Review and analysis
of a January 16, 2014,
major turbulence event
Author:
John Thivierge
2
Major turbulence
event analysis
Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event
On January 16, 2014, United Airlines flight 89 from
Newa...
Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event
The aviation industry is in need of flight weather
hazar...
Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event
5
Our team reviewed its forecasts for January 16,
2014, ...
Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event
6
There is another significant drop in turbulence severi...
Schneider Electric USA, Inc.
9110 West Dodge Road
Omaha, NE 68114
Phone: 800-610-0777
Fax: 402-255-8125
www.schneider-elec...
Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event
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Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event

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On January 16, 2014, United Airlines flight 89 from Newark to Beijing departed at 12:55 p.m. Eastern, carrying 189 passengers and 16 crew members. Forty-five minutes into the flight, food and beverage service had just begun when the plane began to experience severe turbulence. Pilots were not expecting turbulence of that nature; it was so severe that it injured five flight attendants and the plane had to return to the Newark Liberty International Airport.

The aviation industry is in need of flight weather hazards forecasts that are timely, targeted, and not dependent on operations and planning managers to interpret potentially dangerous and costly situations. Our newest, patented model delivers better-defined turbulence, icing, and thunderstorm forecasts more frequently, based on global weather data models and a high definition U.S. model, which help to reduce the need for interpretation.

Author: John Thivierge

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Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event

