A Q&A with Delta Air Lines meteorologists

A Q&A with Delta Air Lines meteorologists

From storms and limited visibility scorching temperatures And turbulence, weather dictates when and where planes can fly. there is severe weather main reason Air travel disruption in the United States.

Aviation meteorologists plan for and around difficult conditions, preparing weather forecasts to determine the specifics of flights, from altitude to optimal routes. They play a vital role in transporting passengers to their destinations safely and efficiently.

Many major domestic carriers, including Delta Air Lines, have in-house meteorologists who monitor global weather 24 hours a day. Delta has 28 meteorologists on its staff — the largest team of any airline, it announces — who sit alongside flight dispatchers, customer service agents and hundreds of other employees at the carrier’s operations and customer center at its headquarters in Atlanta. Are.

In this cavernous, screen-filled room, Delta’s chief meteorologist Warren Weston recently spoke about the importance of data, the difference between surface weather and upper air threats, and how even a single degree of temperature can alter flight planning. I spoke. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The team provides weather information covering Delta’s global operations four times a day.

We write our own forecasts for the 10 main delta centers in the United States. One thing that makes us unique is that we are the only weather provider for the Delta. Sometimes our times will differ from the National Weather Service; For example, we might be calling for a slow transition from snow to rain. The weather service doesn’t have to see the people they write these forecasts for, but we have flight dispatchers right here.

This is a 30-hour forecast that is updated every six hours. I think the crux of the story is data, data, data. We rely on government and university models and then proprietary home-made tools.

This is completely different from the forecast you’ll see on your smartphone app. It is a specialized aviation forecast that gives dispatchers and pilots information about variables such as wind speed and direction.

We’re in two modes here: surface weather and upper air. Surface conditions are visibility, precipitation, and cloudiness. Upwind, we’re tracking most of the disturbance, which is the primary threat. We’re also looking for volcanic ash, hurricanes and tropical storms. Sometimes we have ozone problems.

Our goal is to provide enough lead time so that dispatchers and other decision makers can make proactive operational decisions rather than waiting for something to happen.

On our screens, we can see every Delta flight taking off. I can see their route, where they’re going and exactly which dispatcher is in charge of that flight, if we need to communicate with them.

We update the forecast a few hours before the flights start. If anything changes, all we have to do is go to the dispatchers and suggest areas to avoid or different altitudes.

We always monitor the weather for active flights in the air and adjust our threat alerts for conditions such as turbulence, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions based on new data. Dispatchers and pilots can easily reach us mid-flight and we can discuss any weather-related concerns.

Let’s just say Thursday looks like it’s going to be extra active with thunderstorms over the Northeast. At that time, flight dispatchers and customer service agents can begin working on a plan, both for customers and from an operational perspective – considering whether they need to send alerts to customers due to severe weather, flight Delay regarding reducing the schedule. They will allow customers more flexibility to change flights.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations require us to have an alternate airport in case of emergencies such as mechanical problems or customer medical distress. Therefore we also write special forecasts for these alternative sectors.

This of course depends on the region, station and season. Atlanta, New York, Florida and the East Coast are at risk for severe summer storms that could cause disruptions. Similarly, we see winter weather delays and cancellations due to de-icing and ramp/runway conditions in places like Detroit, Minneapolis and Salt Lake.

If there is a storm at the airport, it will prevent you from landing. This is probably the main one; Another storm may be on the way. This may cause planes to fly on different and longer routes.

Then in the winter, with freezing rain, you have to worry about snow removal by plane and general airport conditions, such as whether the snow removal machines can keep up with the snowfall. This is beyond Delta’s control; You are working on something that is controlled by the airport authority.

There are a lot of things that can cause delays, and they all vary depending on the airline, and they all vary depending on the city. If we get even an inch of snow here in Atlanta, obviously everything stops. We’re not equipped to handle that type of thing.

When it’s really hot, planes may carry a little less weight than usual, which means fewer passengers and less luggage. There are also ramp workers to consider.

Even one degree makes a difference. We know what the trouble-points are for all of our airports – whether it’s temperature, storms or snow on the runways – and for Las Vegas, if it’s hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, over 100 each. A degree would mean a discount of around £1,400.

Bad weather at another airport can still cause a delay to your flight, even if the weather is fine where you are. Those delays can be massive and cause impacts in places where the weather is nice.

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