Identifying and Alerting Pilots of Turbulence at Juneau Airport

Challenge: 

Pilots landing and departing from Juneau, Alaska face some of the nation's most challenging conditions; the airport has a history of turbulence-related incidents involving passenger jets. In the aftermath of a 737 aircraft nearly being lost upon encountering severe turbulence, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed restrictive rules of operation that were to be maintained until a new sophisticated warning system could be developed.

Solution: 

Juneau Airport Wind System (JAWS)

This project involved the development and implementation of sensing systems and turbulence alerting software. This role meant that the team would have to identify best placement of weather profiling stations in order to pinpoint areas of greatest turbulence, then design, build and maintain the sensor sites that provided information about wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, etc. In 1997, NCAR began the development of the Juneau Airport Wind System (JAWS) with the goals of improving flight operational safety and safe access to the airport. JAWS was fully tested and put into operational use by the FAA in 2012.

Benefits: 

The JAWS allows aircraft to operate into and out of Juneau Airport in a safe and efficient manner.

JAWS-like systems could be used at airports around the United States experiencing similar terrain–influenced turbulence. Pilots flying into and out of airports located in Maui, Reno, and Las Vegas, and other sites in Alaska, for example, could benefit from JAWS technology, and new prototypes would benefit from lessons learned during the Juneau alert system's development and maintenance.