  1. 1. Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event Author: John Thivierge
  2. 2. 2 Major turbulence event analysis
  3. 3. Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event On January 16, 2014, United Airlines flight 89 from Newark to Beijing departed at 12:55 p.m. Eastern, carrying 189 passengers and 16 crew members. Forty-five minutes into the flight, food and beverage service had just begun when the plane began to experience severe turbulence. Pilots were not expecting turbulence of that nature; it was so severe that it injured five flight attendants and the plane had to return to the Newark Liberty International Airport. Traditionally, air turbulence forecasts provide a meteorologist’s interpretation of weather model data, as well as real-time reporting from pilots, covering broad areas and spans of time. In addition, relying on reports from pilots means that flights still have to experience turbulence in order for subsequent flights to avoid those areas. Today’s forecasts are divided into generic categories, with basic details for light, moderate, or severe hazards. Additionally, these forecasts cover large geographical areas and altitude ranges. For example, a forecast could read: moderate turbulence from FL250-400. With information available over such widespread areas, it forces flight planners, dispatchers, and pilots to make assumptions and chance the severity of turbulence they’ll encounter, or to route around large areas, adding both time and fuel costs to the flight. Pilots and flight planners need early, proactive information in order to make routing decisions before a plane is en route. With generic, unspecified turbulence forecasts, pilots are unable to discern genuine threats from manageable conditions, leading to issues in the air. What if flight planners, operations managers, and pilots had access to accurate, up-to- date hazard forecasts — complete with aircraft and altitude-specific information? 3 Event analysis At Schneider Electric, our flight hazard forecast solutions provide hourly high resolution turbulence, icing, and thunderstorm forecasts based on multiple global weather models. This approach is opposed to traditional forecasts offered today that are only issued a few times daily and cover large generically-defined areas. Our solution offers continuously-updated, detailed geographic alerts that allow flight planners and pilots to proactively preplan and avoid flight hazards while airborne. At the time of the incident, radar images were clear (as shown here), and although other pilots had reported turbulence in the area, they were at different altitudes and flight paths. As a result, the crew of United Airlines flight 89 did not have specific information to show the severity of the turbulence they would encounter. This image shows the SIGMETs for turbulence at the time of the event. Notice the large area of potential turbulence over the East Coast issued for FL130-330. This requires interpretation by both pilots and flight planners due to the large geographical area, as well as the large vertical component. (Image provided by NOAA, ADDS)
  4. 4. Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event The aviation industry is in need of flight weather hazards forecasts that are timely, targeted, and not dependent on operations and planning managers to interpret potentially dangerous and costly situations. Our newest, patented model delivers better-defined turbulence, icing, and thunderstorm forecasts more frequently, based on global weather data models and a high definition U.S. model, which help to reduce the need for interpretation. Available both in graphical and digital formats, it can be used in flight following, planning, and decision support systems to automatically optimize routes based on user-defined variables. Airlines and aircraft operators can plan less-circuitous routes, reducing overall operating costs, fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions with digital integration of flight hazards with numerous flight systems. Our flight hazards forecast offers an industry-first Eddy Dissipation Rate (EDR) based global turbulence forecast that integrates mountain wave, boundary layer, convective, and upper level clear air turbulence into a single forecast product — the higher the EDR number, the more violent the turbulence. EDR is the universal measure of turbulence, based on the rate at which energy dissipates in the atmosphere. It is based on quantitative — not qualitative — forecasts that are related to thresholds set by aircraft manufacturers and define the specific aircraft types at risk for certain types of turbulence. The scale is from zero to one. An EDR of less than 0.10 is equivalent to no turbulence for most aircraft; 0.15 to 0.34 is light; 0.35 to 0.55 is moderate; and greater than 0.55 is severe turbulence. Forecasts can be identified for multiple flight levels, and are displayed in a layered view to optimize flight levels. We also include aircraft-specific icing forecasts based on NASA research on ice accretion specific to individual air foils. Models are updated frequently with location-specific information and in a high-resolution presentation. Additionally, the product contains a global, radar-like thunderstorm forecast that helps identify precise areas of convective activity, letting pilots and planners know which areas to avoid. The system is rooted in scientific calculations, not interpretations of weather conditions. Alerts are generated worldwide while the aircraft is in the air, based on the aircraft operator’s specific parameters along the planned route. This allows a flight’s aircraft dispatcher and captain to decide on the best, minimum-cost reroute during a flight if forecast conditions suddenly change. Location- specific alerts are exclusive to our organization. Information can be integrated into existing flight planning solutions, allowing flight planners to better plan ahead — specifically for long-duration flights, with forecasts that extend for more hours and are updated more frequently. Along with our weather forecasts deemed the most accurate in the industry for the last seven years, our single-source aviation weather solution vastly improves awareness of adverse weather for flight operations managers, flight planners, and pilots. As a result, the interpretation traditionally needed to determine hazards in the air can be minimized, allowing aviation operations to optimize fuel and operations costs, reduce the risk of aircraft damage, and improve passenger comfort and safety. The Schneider Electric solution 4
  5. 5. Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event 5 Our team reviewed its forecasts for January 16, 2014, and found that our system’s flight hazards forecast was able to predict the turbulence experienced by United Airlines flight 89 up to four hours in advance — more than enough time to reroute the plane and save on the costs and inconvenience of turning the plane back to the airport. In addition, our forecasts show that the turbulence decreased significantly at higher altitudes, as opposed to the traditional turbulence forecast for that day, which called for severe turbulence from FL130-330. A closer look According to our forecast, United Airlines flight 89’s flight path to get to cruising altitude at FL270 (shown above) took the plane directly through a band of severe turbulence, rated at 0.6 to 0.7 on the EDR scale. The turbulence that day became less severe at higher altitudes. Shown at right, at FL300, the turbulence values on the flight path ranged from 0.4 to 0.5.
  6. 6. Review and analysis of a January 16, 2014, major turbulence event 6 There is another significant drop in turbulence severity at FL 320; now the forecast shows an EDR of 0.3. Turbulence was forecasted to diminish almost entirely above FL340. Ultimately, our forecast shows that United Airlines flight 89 most likely could have avoided severe turbulence entirely with a slight flight plan modification, flying more east of the forecasted severe turbulence. A sample route change, shown here, could have cut costs and ensured safety.
  7. 7. Schneider Electric USA, Inc. 9110 West Dodge Road Omaha, NE 68114 Phone: 800-610-0777 Fax: 402-255-8125 www.schneider-electric.com/us ©2014SchneiderElectric.Allrightsreserved. February 2014

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