Weather sensing and data fusion to improve safety and reduce delays at major west coast airports
September 11, 2000
In this paper we present results from a recently completed study of weather sensing and data fusion to improve safety and reduce delays at major west coast airports. With the exception of a summer stratus burn-off prediction project at San Francisco, these airports have received much less attention in terms of advanced FAA terminal weather decision support systems than major airports east of Los Angeles. This is because the principal concern for terminal weather decision support to date has been microburst-induced wind shear, which is very infrequent at the west coast airports. However, three factors warrant a reexamination of weather decision support provided to these major west coast airports: 1. The increased emphasis on significantly improving aviation safety while reducing delays at major airports in the face of expected increases in operations rates within the National Airspace System (NAS), 2. New air traffic management technology such as terminal automation, collaborative decision making (CDM), and weather adaptive wake vortex spacing systems, and 3. Advances in terminal weather decision support technology represented by the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) [including various P31 enhancements to ITWS (Evans and Wolfson, 2000)] The airports considered in this study were the Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Portland (PDX) and Seattle (SEA) International Airports. It should be noted that because these airports did not receive a Terminal Doppler Weather Radar, there currently is no plan to provide them with an ITWS. LAX, SF0 and PDX are scheduled to receive an ASR-9 Weather System Processor (WSP). The paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 discusses the study's methodology and provides background information on delays and weather phenomena for these airports in the context of other major US airports as well as applicable air traffic management (ATM) and terminal weather system technology. Section 3 summarizes the principal findings for the four airports. We conclude with a summary of the potential benefits of improved weather sensing and data fusion that might be provided at these west coast airports by an augmented ITWS as well as recommendations for further studies.