System helps FAA see skies more clearly

Federal Aviation Ad-ministration meteorologists and air traffic supervisors now have access to accurate weather data that helps them plan airline flight paths hours in advance.

The agency began using the Weather and Radar Processor, a weather information system, at the Dallas-Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center in July, said Kevin Young, product lead for weather processes at FAA.

The system is the first of 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers to start operating nationwide. The Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., also will receive the system later this year.

What makes the Weather and Radar Processor unique among other weather systems FAA uses is that WARP can process Next Generation Weather Radar (Nexrad) and send it directly to ATC displays, said Alfred Moosakhanian, WARP team lead.

This significantly improves the accuracy of weather data. Other systems use less-accurate data from traditional long-range surveillance radar, he said.

Young said the data from the long-range radar systems works well for surveillance purposes. 'From a weather data perspective, it was very poor quality,' he said. 'But now, we get very high-quality data.'

There are 158 Nexrad systems deployed in the United States and overseas. WARP can handle data from 27 radar systems.

Disseminate weather data

Harris Corp. received a $72.5 million contract in 1996 to develop, install and support the system. It was awarded a two-year, $26 million follow-on contract in March this year.

Randy Godfrey, WARP program manager at Harris, said the system's software is written in C and C++.

FAA uses Sun E5500 servers to process and receive data from the radar systems. A Sun E250 server distributes the processed data, which meteorologists use at traffic control centers through Sun Ultra 60 workstations, he said.

Moosakhanian said WARP ultimately will provide Nexrad data to other FAA weather systems.

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