Aviation Weather Impacts

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010: 11:45 AM
B206 (GWCC)
Bob Maxson, NOAA/NWS/Aviation Weather Center, Kansas City, MO

Estimates developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Research, Engineering and Development Advisory Committee (REDAC 2007) indicate adverse weather accounts for 70 percent of all National Aviation System (NAS) airspace delays. A key REDAC finding is that up to two-thirds of these weather related delays are potentially avoidable. While media coverage may focus on large winter-storm systems which can close one or more major airports for days, there are several other high-impact weather events which more typically affect the NAS. Thunderstorms are the most dangerous weather encountered by aviation concerns. On a daily basis throughout much of the year, they provide the vast majority of NAS weather impacts.

Other weather hazards emerge as significant aviation impacts, especially as the Federal Aviation Administration's Next Generation Air Transport System (NextGen) looks to increase NAS capacity and reduce delays. Traffic managers are trying to squeeze every minute of efficiency out of an already crowded NAS. Minor weather Impacts in the en-route phase of flight can translate to large impacts at the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), and even the airport level. Surface delays in taxi times of just minutes due to rain or snow, or deicing, can cause aircraft to miss their take-off slot, resulting in inefficiencies in managing and utilizing air space. Seemingly insignificant affects of wind shear aloft can severely impact airport arrival rates by compressing aircraft on approach.

NOAA's National Weather Service, the FAA, the Airline Industry, and the Research Community are working together to address these and other weather impacts to aviation. This presentation will briefly examine the causes of aviation weather delays, their impacts to the NAS, and present and future strategies to enhance the efficiency of our air-traffic system.