Mar 23, 2022 - Economy

Summer forecast: Fewer weather delays at the airport

Radar image of flight traffic and weather near Chicago.

FAA data shows the effect of weather on flight arrivals (pink) and departures (yellow) in Chicago. Photo courtesy of FAA

National Weather Service meteorologists can now predict minute-by-minute weather conditions for individual arrival and departure routes at the nation's 30 busiest airports — which should translate to fewer delays for travelers.

Why it matters: Better weather data synced with actual flight routes will help air traffic controllers as they direct planes to dodge potentially dangerous storms.

The big picture: When bad weather is approaching an airport, air traffic controllers often hold or reroute flights in the name of safety.

  • That's inconvenient for passengers, and can quickly snowball into systemwide delays across the country.

How it works: Each of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 22 air traffic control centers has a weather unit on site, with meteorologists providing weather information to air traffic controllers making decisions about takeoffs, landings and routing.

  • The forecast system is accurate, but until now it wasn't synced to show the departure and arrival routes at each airport.
  • Now, says the FAA, the datasets are combined in one place, providing a more comprehensive and detailed view of thunderstorms, wind shifts, precipitation, icing conditions and turbulent airspace.

The bottom line: With up-to-the-minute data, controllers can make better decisions about where to send aircraft to avoid weather problems.

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