DISCUSSION: With aviation becoming an increasingly demanding field for commercial travel, cargo, and military, often what remains overlooked are the crucial medical missions involved with emergency services. While emergency services may go unnoticed, pilots are under increased pressure to provide services under what may be a demanding environment. At the behest of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Weather Service (NWS) Aviation Weather Center came under increased pressure to design tools to indicate weather conditions for “short distance and low-altitude flights that are common for the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) community.”
The NWS indicated that after a review of the commercial HEMS accidents from January 1998 through December 2004, “revealed that controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and lack of operation control are predominant factors, particularly at night and during low visibility condition. Of the 27 fatal HEMS accidents, 21 occurred during night operations. Of the 21-night accidents, 16 of the operations originated under visual flight rules (VFR); the pilots inadvertently flew into IMC conditions, resulting in a CFIT accident.” The HEMS tool was specifically designed to service this particular community of pilots and flight services to alleviate issues of demanding environmental conditions.
The HEMS tool provides multiple fields of interest to pilots: ceiling, visibility, flight category, winds, relative humidity, temperature, icing, satellite, radar (base and composite reflectivity), Graphical AIRman’s METeorological Information (G-AIRMETs), Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMETs), Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Reports (METARs), Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs), and Pilot Reports (PIREPs). Within the tool, layers can be turned on and off even as more detail is introduced when zoomed in or out, additional tools within this include roads, navigational aids, airports and heliports. However, one of the most invaluable pieces to this tool is, “all 3D data including temperature, relative humidity, winds and icing potential are interpolated into AGL altitudes and can be sliced horizontally on 1000ft intervals up to 5000ft. The display includes a rolling 2-hour archive of observed data (with 15-minute intervals) and hourly forecasts out to 6 hours.”
This critical tool will undoubtedly provide a way to visualize a safer flight for pilots providing emergency medical services especially in low-altitude or short distance flights. Provided the interactive nature of the tool, is it with hopes that pilots gain increased awareness during their challenging and urgent flights.
For more information on aviation weather visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© 2020 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
DISCUSSION: According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2018 there where 19,636 total airports in the United States with 5,087 being available for public use. Of this, limited information exists regarding paved runways whether concrete or asphalt. As recent at 2013, 5,054 airports existed within the United States with paved runways with 189 over 3,046 meters, as stated by the The World Factbook, a publication of the Central Intelligence Agency. However, of note is there is only 1 ice runway in the continental United States that is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Lake Winnipesaukee, Alton Bay, New Hampshire.
Winter 2019-2020 has proved to be a challenging one for pilots wishing to use the Alton Bay Seaplane Base and Ice Runway. The runways are for public use, with runways 01W/19W at an elevation of 504 ft. This winter had proven a difficult one with mostly mild conditions seen throughout the United States, Alton Bay was a reflection of this. The New Hampshire Pilots Association indicated, “the depth of ice in the bay has generally been fluctuating between 5 and 9 inches of ice this season but we need a minimum of 12 inches of ice to get the plow truck safely on the ice.” In addition, long-range forecasts indicated a potential warming trend, approaching spring, further shutting down the infamous ice runway.
Long term forecast according to the National Weather Service,”
The ensemble and deterministic model solutions are in decent agreement on the long wave pattern through the start of next week. A weak impulse and associated cold front are sliding offshore as we begin the period...with rising heights and high pressure to follow for late Friday and Saturday. By Sunday...a more significant impulse over the southwest CONUS will then ride northeast and serve to flatten the ridge over the Gulf of Mexico and eastern CONUS. This system will close off then meander across the Great Lakes and northeast through the start of the new work week. At the surface...low pressure will track northeast across the Great Lakes and into eastern Canada with a secondary triple point low developing vicinity of the mid Atlantic coast. Precipitation with the system should breakout across the area on Sunday with thermal profile suggesting mainly snow across northern and mountain sections with a snow/rain north for the remainder. Precipitation should taper to a few lingering rain and snow showers by early Monday as the trailing surface front and secondary low slide well offshore. An upper trough will then linger through at least Tuesday along with clouds and widely scattered rain or snow showers.”
