Integrated Weather and Air Traffic Test Facility
In the Integrated Weather and Air Traffic Test Facility, Laboratory staff work on improving flight safety and efficiency during severe weather events. The facility features a high-fidelity airport control tower simulator and a real-time operations center for live tests of prototypes.
Staff use the tower simulator to evaluate prototype automation systems – including electronic touch-screen flight-data displays and enhanced surface-situation displays – and algorithms for sequencing and scheduling arriving and departing aircraft at an airport. Air traffic simulations with prescripted events allow staff to explore stressing situations. Testing in this controlled environment helps staff identify and reduce potential technical problems in the prototypes before they are deployed for evaluation at operational field sites.
The computer systems in the facility continuously assimilate and archive live air traffic and weather data from across the United States. Data streams from more than 150 NEXRAD radars are used to validate algorithm improvements to better detect hazardous winds, icing, or hail. Aviation weather algorithms and other technologies developed in this facility contribute to currently operating systems, including the Integrated Terminal Weather System, the Corridor Integrated Weather System, the Route Availability Planning Tool, and the Offshore Precipitation Capability. Staff are developing future systems, such as the NextGen Weather Processor, which will consolidate the weather tracking and analysis capabilities of multiple legacy systems.
The facility's computers automatically generate detailed statistical summaries showing the interaction of aircraft with weather in the congested Northeast corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. This information is made available on a website every day. Air traffic managers, airlines, and airport authorities can review the statistics to assess flight and air traffic control efficiency and strategize improvements for the future. Specific problems identified by these statistics help guide the Laboratory's efforts to improve decision support systems for air traffic management.