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Transitioning Aviation Weather Research into Operational Production and Use within the National Airspace System

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Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Transitioning Aviation Weather Research into Operational Production and Use within the National Airspace System
Thomas MacPhail, FAA, Washington, DC; and S. Abelman

Timely, accurate and highly resolved weather information that can be assimilated into decision-making is critical to successful Next Generation Air Traffic System (NextGen) implementation. Those weather capabilities currently in use within the National Airspace System (NAS) generally fall far short of meeting these future NextGen requirements. Aviation weather research funded and managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to produce new weather capabilities needed to fill these functional and performance gaps. However, achievement of that research goal also requires that the existing research to operations transition processes be revised. This paper describes an interagency research to operations (RTO) transition process under development which will provide the needed programmatic due diligence and discipline to transition mature research and functional capabilities into efficient and effective operational production within the NAS. In most cases, RTO will transition new weather capabilities to the National Weather Service (NWS) for operational production so the NWS is a key partner in the development and management of this RTO process. Similarly, the FAA will derive benefit from improved NWS output integrated within evolving decision support tools and operational platforms so appropriate FAA Lines of Business and Service Organizations are also expected to become full RTO participants.

The RTO process imposes programmatic discipline through creation and empowerment of multi-agency Capability Transition Teams (CTTs) which then produce an overarching Research Management Plan (RMP) for their area of aviation weather research. The RMP describes how a proposed weather capability will be matured, evaluated and delivered to the operational environment. It is intended to facilitate early identification and description of a capability's content characteristics, the system upon which the capability is proposed to be produced, the means by which the capability's output is intended to be distributed to users, and conceptually describes how the output is most likely to be integrated within future decision support tools. The RMP also contains software development guidance, a risk management strategy, and other programmatic documentation like schedules and implementation plans so challenges which have historically slowed the transition of new weather capabilities to operations are identified and planned for earlier and then managed more effectively. Finally, the RTO process contains appropriate management review points and mechanisms to evaluate the technical and operational readiness of proposed capabilities.