Comparative analysis of terminal wind-shear detection systems
January 20, 2008
Low-level wind shear, especially a microburst, is very hazardous to aircraft departing or approaching an airport. The danger became especially clear in a series of fatal commercial airliner accidents in the 1970s and 1980s at U.S. airports. In response, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) developed and deployed three ground-based low-altitude wind-shear detection systems: the Low Altitude Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) (Wilson and Gramzow 1991), the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) (Michelson et al. 1990), and the Airport Surveillance Radar Weather Systems Processor (ASR-9 WSP) (Weber and Stone 1995). Since the deployment of these sensors, commercial aircraft wind-shear accidents have dropped to near zero in the U.S. This dramatic decrease in accidents caused by wind shear appears to confirm the safety benefits provided by these detection systems. In addition, the broad area measurement capability of the TDWR and WSP provides ancillary delay reduction benefits, for example, by forecasting airport wind shifts that may require runway reconfiguration. The current deployment strategy for these various windshear detection systems is justified by an earlier integrated wind-shear systems cost-benefit analysis (Martin Marietta 1994). Since that time, conditions in the national airspace system (NAS) have evolved, such as the installation of onboard predictive wind-shear detection systems in an increasing number of aircraft, improved pilot training for wind-shear hazard identification, avoidance, and recovery, and further integration of observed wind-shear data into terminal weather systems. Given the tight fiscal environment at the FAA in recent years, the cost of maintaining the wind-shear detection systems has also become an issue. All systems require periodic service life extension programs (SLEPs). In light of these developments, the FAA has tasked MIT Lincoln Laboratory to provide an updated cost-benefit study on their terminal wind-shear detection systems. One of the key factors in estimating the benefits of a terminal wind-shear detection system is its performance. Thus, it is necessary to quantify the wind-shear detection probability for each sensor, preferably on an airport-by-airport basis. To consider sensors that are not yet deployed, a model must be developed that takes into account the various effects that factor into the detection probability. We have developed such a model. The focus of this paper is on this model and the results obtained with it.