How to mitigate the effects of turbulence - The360 Travel

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  • Thursday, December 19, 2019

    How to mitigate the effects of turbulence

    How to mitigate the effects of turbulence

    Aerial turbulence is on the rise. And the wounds they cause too. Commercial aviation has decided to tackle the problem.


    The enemy number 1: CAT

    CAT. Behind these three letters lies the turbulence that causes the most headaches for pilots of aircraft and - in general - the industry: CAT for "Clear Air Turbulence" turbulence that occur on a clear day. They are difficult to predict: there are no clouds, no storm, no weather phenomena of importance to announce them, even if they result from the meeting of two different air masses. And so, they are more difficult to avoid. "These are the most serious ones," says Ruxandra Botez, a professor in the aerospace department at ETS.

    Are they dangerous?

    Yes and no. The turbulence, even severe, is not likely to compromise the integrity of an aircraft, said Nicolas Bornand, pilot and director of security investigations at Air France. The danger is elsewhere: inside the cabin, for passengers who do not buckle up. "The tremors can be strong enough for a person to bang their heads on the ceiling if they are not tied up," said Captain Brent King, chief of flight efficiency operations at the International Air Transport Association. IATA). Flight attendants are most at risk of being injured as they are more rarely seated, belt buckled, than passengers.

    And they are frequent?

    Yes, and more and more. In all categories, turbulence is the leading cause of non-fatal aircraft injuries and is on the rise. Like the injuries associated with turbulence, even taking into account the increase in air traffic. However, scientists warn that the trend will increase with climate change and rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Severe turbulence will increase by 149% if the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere doubles, concludes a study conducted at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. They are also stronger at certain times of the year and in certain sectors: in the North Atlantic in winter, for example. It's probably no coincidence that you felt more turbulence in a Paris-Montreal flight in February than in July.

    How are we tackling the problem?

    IATA is implementing a new clear sky turbulence (CAT) detection program this year: 15 transporters are testing it, before a large-scale implementation next year. The system makes it possible to collect and process, on the ground, the data transmitted in real time by the sensors placed on all the airliners, in order to warn the pilots of the shocks observed on their future trajectory. "Before, we relied instead on reports of pilots, rather subjective, since the perception of turbulence depends on the size of the aircraft, its weight, etc. Now the data is objective and more numerous, "notes Brent King. Warned that a plane has just been hit by turbulence right in front of it, a pilot will be able - with the control tower downstream - to deviate from his trajectory and avoid jolts that no weather model on the ground could have predicted. when to establish the flight plan, before take-off.

    Turbulence is expensive

    Safety is not the only motivation for air carriers to tackle turbulence: money is still one of the nerves of war. The turbulence causes material damage in the cabin and, more rarely, on the cabin, and it increases the expenses of maintenance of the planes. But most importantly, they cost a lot of fuel by forcing drivers to deviate from their optimal trajectory, for example when they opt for a lower altitude, but more energy, explains Brent King. In the United States alone, they would cost carriers $ 200 million a year. However, the new real-time detection tools make it possible to modify the trajectory with greater efficiency. The best-performing systems - still too expensive to scale up - could save up to 10-15% of fuel, notes Ruxandra Botez. "But already at 2 or 3%, it is a reduction considered interesting. Indirectly, turbulence mitigation measures can reduce the carbon footprint of flights.

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