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Grandma - 3, Air Force - 0

"Sir, we should not fly today. My grandmother says there will be a dust storm this afternoon."

"Well, Alawi, the weather briefers say that it will be clear for the next three days, and we go by the official briefing."

We launched. An hour later, one helicopter got back by making a radar approach and just barely saw the ground at the Missed Approach Point, another was stuck overnight in Erbil, the third was already on the ground inside an Iraqi Army post.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Two days later...

"Sir, we should not fly today. My grandmother says there will be a dust storm coming soon."
 
"The official forcast is for clear weather, Alawi. so we'll launch as scheduled."

We launched. The biggest sandstorm to hit Iraq in ten years arrived shortly afterwards, and all three helicopters barely made it into Erbil before it hit. They were stuck there for a week.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ten days later...

"Sir, my grandmother says there will be a dust storm this afternoon."

"Alawi, how sure is your grandmother that there will be a storm? The weather forecast is for clear and hot, no wind."

"Very sure, sir."

"Okay, today we will only fly circuits here at Kirkuk."

We stayed in the pattern, and twenty minutes into the flight, a shamal came screaming into the area. All our guys made it to the pad before it hit.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Today, we're cramming six flights in so we can get the checkrides for Advanced Instruments completed, because we won't be flying tomorrow or Thursday.

The weather is forecast to be clear as a bell for the next week.

Alawi's grandma says we're in for a dust storm that will last two days...

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A good day to dust from Mudville Gazette on August 1, 2009 8:01 AM

"Yes, the Iraqis are complaining about the dust. That's how bad it is." Says Starbuck. Meanwhile, back at the Castle, Alawi's grandmother earns high marks as a forecaster. (Hardly fair to the pros - she's not constrained by group consensus derived from... Read More

25 Comments

I think Greyhawk owes us an explanation of how this could possibly occur, what with his being an AF weatherfairy and all...
 
My money's on Alawi's grandma!  LOL
 
Dont mess with Grandma. She knows all!

Seriously, though, can you offer Alawis grandma a salary? She seems to be doing a better job than the paid guys... :D
 
I've often wondered why the Air Force sticks its weather-guessers into *interior* rooms, with no windows on the outside world.

I walked into Base Ops at McGuire one day, and dripped by the coffee machine, shedding an accumulation of liquid sunshine garnered between the flight line and the Ops Overhang. Weather guy passing by told me, "If you keep walking across the lawn like you did, the sprinklers will get you every time."

He had no idea that it was raining outside.
 
I used to be a police dispatcher, in a dark and windowless radio room.  But we always knew when it was raining.

That's when we started getting all the false burglar alarms and reports of auto accidents.  LOL
 
Never cross Grandma Nature.... she always knows best.
 
Her Rheumatoid Arthritis is more in tune with Mamma Nature, than multi million dollar satelite doohickies.
 
I second that.  I can feel weather in exactly two places; one my left arm where it was broken and in my left thigh where the doc took the graft.  The more painful the ache, the more intense the storm.

Alawi's Grandma  is a wise woman.
 
 Might not be so much a slam against the pros, as a note of what they *don't* know-- sand storms aren't exactly a huge problem in the US, which is probably where these folks trained, right?

I'd trust someone who'd been there for her whole life and was well known for being good at knowing when a local deadly condition would be likely.  (I'm assuming she's pretty well known or her grandson wouldn't have brought it up.)
 
She's not only well-known, she *likes* us, because she told Alawi to tell us.
 
Sounds like the makings of a good expression: "Man, we really pissed off Granma today!"

 
Heh. Guess what started about fifteen minutes ago.

Visibility's already down to a mile...

 
 BillT-- international diplomacy!  Win over the grandmas, win over the WORLD!  
(Seriously--I'd much rather have someone's mom on my side than their chief advisor.  OTOH, I am Catholic, so I'm use to asking God's mom to nag him for me. ;^p)

Many thanks to her.
 
I always blamed the Chaplain's boss when things went wrong, but the meteorologist vs local farmer issue is nothing new.  :)

And now I venture out upon the tightrope...

