Forecasts of Convection for Air Traffic Management Strategic Decision Making: Comparison of User Needs and Available Products
Traditionally, forecasts of convection for the airport terminal environment have been provided by the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAFOR or TAF) and have been used to determine impact on aircraft operations at or very near the surface at or very near the airport. The domain of the TAF is defined as a 5 nautical mile (nm) radius around the center point of an airport (or aerodrome). The TAF option of using vicinity (VCNTY), extends the product's range to a 20 nm radius.
Commercial aircraft are in descent and climb phases of flight at distances greater than the TAF domain of 5 nm radius or even 20 nm around an airport. As a result, there currently is a gap in product coverage for the aviation weather decision maker. There is a need for an aviation weather product that can support the Air Traffic Management decision making process for the volume of airspace that falls between the geographical domain of the TAF and the geographical domain of the CCFP.
This article will first, describe a number of current efforts underway by the meteorological community to provide a product that fills this geographical gap. Second, the article will summarize User Needs from two Air Traffic Management perspectives, an Airline Operations Center (AOC) perspective and an FAA facility perspective. Third, the attributes of the current products available and products in development will be compared with the identified Air Traffic Management User Needs.