TRACON Controller Weather Information Needs

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Authors: Ulf Ahlstrom, PhD.
Ferne Friedman-Berg, PhD.

Ahlstrom, U., & Friedman-Berg, F. (2006). TRACON controller weather information needs: III. Human-in-the-loop simulation (DOT/FAA/TC-06/10). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


Hazardous weather conditions affect the National Airspace System (NAS) in many ways, including flight safety and system effectiveness. From a safety perspective, hazardous weather conditions contribute to aircraft accidents and fatalities (National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB], 1999a; NTSB, 1999b). From an operational perspective, hazardous weather conditions are very costly. In 1995, weather related delays cost airlines $4.1 billion and costs are only increasing (“Weather reports should be higher priority,” 1995). In an effort to mitigate these effects, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is improving the availability of advanced weather information at select Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities. However, the bulk of this weather information is only available to traffic management and supervisors for strategic use. TRACON controllers do not have direct access to advanced weather products. They maintain their Weather Situation Awareness (WSA) by receiving weather briefings from the supervisor and by viewing precipitation levels on their workstation. In the present study, we systematically investigated advanced weather tools and their impact on tactical operations in the TRACON domain. Our results showed an impact of advanced weather information on controller efficiency, with increases in sector throughput (completed flights) of 6% to 10%. By providing enhanced weather information at the workstation, we were able to enhance controllers’ ability to detect approaching weather, monitor its movement, and understand its effect on future operations. In the field, this will increase controllers’ efficiency for the timing of arrivals, for vectoring, for the adjustment of flow and sequencing, and for runway selection.

Updated: May 04, 2012 11:21 AM