No more turbulence?

Severe turbulence in an airplane is not only inconvenient, it may also be dangerous. Overhead bins may open and baggage items may fall on passengers' heads. Also, items may fly through the cabin. Watch a video about severe turbulence on an Aeroflot flight.

Cases of extreme turbulence have caused injuries to passengers and flight attendants. Although pilots try to avoid flying through turbulent areas, they do not always know they are approaching such an area. In those cases they simply cannot fly around the turbulent area and turbulence occurs unexpectedly.

Turbulence Aware

This may change as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched a data tool called Turbulence Aware that will help airlines collaborate in real-time during flights to avoid turbulence.

The tool augments an airline’s ability to forecast and avoid turbulence by pooling and sharing turbulence data generated by participating airlines as it happens.

So far, they rely on pilots and weather advisories to battle turbulence and its impact on flight operations. However, such tools have limitations due to inconsistencies in the level and quality of information available.

Standardization of turbulence information

Pilots have no standardized scale available to them when reporting an incident, other than 'light', 'moderate' or 'severe'. Those terms are highly subjective due to pilot experience and aircraft size.

Turbulence Aware will instead collect data from multiple contributing carriers - under rigorous quality control - before consolidating the information into a single, anonymized, objective source database, which is accessible to participants.

Actionable information

The data is then turned into actionable information when fed into an airline’s dispatch or airborne alerting systems. It is the first global, real-time, detailed and objective information for pilots and operations professionals to manage turbulence.

Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Aer Lingus already signed up, while Delta has already begun contributing their data to the program.

Safer and more comfortable flights

Alexandre de Juniac

Alexandre de Juniac

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO says: “In the case of Turbulence Aware, the more precise forecasting of turbulence will provide a real improvement for passengers, whose journeys will be even safer and more comfortable." And he adds: "Turbulence Aware is a great example of the potential for digital transformation in the airline industry.”

Once the system will be in full use turbulence may not be avoided in all cases, but it will certainly become even more rare than it currently is.

Tags: turbulence, Turbulent Aware

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