Admit it: just the thought of rough turbulence on a flight is making your stomach woozy and your heart beat a little faster. But don’t get too worked up (please, not on the blog!), the National Center for Atmospheric Research has developed a system that could make airplane turbulence a rare experience during takeoff and landing.
Targeted at airports that are notorious for bad turbulence, the first turbulence avoidance system has been installed at Alaska’s Juneau International Airport. Other airports in the Mountain West, southern California, and around the world (especially in mountainous regions) are also expected to get the system.
The system essentially provides pilots with the most up-to-date atmospheric information to help them steer clear of turbulence. With the help of wind measuring instruments and computers that predict changing atmospheric conditions, pilots are able to reroute their planes avoid the rough patches.
In addition to reducing the unease associated with turbulence, the JAWS system, as it’s known in Juneau, is expected to reduce the number of flight delays and contribute to overall safety.
“The JAWS system has nearly eliminated all the risk of flying in and out of Juneau,” says Ken Williams, a Boeing 737 captain and instructor pilot with Alaska Airlines. “I wish the system would be deployed in other airports where there are frequent encounters with significant turbulence, so pilots can get a true understanding of what the actual winds are doing on the surrounding mountainous terrain as you approach or depart.”