NTSB Warns Old Weather Data on Pilot Displays Can Contribute to Plane Crashes

Monday, June 25, 2012
By George Hatcher

The NTSB has sent out a safety alert concerning weather information that is up to twenty minutes old, although it may be advertised as real time data. The discrepancy in time can be fatal when weather conditions are in rapid flux. The NTSB has related this old weather information to two recent crashes that occurred at night:

  • March 2010 med-evac helicopter Tennessee crash where the pilot was racing to home base trying to beat a storm
  • December 2011 Piper PA-32 Bryan Texas where the plane broke up in stormy weather.

In both these crashes, “the time stamps indicated the one-minute time interval used to create the image, and not the actual age of the data used to create the image.”

The Tennessee crash involved information five minutes old; the Texas crash involved information six to eight minutes old.

The night crashes in particular are affected by old data. Pilots need to be aware that the data can be old, and not use the weather display to navigate around bad weather.

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