FAA to Discontinue HIWAS

Federal agency concludes that pilots have other ways of obtaining hazardous weather data.

accessing real-time weather in the cockpit
There are many ways of accessing real-time weather in the cockpit, whether on a panel-mounted device or a portable one, eliminating the need for HIWAS.Garmin

With the growing use of real-time weather by pilots who have access to ADS-B In or other weather services in the cockpit, the FAA is making changes to its weather-related services. In a notice to the Federal Register issued on December 9, the FAA announced its intent to discontinue the Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS).

HIWAS was implemented in the 1980s to allow pilots to access hazardous weather information on a continuous broadcast through VOR frequencies rather than contacting a specialist at a Flight Service Station, which was the general practice for pilots to get weather and file flight plans during that era. The FAA stated in its notice that the demand for such services have dropped from an average of about 10,000 per day to about 900 per day.

The discontinuing of HIWAS follows a proposal released in July 2018, where the agency requested public comment. The comment period ended on August 22, 2018. 27 comments were submitted. “A number of commenters, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), cited safety concerns with the removal of this service because pilots may unexpectedly encounter hazardous weather and have no other means to obtain the information,” the notice said. Moreover, AOPA raised concerns that HIWAS might be the only way for some pilots to receive adverse weather information enroute. The FAA said the implementation of FIS-B and the availability of FSS for pilots who don’t otherwise have access to weather enroute would be sufficient for pilots requiring such services.

A Safety Risk Management Panel, which included AOPA and other stakeholders, was held on February 26 to review the proposal. The panel unanimously supported the removal of HIWAS and concluded that the action “would not add any additional risk to the National Airspace System.”

HIWAS will be discontinued on January 8, 2020, and the FAA will issue Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) to inform pilots in the affected areas of the changes.