Lightning Impacts on Terminal and National Airspace Operations

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 4:30 PM
129A (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Matthias Steiner, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and W. Deierling, K. Ikeda, E. Nelson, and R. Bass

Handout (2.1 MB)

Thunderstorms and lightning pose serious threats to personnel working outdoors, including personnel servicing gate-side aircraft and maintaining airport grounds and infrastructure. Safety from lightning requires ramp closures to bring people indoors whenever thunderstorms are nearby. A consequence of such ramp closures is that the servicing of aircraft gets halted, which incurs departure (and possibly arrival) delays. Moreover, prolonged or multiple successive ramp closures can play havoc on airline schedules and bring an airport out of balance, as aircraft may still be landing but flights can not get readied for departure, which might ultimately yield a grid lock.

Lightning-induced ramp closures and associated delays are common to aviation operations, especially during the spring and summer seasons when convective storms are prevalent. However, today's human-centric operations exhibit potential inefficiencies that might at least in part be avoidable with better guidance and a shared situational awareness. The presentation will show examples of observed lightning impacts on airports, cumulative delays propagating throughout the national airspace, and discuss opportunities for mitigating some of these impacts.

This research is supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the FAA.