Forensic Aviation Meteorology


Weather Related Occurrences

Weather related injuries and accidents in both the Commercial (i.e., commuter, transport category) and General Aviation (GA) industries are of major concern worldwide.  Analysis of GA accident data typically shows a large number, if not most, fatal accidents involve adverse weather conditions.  In the Commercial aviation industry weather related accidents are less frequent than in GA, however they have the potential for larger casualties with this industry experiencing numerous injuries to flight attendants, crew, and passengers involving turbulence each year. In addition to possible fatalities and injuries, weather occurrences (e.g., severe CAT) can be costly in operational and financial terms.  An encounter with adverse weather may result in aircraft inspections and repairs, flight deviations, fuel wastage, passenger inconvenience, and possible passenger accommodations and expenses.

Weather Investigation

To allow for lessons learned and possible gains in safety and operational efficiency, occurrences must be comprehensively investigated to determine if weather is a contributing causal factor.  This investigation must include gathering and plotting atmospheric data to establish the state of the atmosphere at the time of the occurrence, during the flight, as well as pre-flight.  John Dutcher has taught meteorology, at various proficiency levels, to a number of organisations in both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.  In addition he has investigated a number of aviation accidents from a weather standpoint.  These experiences, combined with much flight planning experience (from General Aviation to international), has enabled John to develop the Weather Analysis Checklist for Aircraft Accident Investigation (2003).  This provides a sound, logically flowing analytical framework to facilitate identification of flight conditions and allow for detailed analysis of the plotted atmosphere data to enable investigators to identify if, and what, meteorological factors played a role in accident causation (i.e., low-level wind shear, icing, mountain wave turbulence). 

Though it is important to understand what meteorological conditions and phenomena influenced the aircraft, it is also important to understand pilot and dispatcher decisions in relation to weather.  By having a detailed understanding of the meteorological conditions present at the time of the occurrence, in-flight, and pre-flight investigators will be better able to understand situations encountered by the pilots and dispatchers, as well as the operational decisions that came out of them.  This analysis may highlight issues with pilot or dispatcher incorrect and/or incomplete knowledge due to training deficiencies, and/or poor dissemination of weather data, or incomplete weather data due to reporting limitations. 

Given John’s background as a Human Factors Specialist and with advanced aviation meteorology, he believes that by combining Forensic Meteorology and Human Factors investigators will not only be able to identify meteorological factors, unsafe preconditions and individual failures, but organisational and regulatory failures that may have played a role in the occurrence.  This approach will allow for progress in reducing recurrence to be realised!


John authored the Meteorology section for the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization’s revision to the Aircraft Accident Investigation Manual - Part 3.  This manual (in press) is the source of guidance for accident investigation teams around the world. (See Publications)

Course Objectives

John and Martin Babakhan have developed a “hands-on” course in which participants learn by doing: by looking at data, determining causes, and developing findings.  Training develops investigators’ weather visualisation skills to appreciate the three dimensional nature of the atmosphere as well as the types of data (including numerical models) used to analyse the 3D aspects of weather producing phenomena involved in occurrences.  Participants will also review several actual accident reports from various countries from a weather perspective.  In addition, participants will learn sound investigative techniques, analytical skills, and weather presentation techniques needed to be better enabled to produce and communicate a comprehensive, quality report as part of an investigation board.

Who should attend?

It is recommended that participants have a meteorology knowledge level equivalent to that of an Air Transport Pilot, with training primarily designed for:

Course Outline


How weather investigation supports safety improvement (including Safety Management System (SMS))
-- also see Weather Risk Control Systems


The investigation process


Preparation and preliminary actions


Initial actions


Collection of data


Analysis of data


Data plotting


Interpretation of results


Examination of data in relation to weather causal factors


Investigation of Human Factors in relation to meteorological data


Weather evaluation for flight (all aircraft categories)


Applying weather knowledge - expert level knowledge


Analysis and prognosis principles


Understanding meteorological computer models


Understanding Skew-T and stability indices


Applied satellite meteorology


Applied RADAR meteorology


IMC meteorology


Weather presentation techniques


Take Home

  • Comprehensive course notebook

  • Operational examples and solutions

  • Certificate of completion

Course Duration, Location and Tuition

Course Duration: 5 days.

Fee: $1975.00 USD.

Location: Various locations – In-house available.


All Dutcher SMS courses can be delivered to your offices and tailored to your organisation's needs. If you have a group of 5 or more individuals for this course, please contact us and we will provide you with information about bringing this course to your offices at a time convenient for you and your staff. For courses delivered in the United Kingdom, all prices are in UK Pounds (GBP).  For courses delivered in all other European countries, all prices are in Euros. For delivery in other countries, please contact us.


Regular Facilitators: John Dutcher and Martin Babakhan


For More Information

© Dutcher Safety & Meteorology Services (2003-2008)
Last Updated: 10 Apr 08