Cantwell Ensures a Smooth Landing for Spokane Travelers

Cantwell-sponsored provision keeps passengers safe by providing accurate weather data to flight crews

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the former chairman and current ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, secured passage of the Cantwell-sponsored FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill will help ensure the safety of the more than 1.5 million people who travel through Spokane International Airport every year. Specifically, the provision allows the Airport to retain its Contract Weather Observer (CWO) staff, who provide accurate weather observations and readings to the flight crews in the air.

“Spokane weather is too unpredictable to roll the dice with inaccurate or inconsistent information. By keeping Contract Weather Observers in Spokane, we can ensure flight crews have the information they need to operate safely in order to keep travelers to and from Eastern Washington safe,” said Senator Cantwell.

CWO’s are especially crucial to safety at Spokane International Airport, where frequently changing weather patterns and frequent icing mean pilots rely heavily on precise, up-to-date information.  Without the information these weather experts provide, the margin of error for pilots landing in adverse conditions shrinks considerably.

Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) threatened to eliminate CWOs in Spokane.  Senator Cantwell came to the program’s defense, using her position as ranking member on the Senate Commerce’s Subcommittee on Aviation to include a supporting provision in the Senate FAA Reauthorization bill. The provision keeps CWOs on staff in Spokane and at the 57 other airports that were set to lose them. It also requires the FAA to perform a more balanced and rigorous evaluation process before eliminating CWOs from a given airline service or emergency medical service.

CWOs also support other air services that are vital to Eastern Washington, such as air cargo and the Life Flight Network.