JETS NEED SATELLITE WEATHER FORECASTING by Roger Rapoport
Lessons Unlearned – Another Deadly Crash
The latest major airline disaster involving an Air Asia jet should prompt the airline industry to immediately upgrade long-range weather forecasting and flight tracking on transoceanic flights carrying millions of passengers around the world every day. Once again the industry and regulatory agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and European Air Safety Agency have ignored devastating warnings from accident investigators who have probed earlier crashes that have killed others.
On-the-shelf technology would make it possible for pilots to avoid dangerous storms that have triggered aviation accidents on long overwater flights not covered by ground-based radar. The cost, about $1 million per plane, could easily be covered by the billions airlines are currently saving due to sharply lower fuel costs and/or ticket surcharges.”
While investigators have not yet concluded what happened to Air Asia 8501 last month, the failure of the industry to heed lessons learned from the 2009 crash in the South Atlantic compromises the future of aviation. Air France 447 went down on a flight from Brazil to France in an ice-producing storm, and 228 were killed. I interviewed 300 people involved with that crash, that a pilot program with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the FAA and United Airlines proved that that long-range (500 miles or more) satellite weather forecasts received onboard make it possible for pilots to fly around dangerous storms that can produce dangerous high-altitude icing. “
Using existing satellite technology that NCAR’s Aviation Digital Data Servicecreated with Aeronautical Radio Inc., the system can uplink real-time satellite weather information to planes in areas where there is no ground radar coverage.
As NCAR’s Bruce Carmichael has pointed out, this is important because onboard radar can only see for a little over 100 miles (roughly 12 minutes), ahead and it is definitely not able to identify the kind of crystal ice that can potentially freeze airspeed monitoring pitot tubes and stall engines. This week, initial investigator analysis of Air Asia crash data found the jet had climbed abnormally fast, then stalled and fell into the sea as it flew in a storm between Indonesia's Surabaya to Singapore. Analysts said the situation was reminiscent of the Air France incident.
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