Common Situational Awareness: the strategic and tactical value of aviation weather information

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Tuesday, 31 January 2006: 5:15 PM
Common Situational Awareness: the strategic and tactical value of aviation weather information
A311 (Georgia World Congress Center)
Michael A. Rossetti, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, Cambridge, MA; and T. A. Seliga

The term "common situational awareness" (CSA) is frequently used to describe the desire that critical weather and traffic information be freely and universally available to all interested parties within the National Airspace System (NAS). Although a common view of aviation weather is not an essential core of information available to all users in the same form and for common awareness, many types of weather phenomena require a unique understanding or response by particular users. Pilots focus on a picture of the operation and trajectory of their aircraft. Controllers focus on a picture of the entire airspace sector, encompassing, among other things, the flow of air traffic within past, present and future weather conditions. CSA may thus vary by degree, depending on the user, weather conditions, traffic patterns, airport configurations and other factors. For the various types of NAS users, the required degree of CSA is relative at any given time. It remains one of the most challenging aspects of balancing needs with resources, and is essential to the reduction of risks to aviation safety and efficiency posed by weather. CSA thus addresses the competing demands of safety, capacity and throughput in the NAS.

This paper describes an approach for assessing aviation weather technologies through a simple evaluation model the association of weather sensors, processors and displays with the concepts of Source (detection systems), Form (product) and Function (value and application). Ideally, a deployed network of systems will assemble, deliver and display weather intelligence in ways that are simultaneously sensitive to the spatial and temporal contexts of both flight and weather. NAS architecture documents numerous operational weather systems and products plus others in development stages. Routing decisions, selection of runways, avoidance or minimization of delays and passenger safety and comfort are all dependent to varying degrees on weather information. Situational awareness depends on the ability of users and officials to make informed, optimal decisions, which in turn depends significantly upon the sensing, surveillance and processing capabilities of these systems.