trustworthy Source
#19
You'd be shocked up quickly holes can close and open up, and how generally dynamic convective weather can be. I've been vectored toward a wall of precip by controllers and asked what my problem is when I've refused to go through it when the last 5 guys went through just fine. Problem is that the hole closed between the guy in front of us and me.

I know it seems like we're just trying to be a pain in the butt, but we don't want this to be us because the last guy made it through:

I don't think that is what anyone here is talking about. The discussion is why some controllers disseminate more information than others. I am always going to give the information I have if I think it is pertinent.

Now if you wanna talk about that other thread with the AAL pilot refusing to go through an area that everyone else went through...I can tell you that AAL has a reputation with ATC for being the first to deviate and to deviate farther than anyone else when everyone is deviating. I had a colleague tell me once an AAL requested a deviation around a cloud because the plane was just polished. True story.
 

N90-EWR

Well-Known Member
#20
I don't think that is what anyone here is talking about. The discussion is why some controllers disseminate more information than others. I am always going to give the information I have if I think it is pertinent.

Now if you wanna talk about that other thread with the AAL pilot refusing to go through an area that everyone else went through...I can tell you that AAL has a reputation with ATC for being the first to deviate and to deviate farther than anyone else when everyone is deviating. I had a colleague tell me once an AAL requested a deviation around a cloud because the plane was just polished. True story.
In my experience, this is accurate. AAL seems to have some kind of company policy that requires them to steer clear of all weather.
 
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