Weather sensing and data fusion to improve safety and reduce delays at major west coast airports
November 30, 1999
MIT Lincoln Laboratory Report ATC-290
The objective of this study was to analyze the weather sensing and data fusion required to improve safety and reduce delays at a number of west coast airports that are not currently scheduled to receive an Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS). This report considers the Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) and Portland, OR (PDX) international airports. A number of visits were made to the various ATC facilities to better understand their weather decision support operational needs. Analyses were made of an incident of lightning strikes to two aircraft at SEA in February 1999, and a prototype terminal winds product was developed for LAX that uses profilers as well as plane reports to update the the National Weather Service (NWS) Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) winds estimates. We found that an augmented ITWS could potentially address safety concerns for triggered lightning strikes and vertical wind shear in winter storms at Portland and Seattle. An augmented ITWS terminal winds product (that uses wind profiler data in addition to the current ITWS sensors) could provide very large delay reductions for LAX and SFO during winter storms as a component of a wake vortex advisory system. This augmented product also could provide significant delay reduction benefits at SEA. The sensors required to obtain the projected benefits at SFO do not exist currently. Portland may warrant additional sensors to address the vertical wind shear problems, and LAX would require additional sensors for a wake vortex advisory system. We recommend near-term experimental measurements at PDX to determine the optimum sensor mix and that an operational evaluation of the prototype augmented ITWS terminal winds product be carried out at LAX to determine if the current sensor mix can meet operational needs. Lightning strike data at SEA and PDX should be analyzed to determine if a proposed triggered lightning predictant is accurate.