Rain or shine, weather flight protects flightline
By Airman 1st Class Destani K. Matheny, 20 Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 24, 2019
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
The 20th Operations Support Squadron weather flight Airmen’s discipline, attention to detail and continued emphasis on the hard-earned basics are what stand between unseen deadly flying conditions and the pilots of Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.
The weather flight scans the sky to provide timely, accurate and relevant weather intelligence to the three fighter squadrons on Shaw, the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, transient aircrew and distinguished visitors.
“Our main concern is the pilots, but we work with the thermal heat index for the safety of the maintainers and anyone else who works outside,” said Airman 1st Class Mason Eggleston, 20th OSS weather forecaster.
Several variables the weather flight monitors can result in pilots staying on the ground, such as lightning within five nautical miles, low visibility and high winds.
“There’s horizontal visibility and vertical visibility, indicating how far we can see,” said Eggleston. “When you’re going down a runway, you want to have as much visibility as possible.”
Weather Airmen will give their input on what they think is safe, but ultimately the pilots decide what they feel comfortable with.
“They definitely take our advice to heart though,” said Eggleston. “They have to trust us.”
Weather Airmen cover South Carolina and parts of North Carolina, Georgia and the Atlantic Ocean.
“Say a pilot is flying from here to Florida,” said Eggleston “We will give that pilot weather briefs covering from here to that location so they’re fully aware of what kind of ride they’re about to take.”
Fred Hirman, 20th OSS meteorological technician, said although hurricane season is dangerous for pilots, summer is the season the weather flight worries most about.
“This time of year, the worst hazard is thunderstorms,” said Hirman. “Thunderstorms shut down the runway because lightning usually comes along with that. When that happens, refuelers can’t refuel their planes and maintenance can’t work.”
Eggleston said he enjoys his job. The constant new challenges that come with the seasons keeps him on his toes.
“It’s always changing. Every day is something different, whether it’s your schedule or the weather,” said Eggleston. “The environmental conditions are never the same, that’s what keeps my job so interesting.”