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 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.
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.