Distribution of Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) products using web technology
The Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) is a capital investment of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide a fully-automated, integrated terminal aviation weather information system that will improve the safety, efficiency, and capacity of major terminals. The ITWS acquires data from FAA and National Weather Service sensors as well as from aircraft in flight within the terminal area. Demonstration systems are being operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory (MIT/LL) Weather Sensing Group at four airport terminal areas: New York, NY; Orlando, FL; Memphis, TN; and Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX. Real-time graphical weather information from the ITWS demonstration systems is relayed to primary users (airport towers, en route centers, TRACONS, the Command Center, and major airlines, etc.) via a situation display (SD) that consists of a Sun workstation and, a dedicated data line to the ITWS site. For users who do not have access to a fully operational SD or who want additional flexibility for accessing the ITWS information, MIT/LL operates a demonstration ITWS web server that provides the information for viewing with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) web browsers over the Internet and via the Collaborative Decision Making Network (CDMnet). This distribution of ITWS products has provided shared situational awareness between widely separated users. By sharing a common view of the same operational environment, controllers, dispatchers and other aviation decision makers and stakeholders have been better able to understand and coordinate the decisions that affect air traffic in the terminal area and surrounding en route airspace. In particular, by having up-to-the-minute weather information readily available to airline dispatch, safety during hazardous weather in the terminal area has been improved on a number of occasions at the ITWS demonstration sites (Evans, 2000). With the upcoming deployment of the ITWS as an operational FAA system to 44 major airports, a priority for the FAA is the distribution of the ITWS information from the production systems to airline dispatch and other non-FAA users. The operational ITWS is not designed to support SDS at the major airlines. Hence, distribution of ITWS information via a mechanism such as the Internet and the CDMnet is essential if the safety and coordination benefits achieved with the ITWS demonstration systems are to be obtained with the production ITWS. Because many airlines do not allow Internet access at all locations within the dispatch office, the current plan is to use CDMnet as the primary vehicle for ITWS data distribution to non-FAA users. However, to increase the availability of ITWS information to the broader ITWS user community, efforts are underway to make the data available on the Internet as well. Use of the Internet and CDMnet could also facilitate low-cost distribution of the ITWS information to additional FAA and non-FAA users alike. This paper describes the evolution of the ITWS demonstration web server, discusses the design of the web server and data processing, details how to access the web page and what products are currently available, presents some access statistics and current airline users, and discusses some future work which will allow for wide distribution of the production ITWS information.