System could smooth out airplane trips

Sept. 19, 2012 at 3:27 PM
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BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A new turbulence avoidance system, the first at a U.S. airport, promises relief for passengers who dread bumpy rides to mountainous destinations, officials say.

The Federal Aviation Administration formally commissioned the system, developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in July for Alaska's Juneau International Airport.

The system -- using a network of wind measuring instruments and computational formulas to interpret rapidly changing atmospheric conditions -- gives pilots data they can use to steer away from patches of potentially dangerous turbulence, an NCAR release reported Wednesday.

"By alerting pilots to areas of moderate and severe turbulence, this system enables them to fly more frequently and safely in and out of the Juneau airport in poor weather," Alan Yates, NCAR program manager, said. "It allows pilots to plan better routes, helping to reduce the bumpy rides that passengers have come to associate with airports in these mountainous settings."

NCAR researchers say the system could help at other airports that often have notoriously severe turbulence, in areas ranging from Southern California and the U.S. Mountain West to Norway and New Zealand.

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