For Immediate Release

Release No. ASW 06-01
April 25, 2001
Contact: John Clabes, Roland Herwig
Phone: (405) 954-7500

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today dedicated a new tool for air traffic controllers, the Weather Systems Processor (WSP).

The ceremony was held at Albuquerque International Sunport because Albuquerque has been closely tied to development of the system, and the event marks the first WSP deployment to radar-served airports around the country.

"The WSP effort highlights FAA's mission of ensuring aviation safety, and focuses on a major threat to safety, the weather. Ensuring safe and efficient operation of the National Airspace System (NAS) while providing for anticipated growth is the FAA's top priority," said Ruth Leverenz, FAA's assistant administrator for region and center operations.

The WSP is an add-on to existing aircraft tracking radars. WSP hardware and software advances air traffic safety by providing timely information to controllers and pilots about potentially hazardous microburst and wind shear weather events. The system also improves the management of air traffic in air space near the airport by forecasting gust front-induced wind shifts, detecting precipitation and tracking storms. The result can be increased safety and fewer delays.

A map-like geographical presentation helps controllers more effectively manage aircraft arrivals and departures when weather hazards are present. Tower controllers see two computer-size screens. One, called a ribbon display, provides weather information as text. The other monitor, the graphic situation display, paints a rapidly updated and brightly colored two-dimensional picture of weather conditions, movement and the predicted future position of weather cells in relation to an airport's runways.

"WSP is a significant aid in terminal air traffic management during adverse weather conditions, providing both safety and delay benefits to the flying public," said FAA's Mike Baldridge, air traffic manager at the airport. "There is improved safety through warnings of wind shear events and gust front activity that might affect runway departure and landing zones."

Delay benefits come from the reduction of costs due to delayed and diverted flights, passenger delays at destination airports, and downstream costs when delayed aircraft or flight crews are unable to complete subsequent legs on the schedule.

The new software and hardware is a modification to airport surveillance radars already in place for tracking of aircraft. FAA has sponsored Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Lab to develop machine-intelligent wind shear detection algorithms since the early 1980s.

In addition to hosting the first operational WSP prototype, Albuquerque was also site of the first airport installation of a limited production system under the existing WSP contract with Northrop Grumman. There are two additional limited production systems at airports in Austin, Texas, and Norfolk, Va.