Moreover, compared to 2019, 12 inches of ice were seen for a useable runway at Alton Bay, in 2020, this has not been a possibility. While still early spring, temperatures are hovering above freezing and despite forecasted snow, it would not be enough to continually grow ice in the bay.
For further information on aviation topics visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© 2020 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Rare Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Clouds and the Impact On the Aviation Community (Image Credit: Hannah Peters)
Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds, aka billow clouds or shear clouds, are a rare sight to see. Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds are named after Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, whom have studied the physics of the instability that leads to this type of cloud formation.
These clouds look like ocean waves breaking as they come onto the shoreline. They can be visually appealing but can produce some underlying concern for pilots--both private and commercial. Associated with an unstable environment, these clouds are areas of vertical displacement of air parcels. The atmosphere is dynamically stable in nature, and if it isn’t, the environment quickly tries to correct itself. This is what makes Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds so rare. The strong areas of vertical displacement and higher winds near the upper levels cause the crests to overrun the troughs such as a wave in the ocean. This overrunning results in overturning similar to mountain wave development. These clouds typically form within the stable layer at altitudes above 16,500ft. This process shows the fluidity of the environment, but with the fluid nature there becomes a concern for upper-level turbulence.
This upper-level turbulence is found in thin patches near a strong jet stream. Clear air turbulence (CAT) is most common in association with Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds. CAT is nearly impossible to spot due to the small area that it covers, which in turn, makes it more dangerous. Since these clouds have such a short life span with a quick dissipation rate, they are hard to predict where they will occur. Aircraft flying in this layer can experience a brief burst of moderate to severe turbulence. Avoiding the layer where CAT forms due to Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds is key to ensuring a smooth, safe flight. As you can see, these clouds can be spectacular in nature but pose a significant threat to the aviation community.
Sources and more information:
©2020 Weather Forecaster Hannah Peters
Aviation Takes Leap to Support Carbon Offsetting and Reduction (Credit: Meteorologist Jessica Olsen)
DISCUSSION: Much to no ones surprise does air travel pose a large imprint on our carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Individually it is the largest contributor to emissions, allowing approximately 2% globally. For those wishing to live more sustainably, decreasing flights would aid in offsetting that imprint, however for some this isn’t always reasonable, examples include but are not limited to: work related travel, family, and military.
A pilot program conducted by CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) has garnered support from 78 countries to offset emissions. Royal Dutch Airlines KLM is leading the charge, pledging to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2020.
Private jet charter Victor, CEO Clive Jackson understands that private flights often generate 20 times more emissions per passenger than commercial airlines, and by using RocketRoute software, it assists in optimizing fuel efficiency through thoroughly planned flight routes.
Seemingly a drop in the bucket, but a step in the direction of becoming mindful and sustainable as air travel continues to remain a large industry consistently evolving. According to IATA (International Air Transport Association), as of January 1st, 2019 all carriers are required to report their CO2 emissions on an annual basis.
For more information on CORSIA and its reduction goals visit CORSIA fact sheet.
© 2020 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Now Testing: Experimental Alaska Aviation Guidance for Pilots Under VMC (Credit: Meteorologist Jessica Olsen)
DISCUSSION: The National Weather Service (NWS) has developed the Alaska Aviation Guidance (AAG), which is currently about experimental product. This product according to the NWS is designed to provide, “a short-term projection of weather conditions at select locations based off of Local Aviation Model Output Statistics (LAMP).” The primary goal of AAG is to supplement local aviation guidance that may have an AWOS/ASOS (Automated Weather/Surface Observing System) but no TAF (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast), both valuable resources used by pilots in obtaining outlook, and supplemental forecasts.
The AAG is primarily designed for use under Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) and within 6 hours for flights under 2 hours. Due to the nature of the AAG product being experimental, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations require that this product be used with METARS (METeorological Aerodrome Reports), Pilot reports (PIREPs), the Area Forecast (FA), Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMETs), and Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMETs).
