Comparing convective weather avoidance models and aircraft-based data
August 4, 2008
The Convective Weather Avoidance Model (CWAM), developed in collaboration with NASA, translates convective weather information into a Weather Avoidance Field (WAF), to determine if pilots will route around convective regions. The WAF provides an estimate of the probability of pilot deviation around convective weather in en route airspace as a function of time, horizontal location, and flight altitude . The results of the WAF can used to create reroutes around regions of convective weather where pilots are more likely to deviate. If reliable WAF information is provided to the cockpit and ground, pilot decisions may become more predictable, simplifying the task of air traffic control in convective weather. The improvement and validation of CWAM requires inference of pilot intent from flight trajectory data, which is challenging. The process currently involves laborious human review of the results of automated deviation detection algorithms. Both previous CWAM studies and a recent validation study  illustrate the difficulties and limitations of attempting to infer pilot intent from flight trajectory data. Furthermore, observed flight tracks may not correctly represent pilot preference. In some instances, pilots may have penetrated airspace that they would rather have avoided or they may have avoided airspace that was easily passable. In order to improve and assess the accuracy of the WAF, it is desirable to compare WAF predictions of pilot intent with direct evidence of the airborne experience during weather encounters in en route airspace, such as normal acceleration. To achieve this, a series of flights using a research aircraft was conducted. In the summer of 2008, four research flights (three on 17 July and one on 14 August) were flown in and around convective activity in the upper Midwestern United States to gather aircraft data that could be correlated to the WAF and other remotely-sensed weather data. The aircraft, a Rockwell Sabreliner Model 50 research aircraft (similar to the Sabreliner Model 40 production model) owned by Rockwell-Collins, flew through and around convective activity while recording on-board accelerations for comparison to the WAF deviation probabilities encountered along the flight trajectory. Aircraft state data, on-board weather radar images, video, photographs and pilot narrative from the cockpit were also collected. This paper briefly describes the CWAM model and WAF. Description of the data collection methodology is then presented. Following that section are descriptions of the flights comparing radar data from the flight deck with ground-based weather radar and the WAF. Visual observations and pilot narrative from the flight deck are also presented. Next, the normal acceleration data from on-board accelerometer data are compared with WAF. Finally, conclusions and suggestions for further study are presented.