One of the most significant and unpredictable hazards that airplanes face in the skies is clear air turbulence - the turbulent movement of air without any visible clues.
In addition to using existing aircraft sensor data to rate the intensity of turbulence, pilots now have another tool at their disposal and that is crowdsourcing.
Turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to cabin and crew in non-fatal air accidents and also costs airlines millions of dollars in diversions and damage. To mitigate these, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently announced the launch of the Turbulence Aware Platform which provides a framework to identify, measure and share information on turbulence.
The data comes from aircraft which thanks to advances in technology can accurately calculate the turbulence state of the atmosphere while they are in flight. The Turbulence Aware Platform then leverages this data to map invisible trouble spots and provide real-time information to help airlines avoid hazards, enhance safety and fly more efficiently.
The plan to establish a global database with real-time pooling and sharing of turbulence data during flight operations was called "a gamechanger" by IATA senior vice president for safety and flight operations Gilberto Lopez Meyer.
To date Delta, United and Aer Lingus have formally committed to sharing their data through the platform. It is expected that more will contribute throughout 2019. Next month sees the soft launch of the crowdsourcing initiative with a full launch expected in January 2020. Between these two dates, there will be a number of operational trials with 24/7 support.