Government - Industry Partnerships Transitioning Turbulence Research Into Aviation Operations (335)

Tammy Farrar, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC

Bill Watts, Delta Airlines

Thomas Staigle, Delta Airlines

Robert Sharman, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Gregory Meymaris, National Center for Atmospheric Research



Commercial and general aviation aircraft frequently encounter unexpected atmospheric turbulence. These encounters often result in rerouting of flights, and though rarely fatal, can sometimes result in serious injury to aircraft occupants. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to passengers and flight attendants in non-fatal accidents.1 During the years 1998-2013, US air carriers had 432 significant turbulence incidents or accidents, with 225 serious injuries.2 In addition, the cost to air carriers of these injuries, equipment damage and maintenance/inspection, or rerouting is substantial. Moreover, rerouting of flights due to reported or forecast turbulence can significantly reduce National Airspace System (NAS) capacity. (1, 2 NTSB Briefing presented at Turbulence Workshop, Washington DC, September 3, 2014.) The FAA's Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP) is conducting research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to improve turbulence forecasting and reporting capabilities within the NAS. The work has resulted in the development of a turbulence forecast product - the Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG). The GTG is an automated, gridded Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP)-based product that outputs turbulence intensity both temporally and geographically (laterally and vertically). The forecast is valid hourly out to 18 hours, and is updated hourly. GTG is primarily designed for strategic, pre-flight planning by aircraft operators and aviation weather forecasters.More recently, FAA-funded research at NCAR resulted in the development of a turbulence &ldquoNowcast&rdquo capability for more tactical applications. The Graphical Turbulence Guidance-Nowcast (GTGN) product is essentially a very short-term version of GTG that is &ldquonudged&rdquo with available observations, such as Pilot Reports (PIREPS), radar-based turbulence inferences, and automated in situ aircraft-based reports. GTGN output is similar in nature to GTG, but is valid in 15-minute increments out to 1 hour, updated in near-real time every 15 minutes. The challenge the FAA faces is in transitioning this applied research into operations. While the GTG forecast product is operational on the National Weather Service (NWS) Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) and is widely available to the aviation community, the GTGN product has only recently matured to the point where it is available to users experimentally. There are questions associated with how to best utilize and control the data. Various methods of collecting, managing, distributing and using the data are under consideration. To address these challenges, the FAA is partnering with various stakeholders in the aviation community to validate GTGN and help develop a Concept of Operations (CONOPS). Most notably, the FAA and Delta Air Lines (DAL) are conducting a series of collaborative &ldquoProof of Concept&rdquo processes to determine potential applications of the GTGN data in flight operations. These efforts have been highly successful, with benefits documented in the areas of cabin management, better flight routing decisions, reduced fuel burn and emissions, and passenger comfort. Other airlines, such as Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, are beginning to develop similar capabilities.This presentation will highlight the GTG and GTG-N products and discuss the unique collaboration between the FAA and stakeholders in the aviation industry to successfully transition new turbulence-mitigating products into operations. Such collaboration has benefits to not only the airlines and the FAA, but also to the flying public through the realization of safer flights.