8.4 Applying the Concept of Weather Salience to a Specific User Community: General Aviation Pilots

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 2:15 PM
Room 333-334 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Jennifer E. Thropp, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ., Daytona Beach, FL; and J. M. Lanicci, J. K. Cruit, T. A. Guinn, and E. L. Blickensderfer
Manuscript (138.2 kB)

The term "weather salience" has been defined as "the degree of importance or significance stemming from psychological sources that people have or exhibit for the weather" (Stewart et al., 2012). The concept originates from the field of environmental psychology, which studies the relationship between humans and their environments. In this application, "environment" refers to the natural environment, although there are many other uses of the term in that field. Previous research in weather salience examined its relationship to parameters such as a resident's climatic zone, the frequency with which people seek and use weather information, the types of weather information sought by people, confidence in forecasts, and perceived importance of forecasts. That research employed various versions of a Weather Salience Questionnaire (WxSQ), which has now been tested on several samples of the U.S. general population.

The present research involves the assessment of weather knowledge in a group of general aviation (GA) student pilots from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and several flight schools in the Daytona Beach, Florida area. The weather knowledge is assessed through several means, such as a general knowledge exam and a scenario-based exam. An additional part of the study also addresses the weather salience of this group by means of the standard form of the WxSQ employed by Stewart et al. (2012) in their study of 1465 adults from across the U.S. In this study, we are interested in assessing the weather salience of this very specialized group of weather information users. In contrast to airline and corporate pilots, GA pilots are a very diverse group in terms of experience, type of training, and geographic area where they do most of their flying. They also have widely varying weather-knowledge backgrounds based largely on these demographic differences. It is well documented in the literature that weather-related GA accidents have not decreased markedly over the last 20 years, despite availability of new and timely weather analysis and forecast products from a number of Internet-based service providers, and technological advances in real-time data-linked weather information to the cockpit. Thus we are interested not only in the results of the weather knowledge exams, but also those of the weather salience portion of this assessment. This is the first time that GA student pilots' attitudes towards the importance of weather information in planning and executing flights have been sampled in such a manner, and the results could potentially trump any technological advances in the preparation and delivery of weather information. In other words, if GA pilots do not display a high degree of salience about the weather, advances in weather forecast and dissemination technology will not have the desired impacts on flight safety. It is also likely that this is the first time that the WxSQ has been applied to a such a specific group of weather information users, and the differences between the WxSQ responses of this group and those of the general population may reveal significant differences that can help the aviation weather community provide better and more focused products for this group.

A.E. Stewart, J.K. Lazo, R.E. Morss, and J.L. Demuth, 2012: The Relationship of Weather Salience with the Perceptions and Uses of Weather Information in a Nationwide Sample of the United States. Wea. Climate Soc., 4, 172189. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/WCAS-D-11-00033.1

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