NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center Products and Services in Support of Aviation

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010: 1:45 PM
B315 (GWCC)
William J. Murtagh, NOAA/Space Weather Prediction Center, Boulder, CO

A required component of all flight operations is the pre-flight weather briefing. Meteorological information is necessary to ensure a safe and efficient flight and to maximize the value of flight operations. Aircraft flying polar routes now include space weather as an integral part of the weather pre-brief. The NOAA/NWS Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is the Nation's official source of space weather forecasts and warnings. NOAA's space weather services now extend the traditional meteorological briefing, offering the pilot a big picture view of the flight environment to include impacts to critical communication and navigation systems, and the potential for hazardous solar radiation exposure. FAA federal regulations, requires Operations Specifications that define authorizations, limitations, and certain procedures under which each kind of operation, including polar, are to be conducted. These Operations Specifications require airlines operating on polar routes to plan for space weather. In addition, FAA regulations require that aircraft dispatchers provide aircrews with a preflight briefing on the status of communications and navigation. If space weather data are not available, airlines would not be able to meet these requirements; the flight could not fly polar. The safety of the flight cannot be compromised.

Warning lead times of minutes to a few hours are of limited use to the airlines. For safe and efficient operations of polar routes, airlines have identified a requirement for 1-3 day space weather forecasts. Forecasts need to be timely enough to plan crew changes (for a stop in route), route selection, aircraft utilization and other resource management. This talk will give a description of the important space weather conditions that impact polar operations, SWPC's space weather products and services in support of aviation, and NOAA's plans to address the growing requirements for space weather warnings.