As thousands of pilots and aviation enthusiasts descended on Oshkosh, Wis. last week for one of the largest airshows in the world, many were excited to learn about the most recent advances in the technology that drives avionics. Many of these advances focus on commercial airline and helicopter operations, especially weather and forecasting.
Accurate weather is critical to aviation, from the moment an aircraft starts its engine until it arrives at its destination, it can have a major impact on the flight – both economically and physical safety, especially commercial airlines.
There are many elements of the weather than can impact the safety and operation of a flight. Precipitation such as rain, snow or ice is not the only weather factors that impact flights, wind, cloud levels and turbulence can also negatively impact operations and potentially cause costly delays. This is the reason that access to accurate and timely weather forecasting and routing information is critical to those planning and operating these flights.
Products such as the AviationSentry can be embedded into modern avionics and provides real-time weather information to both flight planners and pilots. These services provide information that helps route aircraft in a way that avoids lightning, icing, turbulence, thunderstorm activity and other flight hazards that can impact a flight’s ability to depart or arrive on time.
One of the most recent and prominent weather-related aviation examples is clear air turbulence (CAT), which occurs in areas with little-to-no clouds and results in violent buffeting of the aircraft. This can occur suddenly and if passengers and crew are not prepared and wearing seatbelts, it can cause serious injury. While CAT has previously been difficult to predict, new advances in technology that result in more sophisticated weather models and algorithms allows for accurate forecasting of the turbulence. These new advances from DTN allow increased visibility of CAT from all major flight cruising levels.
By having precision weather information, pilots are better able to make route decisions that steer aircraft in the most efficient route possible. For example, by having pinpoint accuracy in locating clear air turbulence, the program can modify the flight path slightly and instead of having to go hundreds of miles around the area, the aircraft just has to travel a few dozen. This decreases costs by reducing fuel burn and increasing profitability.
In addition to flight routing and fuel consumption, the accuracy of AviationSentry helps reduce costly delays and cancellations by providing real-time information to pilots and flight planners. This is accomplished through accurate forecasts that show when storms will break enough to meet safety and comfort minimums set by the airlines and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.)