The role of the Met Office in aviation

Jonathan Dutton
Head of Aviation

Contents

From hot air balloon charters to long-haul jet flights, being able to measure weather impacts is vital.

The role of the Met Office in aviation

As safety and scheduling are important, air transport is regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and overseen in the UK by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

We help to ensure that global air travel meets required levels of compliance. We do this by providing weather information for the landing, taking off and ‘en-route’ phases of flight.

This enables airlines to plan efficient routes and safe amounts of fuel. They can also mitigate the effects on the flights of weather phenomena like thunderstorms and turbulence.

Future-proofing the World Area Forecast Service (WAFS)

Every five years we set out what we plan to do from a UK and global forecasting perspective, and what we expect it to cost.

We discuss our service research and development roadmap, as well as our operational and technical plans. We also focus on how we can continue to improve the accuracy and availability of aviation meteorological information.

Our World Area Forecast Centre (WAFC) webpage details the work we do in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to deliver the WAFS.

We show that WAFS is changing and that Met Office and NOAA play a central role in defining the future WAFS service. This is driven by ICAO’s Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) and the Aviation System Block Upgrades (ASBU).

Improved global flight planning

The aviation industry is changing rapidly and learning to adapt to increased demands. Future WAFS data sets must continue to deliver accurate and improved meteorological data.

One area we want to improve is the quality and detail of information used for global flight planning and routing. Currently, we provide weather data on a relatively coarse map-grid, with points every 140km horizontally and through 17 vertical atmospheric levels. We want to increase this to every 25km and through 55 levels, to allow for more precise and efficient flight planning.

Reducing environmental impact and cost

For example, this will include better use of tailwinds to help reduce fuel consumption. So, there is a key element of environmental impact as well as a decrease in cost for airlines. This relies on a fundamental shift in the way we make this data accessible.

We’re seeking to alter the technology that delivers these more complex data sets. This is a big change that will deliver significant benefits to the aviation industry.

 

Find out more about WAFS and the most recent and scheduled developments on our WAFS 2023 webpage.

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