Weather is a cause for a majority of traffic delays. Emerging weather patterns can force clouds lower and restrict landings and departures. Brewing storm systems can unleash thunder and lightning in the summer. Winter storms close runways and strand passengers, sometimes during the most popular travel days of the year. New NextGen technologies, however, are giving pilots and air traffic controllers the tools to alleviate delays and cancellations—while maintaining safety—when weather becomes a problem.
Below, explore different stories from across the country where implementation of satellite-based infrastructure is helping pilots, passengers and air traffic controllers confront weather problems.
Weather or Not
NextGen technologies help air traffic controllers work around weather problems that cause system delays. Since system-wide information profiles are created for each flight, airplanes can share data with controllers all across the country to find routes around weather systems. Precise satellite technology onboard aircraft opens up safe arrival and departure windows that would previously have been closed for weather. Watch the video below to learn more.
Ski season in Colorado means big business, and big bucks from tourism. Traditionally, unpredictable weather from November to April meant about 75 flight delays per day at some hard-to-reach airports. Complaints were rampant. Frustrations were elevated. Following the installation of critical NextGen infrastructure the complaints have dropped to zero. How precise is it? Before NextGen controllers could only accept four arrivals and departures per hour. With NextGen: 15 to 20 per hour.
A Christmas Story
Christmas Eve. 2009. A storm blowing through Dallas shuts down all but two runways. Passengers eager to get home or see family for the holidays are stranded in a place they don't want to be stranded. That was the world before NextGen. What would have happened if new technologies had been in place then? Minimal delays of 45 minutes.
How big of an impact is NextGen having on flight cancellations? Alaska Airlines reported in 2011 that 820 flights into and out of Juneau International Airport would have been cancelled if precision technologies were not in place. That is more than two cancellations per day saved.
Percentage Of Delays That Are Attributable To Weather
"All you need is one aircraft to land and the benefits begin," said Warren Strickland, the FAA's New York Area Program Integration Officer. "With connections, the benefits are exponential."
With precision instrumentation built into the national airspace, we can shape the future of flying. Reduced visibility requirements -- made possible through precision navigation -- means 85 additional arrivals per day at Philadelphia International Airport.
Delays and cancellations are costly. In Boston, officials estimated that the new technology is saving them $5.7 million per year.