COMPILED BY THE KNOWLEDGE STAFF
It was a typical morning with the sun rising over the Iraqi horizon. My team finished the required briefs and, while walking back to the command post for our team brief, noticed weather approaching the field. Dust was building on the horizon to the west. We had seen this before and knew what was about to happen.
We went in the CP and conducted our team brief. We then called weather for the forecast. The briefer gave us no ceiling with unrestricted visibility. The crewmember that was getting the brief kept asking the weather personnel about the dust to the west. Just like many times in the past, we received this response: “No, it is good. Nothing developing.”
We discussed the weather. We knew a dust storm was building and would move in, but the weather personnel seemed to have a problem with actually walking outside to take a look at conditions instead of just briefing a slide. That is when you have to make a decision on whether it is worth it to launch and possibly go instrument meteorological conditions. After deliberating a few minutes more, we decided to proceed so we didn’t have to deal with the repercussions of not launching with a legal weather brief.
We made it out to the aircraft and conducted our preflight check. During our crew brief, we tracked the dust as it got closer and closer. The air mission commander decided we would crank and call weather. I told him I would contact weather as soon as we got up to 100 percent power.
When we were cranked and at 100 percent, the 2,000-foot wall of dust was about one mile from the airfield and headed our way. That’s when the AMC called and said shutdown, we were done for the day. I told him I would call and make a pilot report to the weather office and let them know what was inbound.
When I called the weather office and told them what was about to hit, they started to tell me that the dust was not there and they were sticking by their original brief. When the briefer was reading it again to me, weather conditions dropped to zero/zero on the parking pad with high winds. I called weather back on the radio and told them that I was zero/zero at the north end of the airfield. The weather personnel then decided to walk out and look at the weather conditions.
My lesson learned is that I won’t always believe what is being briefed versus what I am seeing. Sometimes, you have to use common sense when you see something that is not right. Remember, as a pilot in command of an aircraft, you have to determine the risk versus reward in everything you decide to do. Although it might be legal, is it smart? It will ultimately be your fault if something happens.