Back in the '90s (read: "drawdown" era) USAF weather decided the best way to do more with less was to consolidate forecast responsibilities into "hubs" - aka weather squadrons, each with a geographic responsibility. The one with responisbilty for CENTCOM AO (the 28th OWS) was (and stil is) located at Shaw AFB. Operational weather forecasts for Afghanistan and Iraq are produced in South Carolina (this is an over-simplified but correct statement).

There are good reasons for consolidation; chief among them that everyone (read: various participants in an op, or various levels of command in planning) needs to be working off the same operational forecast, not independently generated (and possibly varying on crucial fine details) products. That said forecast is generated elsewhere is less significant than many might argue.

But there are still forward-deployed weather folks.  Their de facto job is to provide input to that forecast (via weather observations) then to translate that forecast into operational products useful to their deployed unit.

Ponder that for a few moments and you might come to appreciate the position of the deployed guy - who might or might not be an old dude with much experience in the business, good communications skills, deep knowledge of the unit, mission, platforms, and personalities he (or she) is supporting, the sort of personality that meshes well with that situation, and the capacity for extreme stress management. (Odds are: "not", there are exceptions.) While none of that is unique requirement of a weather guesser, I would maintain the "full package" is vital to success in a unique way - amplified by impact of weather on the mission (planning and execution) - something even Sun Tzu acknowledged and for which historical examples are many.

In a deployed environment, you're likely to find an E4-E5 performing the role - the boss can't be on 24/7.


 
 The FAA and NOAA did that to civilian pilots a few years ago. I fondly remember walking into a local aviation weather outlet and talking to someone who'd been there long enough to know the local quirks. In contrast, after the first round of consolidation, the forecast was so far off one not fine February day that the Flight Service Station called the Official Forecast Makers and told them to "get off your @sses and look out the window!"
  Now civilian aviation weather is done by Large Defense Company and really, really messed up. 
 
"I've often wondered why the Air Force sticks its weather-guessers into *interior* rooms, with no windows on the outside world."

USAF weather recently decided automated weather sensors were the shizzle. They certainly do decrease workload (eventually manning?) which has always been a 'feast or famine' thing, depending on weather occuring (there is deep irony here). Whether your forecaster pokes his or her head outside (workload permitting) from time to time is on them.

Quiz question: how many time have you requested an actual -1 when all hell was breaking lose weather-wise so you could "document" no-go? In doing so you limit the time on task the forecaster has to devote to "figure out what's going on with the weather", much the same as the non-stop phone calls (picture a screaming TOC rep - or amaybe five) and PMSV contacts do. This is not to say they aren't important - they are.

All that's part of the job, as they say. I learned to roll with it - not by being right all the time (impossible goal) or expecting others to be understanding and patient (heh). A bad forecast - while unavoidable - can't be defended. Wrong is wrong. But once the forecast "goes bad" the odds of a forecaster figuring out how to make it right (other than by chance) fall with the cig/vis. Viscious circle ensues. (This is the part of where dealing with stress and personalities becomes critical.)
 
I second the winning over of the grandmas, no matter what they are called.
 
This is CLU1 I trust my mom.....
 
Does Alawi's Granma like cookies?  I feel like we owe her ;-)

Oh, and this comic is quite topical, I think.
 
CLU1 is wise *and* prudent.
 
back when i was working the forecast counter i used to have to remind the pilot types "weather is not yet an exact science". but my question is, after the second time, why the hell wasn't the weather weenie taking grandma a big basket of goodies and making her his best friend? i made use of every local resource i could over there during the great unfinished gulf war...
 
Arcane forces are at work.

This morning, the weather-guessers revised the forecast to reflect the sandstorm and -- it is now sunny, slight haze, and not a breath of wind.

Alawi says his grandma just chuckled and said, "Wait."

It could just mean this is a two-parter, but the more cynical among us are taking that to mean, "Wait 'til the Air Force changes the forecast again...then hang on to your hats."
 
Meteorology...In what other business can you be wrong 75% of the time, and still have people take your word as if its coming from the burning bush...
 
Helicopter <--> Missed approach point

You guys pay attention to those now?

Wow, how times have changed since sunny SE Asia!!!
 
We *always* paid attention to the Missed Approach Point -- it meant we needed to slow down to 40 knots and have the crewchief flail the spare -60 barrel under the skids and sing out when he felt the ground.

Or the top of the control tower.

Or the roof of a hootch.

Or water.

Or...