Delta Flights Are Getting Less Turbulence – Here’s Why

Ahhh turbulence, the mainstay of air travel. Like the ocean storms of the age of sail, turbulence is inexplicitly linked with flying. We all know about the mild bumps that wake us up from sleep to the downright terrifying stories of a plane falling a thousand feet in twenty seconds.

But one airline has started to remove this ‘fact of life’ from their operations, Delta Airlines.

Delta Airbus A220

Delta Airlines has less turbulence than the competition.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently met with Delta, to congratulate them on being the only airline in America to reduce turbulence across their network, despite growing in size. They were largely confused, as other airlines seemed to have more and more reports of turbulence as they opened more routes and flew more flights, but Delta was bucking the trend.

How?

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By changing the game and doing away with nearly 100 years of aviation tradition.

How do normal airlines deal with turbulence?

You see, other airlines generally deal with turbulence all in the same way. A plane will fly along a specific route and either be warned by local air traffic controllers about a rough stormy area (turbulence is generally associated with storms and hurricanes) or if they themselves experience a rough patch, they will create a PIREP or Pilot Report of the rough area.

Other pilots following the plane nearby will avoid the dangerous sky and move around the patch, burning fuel and delaying their arrival. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will avoid it, as the size and scope of the turbulence are unknown.

There are several disadvantages to this process:

  • If you are the first flight of the day, or in a region, you are essentially a guinea pig.
  • There is no way to really translate altitude of the turbulence, how it would affect the plane if it’s getting worse or better, movement of turbulence etc.
  • This causes airlines to burn a significant amount of fuel to go around storms.
  • This movement means other flights around need to slow down or dodge these roaming jets.
  • Passengers don’t know when the bumps will come, and this creates anxiety as well as frustration as they can’t access their stowage or bathrooms.
  • Additional greenhouse emissions are released due to the extra flying.

Delta, on the other hand, has approached this problem with technology. At their command center, they use a team of over 20 meteorologists to study the air along their routes in great detail. This information is then processed in vast supercomputers that are able to create a map or cross-section of the sky.

This information is then sent out to special iPads on board of 80% of the Delta fleet. This app translates all the weather data into a simple, easy to use information that pilots can quickly glance at to better calculate their route. It essentially gives a roadmap of all the hazards and how specific they are. A large storm might only have a small slice of turbulence that the pilot can easily avoid without much course correction nor fuel burning.

Passengers are now better informed of when turbulence will arrive, and can better plan their movements inside the plane.

Whilst Delta has yet to release this app for other airlines, it is only a matter of time before Delta becomes a tech company and elevates the industry to a world without bumps. And we at Simple Flying can’t wait!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

5 comments
  1. I flew for NWA (Northwest Airlines) from 1959 thru 1992. We had our own weather dept. that whole time. We had customized airways charts developed by our WX Dept. that had alternate routes shown in brown color to avoid “Mountain Wave” areas. We NEVER had a person injured by mountain waves. United had some cabin attendants and passengers get killed by mountain waves. When we asked ATC for permission to use our “Deviation Routes” and they were approved, other airlines behind us would ask to “Follow NWA” ! But no one else had the way points that we had.

    We had low level wind shear forecasts long before the FAA even would admit that it even existed. Those wind shears caused several fatal crashes at airports to other Airlines. Like the DL Lockheed 1011 short of the DFW runway ! NWA had the warning but DL didn’t.
    We had special charts in the cockpit that we used to plot thunder storms from coded radio info we got by radio.
    NWA was taken over by DL shortly after I retired so they inherited all the “goodies” that were developed by NWA. For a long # of years NWA had the only “Airline Owned” WX Dept.

  2. This would explain something that I have experienced lately. I fly Delta fairly often. In the last year I have noticed smoother flights but I have also noticed them advising of upcoming turbulence and canceling drink service only to wonder at the end of the flight, what happened to the turbulence. I’m guessing their app isn’t quite perfect.

  3. Turbulence terrifies me, I know take off or landing is the most risky part of flight but my heart races just at the thought of some turbulence coming up. I always fly Delta so this is grater news for me.

  4. The critical kind of turbulence creating passenger uncomfort is called Clear Air Turbulence CAT and very often difficult to predict.As the name tells you no visual observations identify the zone of CAT other than past pilot reports given avoiding the zone or level.Other turnulence situations in connection with frontals systems or local thunderstorm zones are normally well known by the flight deck crew and avoided flying through if the situation permit so.

  5. the best way to avoid turbulence is by using SKYPATH.
    that’s automated data sharing that creates turbulence map for all users

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