WSI Claims 'Critical Mass' for Turbulence-reporting System

 - February 3, 2015, 8:53 AM
This WSI graphic shows turbulence incident reports from the company's Total Turbulence system. (Image: WSI)

Weather and flight-planning firm WSI believes it has achieved a “critical mass” of daily aircraft reports to its turbulence-alerting system in North America, giving airlines that subscribe to the service a way to reduce their exposure to turbulence incidents. Four carriers, three U.S.-based and Dragonair of Hong Kong, now use the “Total Turbulence” reporting system.

Total Turbulence is based on WSI’s “TAPS” software algorithm, which airlines install on existing avionics, typically the aircraft condition monitoring system. The algorithm monitors changes in the vertical accelerometer to estimate the severity of turbulence an aircraft is experiencing. Reports of turbulence above a prearranged threshold are sent via the aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (Acars) to WSI, which in turn sends alerts to airline dispatchers or directly to the flight decks of aircraft that may be traversing the same airspace. Most airlines rely on pilot reports—or pireps—of turbulence, which are subjective and often imprecise as to location and sometimes delayed.

“It leverages what’s already on the aircraft to objectively report turbulence,” said Mark Miller, WSI vice president and general manager of decision support. Installing the Total Turbulence algorithm does not require the overhead associated with certifying or recertifying software or installing equipment, he added. Most airlines set the system’s reporting threshold at moderate, “where your coffee would be shaking and maybe spilling a little bit,” Miller said. “At that point it starts reporting every 30 seconds, so now you’re getting very granular reports.”

WSI, which is based in Andover, Mass., started working with launch customer American Airlines to install the system in 2012 and launched the service the following year, starting with the carrier’s Boeing 737, 757 and 767 airliners. Since the launch, Alaska Airlines and another unidentified U.S. carrier, as well as Dragonair, have incorporated Total Turbulence in their operations. Miller estimated that each day 650 aircraft are using the system on North American routes.

“We aggregate all the data in real time, and all airlines that subscribe [to] or participate in the network get access to the complete data set,” he said. “So American benefits from other carriers that now have adopted the technology and deployed it in its fleet. We’re aggressively working with other partner carriers to continue to build out that network.”

With WSI software, pilots can also see on their iPads the same Total Turbulence reports dispatchers see, along with the sigmets (significant meteorological information) and en route flight-plan guidance the weather company provides.