Better weather on the horizon, thanks for NASA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thanks to NASA and a regional airline, pilots soon will have better weather information. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has teamed with Mesaba Airlines to equip dozens of Mesaba aircraft with the Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Report (TAMDAR) instrument. According to NASA, the TAMDAR sensor allows aircraft flying below 25,000 feet to automatically sense and report atmospheric conditions. Observations are sent by satellite to a ground-based data center. The data are processed and up-to-date information is forwarded to forecasters, pilots and those who brief pilots.

TAMDAR is compact and weighs only 1.5 pounds. It measures humidity, winds, pressure, temperature, icing and turbulence with the help of location, time and altitude provided by a built-in Global Positioning System technology. The instrument was developed by Georgia Tech Institute, Atlanta, and AirDat, Morrisville, N.C. The team was led by researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center. A host of different agencies and private industries are helping to analyze the data, including NASA, AirDat, FAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Center for Atomic Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Meteorological Service of Canada, UK MET office, London, and Meteorological Network of Europe, Toulouse, France.

The technology has been validated in ground and flight tests. Since January, sensors have been on 64 Mesaba SAAB 340 aircraft. Instruments on regional airline planes provide better information than those on major airline planes that usually fly above the weather and collect only limited data.

There are only 90 weather balloon sites nationwide that collect information twice a day. The experiment with Mesaba will add 1,300 more daily atmospheric soundings.

TAMDAR is part of NASA’s aviation and security program, which works with the FAA, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, and the Department of Homeland Security to develop technologies to help reduce the total aircraft accident rate.

CAPITAL SHORTS

The change of leadership at the Department of Homeland Security has caused the Transportation Security Administration to be behind in its legislation-mandated reports to Congress, Assistant Secretary David Stone told a House Subcommittee. That report is to indicate actions that can be taken to open Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport and the so-called DC-3 airfields to general aviation.

Stone took heat at the hearing from Subcommittee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) over the delay and lack of progress in easing general aviation’s restraints. Stone said the report should be ready to send to Congress by April 1. General aviation interests hope it will not be an April Fool’s item.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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