Aviation Impacts

Aviation safety has improved dramatically since RAL’s discovery of low-level wind shear, once responsible for hundreds of airplane fatalities. Our research engineered ways to detect and convey this hazardous phenomenon, as well as develop training materials instructing pilots when to steer clear. But our aviation safety work wasn’t finished. Further research found ways to discern and address other hazards that threaten aviation safety. Diagnosing and predicting turbulence, icing, visibility, and thunderstorms give air traffic controllers and airlines valuable planning windows, as well as the decision-making tools to avoid these hazards.

Benefits and Impacts

GTG is most useful for strategic route planning to avoid turbulence. This technology improves safety, airspace capacity, and efficiency

Lightning alerts are provided with a lead time of up to 30 minutes, with alerts updated every 2 to 5 minutes.

Such a capability to alert of impending lightning impacts is of particular interest to airports, sites for handling or testing equipment, fuel, ammunition and missiles, outdoor venues (e.g., baseball parks, swimming pools) and special events (e.g., Olympics), construction and open-air mining sites, utilities (e.g., energy, electricity transmission), recreation (e.g., hiking, camping, boating), transportation, and many others more.

WSDMM provides airline and airport operations personnel critical information on the timing and effectiveness of aircraft deicing fluids. Use of the system during de–icing operations has been shown to reduce end of runway deicing; a significant cost savings. United Airlines saved $1M in one snow event at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

This system generates alerts for easy interpretation by pilots, controllers, traffic managers and aviation forecasters and allows aircraft to operate safely when operating at this very busy international airport.

Saving money, power and time with this LES modeling method. A viable tool for microscale operational, educational, and more comprehensive research applications.

This product is uplinked to airline cockpits via electronic flight bag systems to support safe and efficient flight operations and re-routing decisions.

The JAWS allows aircraft to operate into and out of Juneau Airport in a safe and efficient manner.

JAWS-like systems could be used at airports around the United States experiencing similar terrain–influenced turbulence. Pilots flying into and out of airports located in Maui, Reno, and Las Vegas, and other sites in Alaska, for example, could benefit from JAWS technology, and new prototypes would benefit from lessons learned during the Juneau alert system's development and maintenance.

TITAN is used for meteorological and hydrological research, forecasting related to aviation, severe weather forecasting, precipitation analysis, and conducting and evaluating weather modification projects. This technology is provided freely through a UCAR license.

The Current Icing Product (CIP) provides an hourly diagnosis of the potential of encountering airframe icing conditions over the CONUS at 13-km horizontal and 500-ft vertical resolution.

The Forecast Icing Product (FIP) provides forecasts out to 15 hours.

Probability, expected severity, and the potential for supercooled large drop conditions (freezing rain and drizzle) are included in the output files and displays.

The HEMS tool became operational at the Aviation Weather Center in 2015. User reports showed ambulance pilots rely on the HEMS tool to make quick, life-saving decisions.

This FAA funded project is a collaborative effort NCAR, MIT-LL, NOAA-ESRL. Annual benefits to the national aviation system are estimated to be $27M.

NTDA is operational on all NEXRAD systems; this technology has helped reduce turbulence-related incidents by diagnosing the location of turbulence near storms.

Since 1996, pilots, dispatchers, the military, airlines, and airports have benefited from increased weather awareness because of the comprehensive weather information available on ADDS. Today, Operational ADDS is hosted at the National Weather Service Aviation Weather Center.  This site gets an average of 10 million hits per day with major users being commercial airline and general aviation pilots


Please direct questions/comments about this page to:

Matthias Steiner

Director, Aviation Applications Program