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Dodging the ThunderstormsJuly 14 – Weather accounts for about 70 percent of flight delays – with thunderstorms a prime cause. To help tackle this problem, an upgraded Corridor Integrated Weather System (CIWS), used by controllers to move aircraft around bad weather in the heavily congested Northeast corridor since 2001, has now expanded its geographic coverage to include all of the continental United States. In June, CIWS underwent a major software deployment that allows it to capture greater amounts of weather data.

The new prototype system processes, generates, distributes and displays its weather products to traffic management personnel and area supervisors. 

Using CIWS, which provides better knowledge of future storm positions, controllers are able to keep air routes open longer before being impacted by weather, as well as reopened earlier.  This allows for more efficient rerouting around storms, and information on current and predicted storm tops allows aircraft to find opportunities to safely fly above storm areas.

CIWS is in use at numerous locations, including the Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, VA., eight Air Route Traffic Control Center facilities, six large Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities, as well as several airline operations centers. 

The new CIWS prototype has shown that fully-automated, high-resolution, three-dimensional weather information, providing zero to two hour forecasts of storm locations, can significantly improve the ability of air traffic control to utilize the maximum amount of safe airspace during severe thunderstorms. 

CIWS improves air traffic control productivity by increasing the time required to develop and execute effective convective weather mitigation plans.