For airlines, turbulence is a leading cause of injuries among passengers and crew members and leads to higher fuel costs and consequent carbon emissions as aircraft maneuver to avoid bumpy air. In 2009, an Airbus A330 flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris encountered a combination of severe weather conditions, including thunderstorms and turbulence, over the Atlantic Ocean. The crew struggled to maintain control of the aircraft, and it crashed into the ocean, resulting in the loss of all 228 passengers and crew. There are several strategies for evading turbulence, but the surest method is sharing data from other aircraft that have flown through the same airspace, like through the Turbulence-Mitigation Data Platform. Sharing data and compiling algorithms for analyzing atmospheric conditions and the effects on turbulence improves with more aircraft involved in collecting data.
By utilizing the platform, aviation stakeholders can access timely and accurate turbulence information, enabling them to make informed decisions regarding flight planning, route selection, altitude changes and other operational adjustments to enhance safety and passenger comfort. A Turbulence-Mitigation Data Platform is a system or technology designed to collect, analyze and provide information about turbulence in order to assist aviation operations in mitigating its effects. Such a platform typically combines various data sources and tools to provide real-time or near real-time turbulence information to pilots, air traffic controllers and airlines.
The platform collects data from multiple sources, including weather radar systems, weather satellites, ground-based weather stations and other sensors. This data is used to monitor atmospheric conditions and detect areas of potential turbulence. The platform then utilizes advanced weather forecasting models and algorithms to predict turbulence conditions. It takes into account factors such as wind patterns, temperature gradients and atmospheric pressure to generate turbulence forecasts for specific flight routes and altitudes. Then, the platform integrates and analyzes various data streams to generate a comprehensive turbulence picture. This includes real-time weather data, aircraft reports (such as pilot reports or automated turbulence reports), and historical turbulence data.
Machine learning and data analytics techniques may be employed to identify patterns and correlations to enhance turbulence prediction and analysis. The platform then provides graphical representations and visualizations of turbulence data, allowing pilots and air traffic controllers to easily interpret and understand turbulence conditions. This includes turbulence intensity maps, turbulence probability charts, or color-coded displays indicating areas of turbulence severity.
The Turbulence-Mitigation Data platform can even be integrated with existing flight operations systems, such as airline operations centers or flight management systems, to provide turbulence information directly to pilots and operational staff. This integration enables proactive flight planning, route optimization and the decision support to minimize turbulence encounters.
Launched in 2018, “Turbulence Aware” collates the anonymized turbulence data from thousands of flights operated worldwide by airlines that participate in the program.
“The real-time, accurate information enables pilots and dispatchers to choose optimal flight paths, avoiding turbulence and flying at optimum levels to maximize fuel efficiency and thereby reduce CO2 carbon emissions,” the International Air Transport Association said.
Twenty different airlines currently participate in the platform, representing more than 1,900 aircraft providing data on a daily flight-by-flight basis. Last year the cooperative effort produced 31 million reports.
“Accurate and timely data empowers crews to improve safety by avoiding turbulence,” IATA’s director general Willie Walsh said. “The more contributors we have, the more everyone benefits. The addition of ANA and WestJet enhances our coverage especially in Asia Pacific and North America.”
Recently, IATA has announced that Japan’s Air Nippon Airways (ANA) and WestJet have both signed on to the organization’s Turbulence Aware Platform. The announcement came at the 79th IATA Annual General Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.