It is expected that this experimental guidance will be open to use and suggesting for a period of 1 year. The product will be updated automatically every hour, with a new updated 6 hours forecast presented. Due to limitations within the LAMP guidance (Localized Aviation Model Output Statistics Program), a program designed to produce a statistical analysis, current guidance is not able to output convections, blowing snow or smoke.
For more information on aviation guidance visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© 2019 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Solar-powered Wing Gets Okay to Fly over Lana'i in Hawaiian Island Chain (Credit: Meteorologist Jessica Olsen, & HAPSMobile)
DISCUSSION: HAPSMobile, created December 21st, 2017 headquartered in Japan, was established to provide research, development, operation and management of solar HAPS (High Altitude Platform Station) and networking devices, by challenging the infrastructure of our existing technologies to help connect those around the world.
The actual HAPS station will be located in the stratosphere. The reason for this altitude is that in this area weather is often mild providing little wind speed for the HAPSMobile. The HAPSMobile HAWK30 is one in a fleet of solar-powered flying wings. The wingspan is 78 meters with a cruise speed of 110km/h with a flight duration of several months while running on a high energy density lithium ion battery. There are several potential uses to this solar powered wing, that could prove to be beneficial to various societies.
According the HAPSMobile it operates as a cell site with radio coverage of 200km in diameter, allowing carriers to deliver telecom network in a specific area with low cost. Sprint currently has filed a request with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to test the capability of transmitting signals from ground equipment to the HAWK30 above the island of Lana'i in Hawai’i. HAPSMobile received a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly the HAWK30 in Lanai’s stratosphere. While it is expected to fly at a relatively low altitude in comparison to say other items providing radio coverage, this will likely use the same frequency as one of a ground cellular site, making coverage in rural areas much more attainable. In addition to the potential for coverage in rural areas the implication for use during disasters could serve as a critical piece to the puzzle for responders who are faced with the daunting task of downed ground signal sites.
For other information on aviation, drones or other stratospheric events visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© 2019 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
HAPS MOBILE. (n.d.). Retrieved August 21, 2019, from https://www.hapsmobile.com/en/
Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel Used to Power Fleet for Fly-In to Increase Awareness of Carbon-Neutral Aviation Growth (Credit: RobbReport.com)
DISCUSSION: The European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) holds an annual 3-day event, for those in the industry bringing together “business leaders, government officials, manufacturers, flight department personnel, avionics firms, fractional providers, and charter/lease companies,” according to EBACE. In addition to the exhibitors showcase, static displays, various networking events, educational sessions, EBACE is also one of the most favorable opportunities to preview advancements in the aviation industry. 2019 proved to be a year to further expose its attendees to sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF).
The 2019 event, occurring May 21-23 in Geneva brought a record 23 aircraft participating in “an industry wide, sustainable alternative-fueled fly-in,” according to David Coleal, president of Bombardier Aviation and chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Environment Committee. Gulfstream along with Bombardier and other OEM members of the Industry Coalition on Sustainable Alternative Fuel. Gulfstream taking on a huge stake in flying in the G650ER, G600, G550 and G280, additionally having led the industry by having begun usage of its own SAJF as early as 2015.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicates the heavy use of commercial aviation in addition to rising fuel costs, seeking alternative fuels which could help alleviate some of those issues. “Their use could reduce emissions that impact surface air quality and global climate while expanding domestic energy sources that diversify fuel supplies, contribute to price and supply stability, and generate economic development in rural communities. The FAA is working to enable the US use of one billion gallons per year of “drop-in” sustainable alternative jet fuels by 2018.”
According to the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel is, “a general term used to describe the class of non-petroleum-based jet fuels (or blended components) that are being pursued by the industry to: reduce net life-cycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, enhance the sustainability of aviation, and enable drop-in jet fuel production (a means by which no changes are needed for aircraft or engine fuel systems, distribution of storage facilities).” Some components of SAJF include industrial waste, cooking oils and CO2 emissions.
