April 19, 2024

**Do Not Use**

New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

St. Mawgan

By Tom Watson

I had been in England for only a few weeks. It was one of my first shifts on duty as the weather forecaster for RAF Manston. Manston was a NATO base, but primarily USAF. It was the home base of the 513Th and 514th Tactical Fighter Squadrons, but it had frequent visitors from the RAF and other NATO countries.

On this November 1957 evening I was on the 4:00 pm to midnight shift. The weather station was not busy because the weather over nearly all of England was bad. All night flying from Manston had been cancelled. Along about 5:30 a senior RAF officer came into the station. I knew he was high ranking because he had many stripes on his sleeve, and because he was very old, maybe 45 or 50!

He told me he was flying to St. Mawgan and asked what the weather was currently and what I expected at his expected landing time. I proceeded as I would have with a USAF pilot filling out the weather section of a form DD-175 Flight Plan. I looked up St. Mawgan and told him that current weather was 400 ft obscured ceiling and 0.8 miles visibility in fog. Based upon other nearby stations, and the weather parameters reported by St. Mawgan, I told him I expected zero ft ceiling and zero visibility by his estimated time of arrival. USAF minimums at that time were 200 ft ceilings and 0.5 miles visibility. What was worse, I told him, was that there were no bases in England that met alternate minimums of 1000 ft ceilings and 3 miles visibility. I told him that his only alternate base was Prestwick, in Scotland.

“Leftenant, you must be new to England,” he said. I replied that I had been there only a few weeks. In a very friendly manner, he said, “Let me give you some information that will help you in the future.”

“First, unlike your US Air Force pilots, we don’t have any minimums. The weather forecaster tells us what he believes the weather will be, and the RAF pilot makes the decision. Also, we do not have to have alternates.”

“Second, since your pilots are required to have alternates, you need to know that St. Mawgan never goes zero/zero. It will always be a good alternate.”

He saluted me, wished me good luck, and left the weather station. I followed St. Mawgan/s weather the rest of my shift and it did go zero/zero. I wondered if he had made it in. At midnight I went home.

The next day when I arrived at work, the RAF Sgt from the control tower came in to the weather station and handed me a teletype. It read, “Congratulations, Lt. Watson. St. Mawgan zero/zero. It’s nice here in Prestwick! Wing Commander West, RAF.

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