Better Turbulence Forecasting for Smoother Rides

corporate plane ascending into dark clouds

Turbulence Forecasting

Turbulence forecasting when not backed by years of research can leave aviation-related businesses vulnerable to operational issues. Although “shaking” in the wind may be the end result when businesses lack the most accurate turbulence forecasting, dealing with the repercussions of inadequate turbulence forecasting certainly leaves them abandoned to a bad situation – or twisting in the wind.

Constantly working with customers to deliver the best-in-class service, DTN has devoted years of research with some of the top scientists in the aviation weather community to arrive at the future of turbulence forecasting, vastly improving awareness of adverse weather for pilots, flight operations managers, and flight planners. Part of a larger suite of Aviation Flight Hazards products, these forecasts are designed to bring precision and accuracy to turbulence forecasting, and to improve operational safety and costs due to smarter routing.

This advanced offering provides higher-resolution, more frequently updated forecasts than possible with other currently available technology. A highly user-friendly service, this information can be easily integrated into flight planning systems to allow for flight plan optimization, used in flight following by aircraft dispatchers, and as a display in tablet form to be used by pilots. This provides a common weather view for all aviation stakeholders to ensure consistency and reliability throughout an organization.

Typical Turbulence-related Costs

Of course, safety of employees is the front priority, but what are the monetary drivers for avoiding diversions due to turbulence?

  • $150,000 is the estimated cost of diversions due to turbulence
  • $30,000 or more is the estimated cost of an unscheduled inspection and same day service as a result of a turbulence incident
  • $1 Billion per year is the total estimated annual costs for delays and cancellations associated with turbulence
  • $9-11 million per year in compensation to fulfill schedule variances caused by the unavailability of an injured flight attendant

white plane aerial view at gate

Additional Challenges

Despite advances in weather prediction and modeling, commercial airlines continue to experience unexpected turbulence that presents a hazard to passengers and crew. Turbulence encounters account for more than 70 percent of all weather-related incidents. And while meteorologists can show skill when it comes to forecasting certain types of turbulence, other subtler causes of turbulence are much more challenging, and can lead to errors ranging from over-forecasting the event to missing it entirely.

These more difficult to forecast include:

  • Thunderstorm turbulence happens within and in the vicinity of thunderstorms or cumulonimbus clouds. A cumulonimbus cloud hanging with protuberances is usually indicative of severe turbulence.
  • Clear air turbulence, or CAT, is the most treacherous kind of turbulence because it is invisible (occurs in clear air), can occur without warning, and at any time during flight. CAT is caused by air masses moving at different speeds and is most encountered in and around the Jet Stream where the troposphere and the tropopause meet.

Conclusion & Suggestions

With the variability and challenging nature of turbulence forecasting, commercial airlines should take advantage of DTN’s forecasting services based on years of industry research. With it, they can improve weather awareness for improved operational safety and costs with more insightful routing.