While Gulfstream has been taking the lead to use SAJF for several years now, it has safely flown on SAJF for close to one million miles, saving an estimated 870 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Business aviation has continued to push the envelope to look for increasingly sustainable fuel options, and opting to play a vital role in the reduction of carbon emissions. The Air Transport Action Group estimates worldwide that 859 million tons of CO2 in 2017 came from flights, while globally humans produced over 40 billion tons. Moreover, the aviation industry produces around 12% of CO2 emission from all transport sources.
For more information on CO2, aviation and other global tropics visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© 2019 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
2019. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://ebace.aero/2019/
Cutler, D. (2019, July 23). 23 Jets Just Flew Into One of Aviation's Biggest Conventions Using Fuel Made From City Waste and Cooking Oil. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://robbreport.com/motors/aviation/aviation-sustainable-alternative-jet-fuel-2858814/
Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuels. (2014, June 04). Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/apl/research/alternative_fuels/
SIGMETs, AIRMETs, PIREPs - What You Need to Know Before You Go (Credit: Meteorologist Jessica Olsen & AWC)
DISCUSSION: Hazardous in-flight weather advisory service (HIWAS) is a program for broadcasting hazardous weather information on a continuous basis over selected VORs (VHF omnidirectional range, it effectively allows the receiver the measure its bearing to or from the beacon, when used in conjunction with a DME (distance measuring equipment) the measurements allow for a position fix, posing a two-fold benefit to using VORs. While HIWAS can be transmitted through the VOR, advisories that are sent to pilots include AIRMETS, SIGMETS, convective SIGMETs, and PIREPs (read below).
According to the Aviation Weather Center, AIRMETs, (AIRman's METeorological Information), "advises of weather that may be hazardous, other than convective activity, to single engine, other light aircraft, and Visual Flight Rule (VFR) pilots." These are often considered widespread, affecting an area of at least 3000 square miles, and are typically issued every 6 hours, which can be amended when needed due to condition/issuance change.
While a SIGMET (SIGnificant METeorological Information), according to the Aeronautical Information Manual (FAR AIM) is used to, "advise of non-convective weather that is potentially hazardous to all aircraft." These are often unscheduled but valid for a period of 4 hours, unless associated with a hurricane then valid for 6 hours, similarly to the AIRMET, it can be amended when needed. SIGMETs can be issued for reasons such as volcanic ash, severe icing not associated with thunderstorms, widespread dust storms or sandstorms lowering surface visibilities to below 3 miles, and a variety of other phenomena listed in the FAR AIM. Convective SIGMETs can also be issued and are associated with severe thunderstorms, embedded thunderstorms, squall line thunderstorms, and thunderstorms producing precipitation greater than or equal to heavy precipitation affecting 40 percent or more of an area at least 3000 square miles.
Lastly PIREPs (PIlot Weather REPorts), as stated by the Aviation Weather Center, "is reported by a pilot to indicate encounters of hazardous weather such as icing or turbulence." PIREPs are not limited to icing and turbulence but could include reports for ceilings at or below 5000 feet, wind shear, volcanic ash, and several other conditions found in the FAR AIM.
Aviators are given a variety of tools to interpret weather, in conjunction with present and future flights. While much of the reporting that pilots use are often available within the ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service), a tool that disseminates valuable information regarding current conditions, approach/departure, instructions and more, it is all being verified after the pilot reports the ICAO letter associated with the ATIS report indicating the pilot has reviewed current ATIS information to the controller (tower, ground, approach/departure, center), some ATIS reports will communicate SIGMETs/AIRMETs/PIREPs in addition to the standard, abbreviates or outlook brief that a pilot could obtain from 1800WXBrief.
For more information on aviation meteorology visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
© Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
F. (2014, April 3). Retrieved May 27, 2019, from http://www.faraim.org/aim/aim-4-03-14-437.html
N. (n.d.). What is an AIRMET? Retrieved from https://www.weather.gov/source/zhu/ZHU_Training_Page/Weather_Keys/AIRMETs/AIRMET.htm
Density Altitude Versus Pressure Altitude and Its Importance to Aviators (Credit: Federal Aviation Administration, & Meteorologist Jessica Olsen)
DISCUSSION: According to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations (AOPA), density altitude is pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature. It has been referred to as the actual altitude at which the plane “feels” it is flying. Whereas pressure altitude is the indicated altitude when an altimeter is set to 29.92 Hg. This density altitude has a direct correlation to aircraft performance. Typical performance is based on 15°C and 29.92 Hg, often found in the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH). However often when flying, conditions are rarely as the published conditions are a brief reference for performance.
