206 Overview of the RTCA SC-206 "Guidance for the Usage of Data Linked Forecast and Current Wind Information in Air Traffic Management (ATM) Operations" Document

Monday, 23 January 2017
Amanda Hoprich, AvMet Applications, Inc., Washington, DC; and E. Frazier

Handout (1.2 MB) Handout (27.8 kB)

The accuracy of wind information, especially forecast wind error, has been repeatedly identified as one of the largest contributors to errors in aircraft trajectory predictions.  These wind errors impact both the ground generation and the aircraft execution of flight clearances.  A common theme expressed in numerous research documents is the need for high-accuracy, high-resolution real-time and forecast wind and temperature information to support future Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) applications. 

As the NextGen concepts are implemented into air traffic management (ATM), high-accuracy, current winds will become more imperative from both the aircraft-based operations perspective and the ground-based operations perspective.  Many future concepts within NextGen will require reliable and valid wind and temperature information concerning the current and predicted aircraft position for flight safety, planning, and optimization.  Predicting future aircraft positions reliably requires knowing both the planned trajectory and the effects actual winds and temperatures will have on that trajectory. Currently, wind forecast data is provided to ATM automation tools.  In the future, near real-time wind and temperature reports could augment the forecast data to improve the accuracy of predicting wind effects on the flight path. Improving the performance of predicted wind effects on the flight path will increase capacity and improve the already identified benefits achievable through implementation of NextGen capabilities. 

The uplink, downlink, and crosslink of near real-time wind information is essential to transitioning from a less-efficient manual and tactical National Airspace System (NAS) to a more-efficient strategic and automated NAS.[1]  In order to support these operations, it is expected that aircraft flight management systems and avionics equipment will be designed to take advantage of uplinked and crosslinked wind information that will include more frequent updates, additional data points, and higher resolution data.  In addition, it is expected that ground automation tools will also ingest improved forecast wind information as well as near real-time data downlinked from aircraft.  The use of improved wind information will be key to minimizing trajectory errors during four-dimensional Trajectory Based Operations (TBO); increasing the precision, consistency, and use of air traffic control and flight-deck automation tools; improving flight planning and efficiency; increasing safety and airspace as well as airport capacity; and ensuring better and more consistent performance across a range of operational uncertainties.

In December 2014, RTCA Special Committee 206, Aeronautical Information and Meteorological Data Link Services, was tasked with developing a guidance document, Guidance for the Usage of Data Linked Forecast and Current Wind Information in Air Traffic Management (ATM) Operations, focusing on the methodology of reporting wind information and the recommended quality of the wind information necessary to support ATM operations.  This RTCA document is intended to focus on providing wind guidance and recommendations for three NextGen applications: 1) Advanced Interval Management, 2) wake vortex mitigation, and 3) TBO Required Time of Arrival.  The following questions guided the development of the RTCA document:

  • What are the recommendations for minimum wind requirements to support the future operations of interest?

  • What level of quality (accuracy and fidelity in time and space) is needed for wind forecasts and current wind information?

    • What degree of resolution is needed for wind forecasts and current wind information?

    • How often should wind forecast information be updated?

Outcomes to this RTCA effort will include wind information findings and recommendations as well as relevant procedural findings specific to each of the three NextGen applications.  In addition, recommended additional future research will be identified to build on and expand the research conducted for the RTCA winds guidance document.

This paper will present an overview of the RTCA SC-206 Guidance for the Usage of Data Linked Forecast and Current Wind Information in Air Traffic Management (ATM) Operations document with a focus on the wind information findings and recommendations.

[1] Draft Federal Aviation Administration, 4D Trajectory Based Operations (4D TBO) Concept of Operations (ConOps), Version 1, October 9, 2014


- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner