FedEx Meteorologists Deliver… Rain or Shine
Depending on where you are in the world, the holiday season often delivers its own unwanted gift—rough weather. It’s the kind of weather that doesn’t just cause your car to skid. It shuts down roads, leaves you stranded at airports, disrupts large-scale global business, can cost billions of dollars in damages, and sadly, can even cost lives.
This is when the FedEx meteorology team delivers a crucial service—contingency planning. There were several instances over the last decade when my team has been on top of severe weather, as when significant ice and snow in Memphis threatened the operation. We executed our backup plan, which included rerouting aircraft through our other hubs. Events like this demonstrate how much trust and confidence FedEx has in the meteorology team.
Without our early warning of the storm that left nearly an inch of ice on the ground, FedEx crews would have had to de-ice more than 100 aircraft. That would have delayed the larger operation and risked the safety of our ramp personnel and hub team members who battled the elements. While our decision created a logistical challenge, the end result far outweighed the safety and operational risks the ice would have caused.
Whether it’s heavy rain and snow, tornadoes, typhoons, hurricanes or erupting volcanos, FedEx meteorologists track the events from our Global Operations Control Center (GOCC) in Memphis, Tennessee. We monitor weather 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Even during the most turbulent weather events, the 15-member FedEx weather team helps keep the company’s employees, aircraft, trucks and millions of packages moving safely through the network.
The department began in 1986 when FedEx Chairman Fred Smith decided his crew members needed the best weather information available. Since then, the department continues to fine-tune its operation. Today, our team uses flight tracking tools that show us the exact location of every FedEx aircraft in the sky. Our color-coded “War Board” lets us track any potential disruption as it relates to weather or maintenance delays.
We have the capability to forecast runway visibility when it drops below ½ mile. This is more precise than other weather agencies’ calculations, and provides more accurate information for the FedEx pilot in the cockpit. Our team uses weather dashboards to pull forecasting information in real time. Those dashboards allow us to overlay other weather agency data with our own forecasts to show where weather watches and warnings are in effect.
This technology, coupled with our own expertise, gives FedEx forecasters a major role in critical decision-making that affects not only the on-time delivery of packages, but also the safety of our team members around the world. We hold daily weather briefings to help our operations teams plan appropriately, especially if a big storm is expected to disrupt flights and service. As with the ice storm in Memphis, forecasting on the front end means flights can be rerouted to other airports to minimize delays and impact to the overall operation, while keeping our team members safe and our customers as happy as possible.
Even though the weather changes day-to-day and season-to-season, our commitment remains the same. The operation must continue in the safest possible way, rain or shine.