The Federal Aviation Administration has put out a publication on Density Altitude, in an effort to increase pilot awareness of the subject when flying in other than standard conditions. High density altitude corresponds to reduces air density and thus a reduced aircraft performance. Keeping density altitude in mind, there are 3 factors that contribute to increased density altitude:
Effects on the aircraft are decreased aerodynamic performances, and diminished engine horsepower output. This in turn will influence takeoff distance, power available, climb rate and landing distance. Density altitude is said to increase takeoff distance, decrease rate of climb, increase true airspeed on approach and landing and increased landing roll, all critical elements in a pilot’s operation of the aircraft. The FAA recommend that if the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM)/Pilots Operating Handbook (POH) are unavailable use the Koch Chart to calculate adjustments. In addition to this, this does not account for leaning the mixture may be necessary for maximum power on takeoff, otherwise adding to the decreased performance if mixture is not leaned.
© 2019 Meteorologist Jessica Olsen
Federal Aviation Administration. (2008). Density Altitude. Retrieved April 15, 2019, from https://www.faasafety.gov/files/gslac/library/documents/2011/Aug/56396/FAA P-8740-02 DensityAltitude[hi-res] branded.pdf
DISCUSSION: Since the onset of the global aviation industry, there is no question that winter weather issues are consistently a major concern for the timeliness, the safety, and the overall reputation of given global aviation networks. Across the north-central U.S. and even more so across the northeastern U.S. states, it is not uncommon to find a Winter-time scenario where you find a relatively minor winter weather event or even an all-out blizzard slowing ground and air travel to a slow crawl (or even halt). The obvious impacts which most people think of is how a given winter storm will affect their specific travel plans and what that could mean for their upcoming schedule in terms of arrival times and other corresponding accommodations at their destination.
However, there is substantially more than just that which goes into figuring out how and to what extent winter weather can affect both national and international aviation networks and interconnected aviation networks therein. For starters, one of the major issues is that when a major snowstorm impacts (for example) the Interstate-95 (I-95) corridor from roughly Washington D.C. to Bangor, Maine, such a storm can impact major airports including (but certainly not limited to) Washington Dulles International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Boston Logan International Airport in a dramatic fashion.
Now, as much as such flight delays and/or cancellations can be a major inconvenience for impacted travelers trying to fly out of those cities, there are other “pieces to this puzzle” which are not always quite as obvious to the average traveler. More specifically, whenever a given flight is delayed and/or cancelled out of a given airport, all the passengers who are ticketed for a delayed and/or cancelled flight are consequently not able to make connecting flights at other airports which leads to increased airport and travel congestion in each impacted region due to a winter storm. Thus, this acts to prevent passengers from leaving and thus leads to a surplus of people awaiting flight arrangements for the following day with a finite number of flights scheduled to leave the airport on a given day. Thus, making the travel headaches in an impacted city that much more complicated.
Moreover, not only do major winter storms have the potential to impact regional and national travel, but they can often impact global aviation networks via a given winter storm preventing other flights from around the world to depart for any of the above impacted cities along the I-95 corridor. Therefore, many larger aircraft which are responsible for most of the service for longer international flights are consequently grounded which can potentially leave hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded and waiting for alternate connecting flights to get around the worst of a given snowstorm from cities spread around the world. Furthermore, there are only so many aircraft in a given commercial airline company which can sustain the mileage needed to get across large oceanic basin such as the Atlantic and/or the Pacific Oceans. This reality will place further limits on how long it will take a given airline to restore a sense of balance in their global aviation flight plan for the days and even to up a week after a given snowstorm comes to an end. Thus, this goes to show that the national and international impacts from a blockbuster winter storm are not even close to as simple as one may think.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz