The old saying goes like this, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute and it will change." This couldn't be more true anywhere than for aircraft flying through the United States.
This is especially true if we remind ourselves that an average commercial aircraft flying overhead is moving at about 7½ miles per minute. So an airplane that leaves the Northeast U.S. in snow can arrive in Texas in about 3 hours in thunderstorms.
The Center Weather Service Units monitor and provide weather forecasts and advisories to the nation's 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC). The catalyst that placed weather personnel in each ARTCC was the 1978 crash of Southern Airways flight number 242, which flew into a thunderstorm and crashed en-route to Atlanta. Both engines flamed out due to hail ingestion.
The ensuing investigation suggested that Air Traffic Controllers needed a better way to receive timely weather information, hence the CWSU program was born.
Unlike their sister offices the Weather Forecast Office (WFO) the nations 21 CWSUs concentrate fully on aviation weather for the ARTCC producing specialized tailored forecasts and advisories of thunderstorms, turbulence, icing and precipitation affecting the National Air Space system. The meteorologists at the CWSU are very familiar with the differing weather regimes, which, due to the size of an ARTCC can range from mountainous or desert to tropical.
The men and women at work in the nations CWSUs work hand-in-hand with the nation's air traffic controllers and supervisors providing them with the most update weather information and decision aids to make short and long range plans for aircraft operations throughout the United States.
The CWSU - Air Route Traffic Control Center team work together with the nations Air Traffic Systems Command Center in Herndon, VA to develop safe and economical flow of air traffic through the NAS helping each of us arrive at our destinations safely when flying.