Reducing severe weather delays in congested airspace with weather decision support for tactical air traffic management
Reducing congested airspace delays due to thunderstorms has become a major objective of the FAA due to the recent growth in convective delays. In 2000 and 2001 the key new initiative for reducing these convective weather delays was "strategic" traffic flow management (TFM) at time scales between 2 and 6 hours in advance using collaborative weather forecasts and routing strategy development. This "strategic" approach experienced difficulties in a large fraction of the weather events because it was not possible to forecast convective storm impacts on routes and capacities accurately enough to accomplish effective traffic flow management. Hence, we proposed in 2001 that there needed to be much greater emphasis on tactical air traffic management at time scales where it would be possible to generate much more accurate convective weather forecasts. In this paper, we describe initial operational results in the very highly congested Great Lakes and Northeast Corridors using weather products from the ongoing Corridor Integrated Weather System (CIWS) concept exploration. Key new capabilities provided by this system include very high update rates (to support tactical air traffic control), much improved echo-tops information, and fully automatic 2-hour convective forecasts using the latest "scale separation" storm tracking technologies. Displays were provided at major terminal areas, en route centers in the corridors, and the FAA Command Center. Substantial reduction in delays has been achieved mostly through weather product usage at the shorter time scales. Quantifying the achieved benefits for this class of products have raised major questions about the conceptual framework for traffic flow management in these congested corridors that must be addressed in the development of air traffic management systems to utilize the weather products.