As often as the weather changes in the Tennessee Valley, airline pilots and air traffic controllers have to constantly be on alert. But the people in the towers can't watch the planes and watch the weather, too.

Weather observation and recording are up to a separate group of people, trained and certified for the job, jobs they almost lost.

Nearly a year ago, Charles Starrett thought he and his crew would be out of work by now. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had plans to ground the weather observer operation by cutting all personnel by this summer's end, transferring their duties to the control tower.

"Very detrimental to aviation safety if the air traffic controllers took over and did the observations," says Starrett, senior observer at the Chattanooga Airport.

Doubling the workload of tower personnel, but not the staff. Starrett this has led to errors at airfields where observers were cut years ago.

Last fall Starrett and observers from 56 other offices on the chopping block hit a wall trying to convince the FAA of the potential danger, trying to save their jobs at the same time. They went to their representatives for help.

"Communicating with our congressmen, senators, keeping them informed on what the FAA is doing," says Starrett.

Their persistence paid off. Congress passed the "FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016" which president Obama signed last month, allowing for the hundreds of jobs to remain, and safe air travel to be maintained.

"That was a relief off our shoulders," says Starrett. "That gave us more time to fight."

His spirits are soaring, but Starrett says there's more work to do to make the positions secure for many years down the road. He wants to educate Congress and gain lobbying power when confronting capitol hill.

"We've taken on this plan to organize an association of weather observers," adds Starrett.

An advantage that many tower employees already have.

But Starrett isn't taking the air out from under the wings of the traffic controllers. He know we need them. Rather, he's emphasizing the importance of them working with the weather observers.

"The more eyes on the sky, the more safe we'll be," says Starrett.

The weather observers' jobs are secure through September of 2017.