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Weather-Related Flight Delays to Increase due to Job Cuts at NWS Chicago According to the National Weather Service Employees Organization

CHICAGO, Feb. 09, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Understaffing at the Chicago National Weather Service Office is poised to slow down national air travel. Chicago airports are the first to see the effects of National Weather Service’s decision to eliminate aviation meteorologists who are dedicated to provide weather forecasts and alerts for O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport, and to the FAA in managing flights in and out of the Chicago area.

Aviation meteorologists, who work at the Chicago Area Forecast Office in Romeoville, Illinois, have been credited by the National Weather Service for cutting in half the number of weather-related air traffic delays in the Chicago area since the program started in 2010. The NWS started the “Golden Triangle Initiative” aviation-weather project in Chicago, New York City, and Atlanta to enhance safety and better serve the flying public nationwide. These cities were selected because they have a huge national airspace. Weather delays at these hub airports will cause a lag in flights nationwide.

“I am deeply troubled by the NWS’s recent short-sighted actions regarding aviation meteorologists,” stated Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3). “As the most senior member from Illinois on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and a member of the Aviation subcommittee, my top priority has been and always will be the public’s safety. It has been proven that these employees are essential personnel, improving safety and overall efficiency.”

The National Weather Service is understaffed nationwide with a vacancy rate of 16 percent, according to NWSEO vacancy tracking. Instead of filling these “emergency essential” positions, NWS management is doubling up on duties or eliminating key projects such as the Golden Triangle. In Chicago, the three aviation forecaster positions are now being used to fill other vacancies. This means that the aviation forecasters will have to abandon their work with the airports and with the FAA in order to concentrate on weather forecasting duties for the city of Chicago and the surrounding areas.

Initial forecasting statistics since the elimination of the program in late January 2016 show the accuracy of IFR forecasts (ceiling and visibility) has already fallen 20 percent and the IFR “false alarm rate” (predicting something that does not occur) has risen 22 percent.*

“Every year since 2010, the Chicago aviation meteorologists have been recognized for surpassing national goals in forecasting for air travel. Just last year, we were recognized as the best in the nation for our timing of forecasting critically low clouds and visibility,” said Gino Izzi, the NWSEO Steward in Chicago/Romeoville Weather Forecast Office. “The degradation of service for the cost of two employees is insane, particularly in light of the huge successes of the Golden Triangle Initiative so far.”

-NWSEO-

Performance Measurements and testimonials are available at: http://www.nwseo.org/pdfs_3/16_01_28_GTI_Services_Accomplish_Testimonials.pdf

*According to the National Weather Forecast Office in Romeoville, IL.

Contact: Lisa Luciani Director of Communications/Media Relations National Weather Service Employees Organization Phone: 202-907-3036 mediarelations@nwseo.org

Source:National Weather Service Employees Organization